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Calling Out for Contributors

Lauren Cortis

This time last year I was recently returned to my part time PhD following an intermission for maternity leave. I was trying to write a literature review paper and I was struggling. It felt like a lot of effort to say very little. The usual 'insufficient quality evidence to inform policy and practice', 'more robust evidence required'. It felt more like an academic exercise than anything anybody would actually want to read. And so I avoided it and hoped it would go away while I worked on something else.

Two things happened in July that changed things up for me. The first was that I started reading more. The second was that I started a writing practice.

Now it's not the first time I've declared such intentions. I resolve to read more every New Year. I had a blog set up for four years prior and have countless journals with more empty pages than used. But it wasn't until last year that I made either of these things a habit(it probably helped that  the book I chose to kick things off was Atomic Habits by James Clear).

My intentions for the blog were to hone my writing skills and get better at making assertions. I never intended for anyone to read any of my posts, but the threat that somebody could read them kept me in check so I would not be too self indulgent or talk about others out of turn. And it really worked for me. I found the process of writing regularly helped me to crystallize my thinking and find a more confident voice.

This translated to my academic writing. I was able to find something that I wanted to say with my literature review.  I completely reworked it and came up with something that I thought would be at least semi-interesting for readers and useful for my PhD.

I was finding other things that I wanted to write about too. The only thing was that I didn't really want anyone else to read it. Even with the literature review, I sent it off to my supervisors with complete dread about the feedback I would receive.The idea of people actually reading what I was writing made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

The issue with this was that I actually really enjoyed the writing bit. I was at an impasse. Either I only ever write academically, which is important career-wise, but very structured and slow-going, or I start sharing my work with others.

I set about writing a specific piece about something topical. It wasn't a topic I'm an expert in,but I knew enough to have something to say in a considered and thoughtful way. Then I did what I'd never done before (in a non-academic setting)... I shared my work with others.

I didn't exactly publicise it or anything, I shared a link on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you knew how few followers/connections I had you would laugh, but this was a massive deal for me. It still didn't matter if anyone read it, just that they could and that now I was telling them it was there.

And some people did read it. A few people who read it even gave me some encouraging feedback. But perhaps most importantly, the experience got me past that initial hurdle of being constrained by the negative 'what ifs'. For the first time I was able to recognise some of the good 'what ifs' instead. Rather that being held by the 'what if people laugh at me' and 'what if people think I'm full of it', I started being able to think 'what if this opens up an opportunity?'.

The piece of writing didn't really open up opportunities for me, it was my change in perspective. In the months since I have continued to grow more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I still avoid it sometimes. I still feel the dread in my stomach when I send something for review or post a blog such as this on the internet. In fact, I still haven't submitted that literature review paper. But I'm better at holding myself to account these days. And I'm better at not taking things personally. If I write something that someone doesn't like or doesn't agree with I'm ok with that. I'm just saying my piece I'm not looking for disciples.

And of course, my change in perspective is what's brought me here. I want to give others the opportunity to share their work and amplify their voice. Not the scientific studies and literature reviews, keep those for the journals. The other stuff - your experiences, your opinions, your learnings.

This blog and community are an open platform for members to contribute original content. We believe that we learn best by doing, so we want to provide a venue to facilitate that. For this reason, we don't hold people to a strict editorial standard; the work needs to demonstrate considered thought and effort, it doesn't need to be masterfully delivered.

Here are the guidelines...

* Subject - something you know and/or care about

* Audience-interdisciplinary professionals who care about health

* Styles- whatever you think will be most engaging...narrative, persuasive, expository, creative (any budding satirists out there?)

* Duration - long enough to convey your message without waffling

* Format - text, video or audio

* And obviously no hate speech, acknowledge your sources and all that jazz.

If you want to contribute to the community, simply post as a new topic. If you'd like it to be published to the blog, send us your work. If it's a written piece we'll edit for typos and format to fit the blog, but that's it. If video or audio either write a brief intro or we can do it for you. It's your work with your name on it, we're just providing the medium.

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