Doctor and Book Author Matt Morgan: ”Just as in Life and Medicine, Time Is the Biggest Challenge in Writing”

For Matt Morgan, writing is a means to relieve work stress and turn it into something useful. In his first book, which will soon be published with Simon & Schuster, he shares stories from the intensive care unit, one of the most fast-paced, pressurized places in a modern-day hospital.

Matt Morgan
Matt Morgan

Please tell us something about you and what you are working on.

I am a 39-year-old medical doctor from Wales, UK who is passionate about science and making sense of patient stories. Outside of work, I enjoy CrossFit and ice cream in equal measures.

You’ve written a non-fiction book entitled Critical. What is the book about and who should read it?

In my first book, Critical, I want to take readers on a tour around the intensive care unit, one of the most fast-paced, pressurised places in a modern-day hospital. Along the way, they will meet some of my most interesting and memorable cases. Through these stories, they will learn about the wonders of the human body and celebrate the incredible resilience of the human spirit. If you like stories, or science or simply humans, this book is for you!

Critical is your first book and will be released with Simon & Schuster, one of the leading publishing companies in the UK. Was it difficult to find a publisher – or did instead the publisher find you?

”My blogs were a mind-hack to redirect frustrations at work.”

I was very lucky – serendipity took me by the hand, introduced me to a wonderful agent (Charlotte Seymour at Andrew Nurnberg UK) who really helped get a proposal accepted by Simon & Schuster.

You also have been blogging for a couple of years. Why and when did you start writing in the first place?

My blogs were really a mind-hack to redirect frustrations at work into a dialogue to hopefully help others. Instead of coming home after a tricky day in the hospital and shouting at my children or drinking that extra glass of wine, I would sit, hammer out some words and that seemed to make things feel better. Thankfully, others agreed and I’ve been blown away by the readership of the pieces I regularly write along with my frequent co-author Prof Peter Brindley. Have a read here and here.

Cover of “Critical”
Critical is Dr. Matt Morgan’s first book

Currently, you’re creating a resource aiming to help doctors move into writing. Why should doctors write? What are the benefits of writing – for themselves and their readers?

Communication is such a key part of a doctor’s role yet the time dedicated to teaching it tiny compared with the more scientific aspects. Even when it is covered, the focus is mainly on how to speak with patients and colleagues. Writing is such a fantastic way to get across difficult, complex and emotional ideas to the public and fellow professionals. When done well it is incredible, yet when done badly it grinds. By exposing people to the backstory of my journey, how I have written the book and the blogs, as well as the publishing side of non-fiction, I hope to encourage other doctors to share the stories they all have in their head.

As an intensive care doctor, you must have a stressful everyday life. How do you manage to carve out time for writing?

I simply have to grab it whenever I can – in those hazy hours after a night shift before going to bed, on a weekend whilst my children are doing sports and in evenings whilst my wife watches “Love Island”!

What is the most challenging thing about writing a book?

Just as in life and medicine, time is the biggest challenge in writing. Thankfully, I can write quickly although deciphering the spelling mistakes and autocorrects after a flurry of words can be a challenge.

If you had to decide between being a doctor and being an author, which profession would you choose?

On a good day, where things go the way you hope and patients survive, being a doctor is the best job in the world. Sadly, not every day is a good day and I am very lucky that I have writing as an outlet for that. Overall, however, I am a doctor first and suspect I always will be.

”Writing is a fantastic way to get across difficult, complex and emotional ideas to the public and fellow professionals. “

Do you plan to write more books in the future? If yes, will you remain in the non-fiction field, or are you also open to other genres?

I have a two-book contract with S&S and am in the middle of planning the next title. This will also be a non-fiction work, likely combining science, human factors and patient stories although the exact concept is still a bit of a secret right now!

How did you find out about Ulysses?

As a technology geek, getting the right software to put down words was a key decision for me. It was quickly apparent after a few free trials that Ulysses suited my mind and my writing style. It is simple yet complex, seamless across devices and very beautiful. For me, the software you use is just an extension of choosing the right environment in which to write.

Please describe how you have used Ulysses to write the book.

Quite simply, it has made the process from planning to my first draft a pleasure. I would write in chunks of text and time, allowing the structure to be formed after my mind had been spent on the page. I used a simple folder system to organise notes and plans based on the excellent book “Writing A Novel with Ulysses” by David Hewson.

“For me, the software you use is just an extension of choosing the right environment in which to write.”

Which other tools and productivity apps are you using, and how do they help you?

I am a stickler for efficiency so can’t live without CopyClip on the Mac for copying multiple pieces of text, Papers for any academic references and Evernote for my whole life including writing notes.

What else is essential to keep you productive? As an example, do you work in a particular environment or follow a timely routine?

My life has little rhyme nor reasons and I am at the mercy of shift working. That means I have to be ready to write wherever I am, at any time, at a moments notice. The environment matters little to me so long as it includes music, coffee and a power outlet.

Thank you for the interview!

Rebekka Honeit

Blog-curating writing maniac and public relations person. Loves coffee, chocolate cookies and literature. Finds peace in tweaking press copy.