How To Write For A Column

Saturday, July 07, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 2 Comments

In my latest article, I shared a short story about writing for a health column. As I said, it’s not all flowers and cotton candy. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. Here’s a plus: you’ll see a photo of me when I was still sporting a really ugly haircut. (If that’s not motivation enough to read it, I don’t know what is.) In the meantime, let’s get back to how to write for a column.

I’ve always wondered about how to write for a column. How opinionated should I get? What words am I allowed to use? Can I say the words “piss”, “butt”, or “crap”? How long is too long – and how short is too short? Am I allowed to use subheadings and bullet points, or do I write it like a plain essay? My newbie status is starting to turn off even me. But who am I not to trust in the learning curve?

Writer's Desk

I’ve always been passionate about the written word. Even my desk revolves around writing. I’ve always dreamed of having a vintage writing desk, so I bought one. I even shopped for a vintage-looking phone to go with it – totally unnecessary, but I knew it would keep me glued to my desk! I also have a thick manual for writers, a pocket guide for writers, and other books that inspire me on my desk.

How I Became A Columnist (It’s Not All Flowers And Cotton Candy)

But let’s get back to business. Finally, here’s a bullet-point summary of how I became a columnist. I hope that, with these insights I’m sharing, others will be inspired to work hard to pursue their dreams.

  • I dreamed of being a hospital clinician, but fate would have none of it. I’ve always dreamed of doing hospital rounds until I was too old to do so. After I graduated from medical school with honors, I thought I was a shoe-in for a hospital-based position. Boy, was I dead wrong – and I fell flat on my face for my mistaken assumption.
  • I did not stop writing. Even when medical school took over my entire life, I did not stop typing on my laptop and writing in my journal. I kept my “writer’s instincts” sharp and ready. For what? I did not know then. But perhaps in my heart of hearts, I knew I wanted to write. Here’s a more detailed story on why I write about health and cancer.
  • I was ready to work from the bottom up. Even as I wrote cheap articles to get by and keep from getting too hungry, I made sure I could use all these “minor” tasks to fatten up my resume. I did not resent having to pay my dues. I even wrote about how to respond to “wanted health article writer” ads – and how to be that writer they’re looking for.
  • I did not stop looking for opportunities. I got big clients who paid me a hefty sum per article. Finally, being a writer was starting to get me the life I wanted. But I didn’t stop there; I kept pushing forward, looking for more opportunities. I did not like the idea of resting on my laurels. I’m also sharing 10 tips on how to find writing jobs – all these are based on my own experience.
  • I never forgot where I came from. I had nothing in the beginning. I had to start from scratch. I did not know of any writer who could help me jump up the writing hierarchy. I shall always remember that everyone who writes – whether it be a blogger or a newspaper writer – deserves respect, regardless of their supposed fame or lack thereof. (However, many writers hate bloggers – and given the circumstances, I’m not surprised that bloggers hate writers, too.)

Fate has been kind to me. I have been lucky through the years with many opportunities coming my way, almost as if everything came via coincidence after coincidence. But luck favors the prepared. When that opportune moment comes, you have to be ready to take on its challenges.

So, how did I become a columnist? By preparing – and by praying hard. I can only hope my story can inspire other writers to keep doing what they love doing. I am nothing compared to the many health columnists you find in broadsheets but I am quite grateful to have been given the opportunity to have my very own space in a wonderful newspaper (which I shall feature here very soon). To have a voice, no matter how small, is a blessing I shall always be grateful for. Leave a comment and share your own story. And if you want to get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter, please do so. Send a kiss

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. Doc, I look forward to your oncology articles on treatments. I wonder about your take on baking soda and other alternative remedies for cancer.

  2. Thanks, Itin. Non-pharmaceutical remedies are so hard to support without evidence. It's okay if there are good studies that back them up - and I'm looking forward to reading good studies whether they support conventional or alternative treatment, as long as they all serve to strengthen our armamentarium against cancer.