Monday, July 29, 2013

Writing fiction

I've been writing for a long time.  I was an English major in college, and my current position requires a fair amount of writing.  I write and revise curricula.  I write resident and medical student evaluations.  I peer review for a couple of journals.  I've even published a few articles.

One of the things that I had always fantasized about writing, though, was fiction.  I am a decent medical writer, I think, and I figured that would translate to fiction writing at least a little bit.

Not so much, it turns out.  About a year ago I joined a local writers' group to try my hand at writing non-medical pieces.  And, even though I intellectually knew that I was in for quite a challenge, I had no idea just how much.  Writing fiction calls for a whole new skill set - developing believable characters, compelling plots, rich settings, and, strong dialogue.  I am having a lot of fun learning, though, and the other writers have been patient, honest teachers.

I learned to play the piano before I learned how to sing.  When I first started learning how to sing, I knew how to read music from playing the piano, but that didn't help me learn how to hit pitches and use vibrato.  Similarly, being a competent medical writer helps me construct sentences, but that hasn't made learning how to write fiction much easier.

For the first time in a while, I am new at something, and that newness is accompanied by nerves and humility. It is, perhaps, not a bad reminder about how all of those new interns feel this month. And though part of me wishes that I could fast-forward through the struggle of learning to write fiction, part of me is also enjoying the process of discovering technique and my own writer's voice.  

I hope that I can always find something to be "new" at.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I love July 1!

I admit it: I love July 1.  There's so much energy in the air.  True, some of that energy is nervous energy - newly minted PGY1s trying to fit into the "doctor" role, PGY2s and PGY3s adapting to new responsibilities, new attendings working independently for the first time.

I can still remember July 1 of my intern year, now ten years ago.  I remember how I was both excited and nervous as I drove to the hospital that morning.  I was simultaneously thrilled to finally be a doctor and terrified that I would hurt a patient with a thoughtless mistake.  I paid careful attention to everything my attendings and seniors did, anxious to show them that I deserved the M.D. after my name.

Some people refer to July 1 as "National Don't Go to the Hospital Day."  But I think that, on July 1, residents are more closely supervised than any other day of the year.  This morning on inpatient rounds, I double-checked patient history details, drug dosages, and orders for tests.  Just yesterday that kind of micromanaging would have stifled the residents' confidence and independence - but the difference between today and yesterday is as big as it gets during the academic year.  I will enjoy watching how quickly those out-loud double checks (I still do it quietly behind the scenes all year, of course) become unnecessary this week.

So, to everyone who is experiencing a role change today, I say congratulations.  Put all of that nervous energy and enthusiasm to work benefiting patients and your colleagues.  Ask for help when you need it - this doesn't go away when you're an attending, by the way, and it shouldn't.  One of medicine's greatest joys for me is the infinite, ever-changing amount of knowledge to absorb.  It's impossible to be bored as a family doctor.  And, every day, remain thankful for the privilege of doing what you are doing to help others.

Happy New Academic Year, everyone!