Why I write

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I was bemoaning a wicked case of writer’s block earlier this week.

I think it was multifactorial- I just came off of clinical service and was processing more than a few challenging situations.  Fall is always bumpy for me- the wild Vata energy of change, change, change unmoors me, and I struggle to stay grounded between when the winds start (usually mid-September) and when it first snows (hopefully this week).  And from a purely cognitive perspective, I needed a brain dump.  I’ve been going at a dead sprint since the 1st of October, the night before I flew out to the AWS Annual Conference and the ACS Clinical Congress.  It’s fascinating that when I objectively look at the pace of my life and the things that I do, it suddenly becomes crystal clear to me why I need breathing room every once in a while.

Describing it as a case of writer’s block, however, also gave me a context this week for really thinking about this space where I blog.  According to my dashboard, this is my 154th post here, and December 9 will mark 2 years for Life in the Wild West (we should celebrate with Cookie O’Clock!).  I’ve confessed more than once that I started the blog as a literary way of “throwing spaghetti against the wall”; what I didn’t know is how well it would stick, nor the impact I would find it having as both friends and strangers tell me that they read the blog regularly.  At first the Blog wasn’t something I spent a lot of time drawing attention to, maybe because I didn’t want to be everyone’s favorite crazy aunt.  Then Niraj Gusani “outed” the Blog at the Academic Surgical Congress in 2014 and it took off like wildfire (Niraj, I’m grateful, and I owe you many more cookies).  It now goes on my slides when I give a talk, and I have a link to it in my email signatures at work.  I’ve found it to be a place of healing and sharing, and it has quietly created a community that hopefully allows medical students, residents, and practicing physicians to realize that it’s not just any one of us, that many of our hard experiences in this profession are more common than almost anyone wants to admit.

I know that plenty of people think about the blog as “one more thing” I have taken onto my already very full plate, and I suppose there is some merit to their argument.  A blog post can take me anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on if I’m just riffing and thinking on the screen (tonight) or if I actually do some background work to make it more academic.  What I have realized over the last almost-two years is that the blog gives me a great place to process information and to share things I’m thinking about, often getting input from people with very different perspectives and lives than mine.  I have also learned that if anything, it has helped my academic productivity; it used to be that I would have large breaks between episodes of writing for my research, and it was always a challenge to get back into the flow.  I sense less struggle now when I return to my “academic” writing because I’ve been writing, I’ve stayed in practice.  It reminds me of a more public version of the Big Chief tablet (anyone else remember those?!?) my 7th grade English teacher required us to write in for 10 minutes at the start of every class.  It took me many years to realize how much that practice helped me become a better writer.

So, I write.  I write to share.  I write to normalize.  I write to fight shame (sometimes my own, sometimes trying to ward off others’).  I write because it’s part of what I do and who I am.


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