Writing, again

Stories are good when the characters face their fears

“I wanted it to be an easy story. But nobody really remembers easy stories. Characters have to face their greatest fears with courage. That’s what makes a story good.” [1]

What I was doing over the past 5 years

My last post was in 2016. Since then I finished my residency in internal medicine. In 2021, will be finishing my fellowship in hematology/oncology. I also got engaged. I had two boys. I moved 4 times in one year. To say I was busy was an understatement.

Over time, I forgot about writing.

And as time went on, I became more and more afraid of writing again. I wanted to write, but never made the time to. Time went on. I developed an uneasiness with writing. I couldn’t place my finger on what was causing it. 

After much contemplation, I realized it was my fear of failure.

Failure sucks, but it’s highly recommended.

“Many people dream of success. To me, success can be achieved only through repeated [[failure]] and introspection,” Honda said. “In fact, success represents 1 percent of your work, which results only from the 99 percent that is called failure.” [2]

People fail all the time. In fact, that’s how all progress is made. Science is just a result of countless failed experiments to prove a theory. What was I afraid about? 

I was afraid of people judging and criticizing this blog.

Make stuff for yourself

“Writing a story isn’t about making your peaceful fantasies come true. The whole point of the story is the character arc. You didn’t think joy could change a person, did you? Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s conflict that changes a person.” [3]

Conflict turned out to be important. Conflict is what drives innovation. When there is a problem people find solutions. I was afraid that my writing would suck. But that’s just part of failing. To get to your best work you need to work through projects. Some might be great and most will fail.  So what was my next step? Getting started. Through writing and sharing my thoughts I can grow.

‘Dweck shows convincingly that the most reliable predictor for long-term success is having a “growth mindset.” To actively seek and welcome feedback, be it positive or negative, is one of the most important factors for success (and happiness) in the long run.’

‘Embracing a growth mindset means to get pleasure out of changing for the better (which is mostly inwardly rewarding) instead of getting pleasure in being praised (which is outwardly rewarding).’ [4]

I needed feedback. The best way to get feedback to ask someone to review your work. More reviews, the better. And what’s the best way of getting more reviewers? Sharing online.

My next question was what do I write about? What’s the hottest topic now? What’s trending? Should I write for others? Is that true to me?

In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon beautifully captures this message

“The manifesto is this: Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use—do the work you want to see done” [5]

I needed to make stuff for myself.

“Your life must be a progression towards ownership—first mentally of your independence, and then physically of your work, owning what you produce.” [6]

Why Write?

“IF THE POINT of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation.” [1]

After all that, why should I be writing anyways? Life has been great. I’m practicing medicine, raising a wonderful family, dating/romancing my beautiful fiancé. What else could I want?

Writing is knowledge

“Writing is not what follows research, learning or studying, it is the medium of all this work” [6] 

By writing we are able to communicate with the world and ourselves our thoughts and ideas. Sharing our ideas is important. Ideas need a space to mingle. Through writing we can give ideas a place to come together and that’s how creativity happens.

“the best-researched and most successful learning method is elaboration. Elaboration is nothing more than connecting information to other information in a meaningful way.” [4]

Writing ideas make ideas come to life 

“Writing those ideas down protects you against that idea getting lost. Once it’s on paper or your computer file, it’s there forever. Staring you back in the face whenever you look at it. Whether or not you act on it is still up to you, but at least you won’t forget it. Once you have it down on paper, you’re setting yourself up to make something valuable happen” [6].

Writing translates thoughts onto paper

Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to actions. Through writing again, I can write my thoughts down. The thoughts are frozen, and therefore are malleable. Changing my thoughts will give me more control of my feelings and my actions.

The only things you control are your mind, body, and time

Writing helps me to control my thoughts. Thoughts are like waves on the ocean. Writing is like surfing those waves. Writing lets us catch our thoughts, watch our thoughts, and swim in our thoughts.

“One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of your mind as the surface of a lake or of the ocean. There are always waves on the water. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are almost imperceptible. The water’s waves are churned up by winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our minds” [7].

‘The spirit of mindfulness practice was nicely captured in a poster of a seventy-ish yogi, Swami Satchitananda, in full white beard and flowing robes atop a surfboard riding the waves off a Hawaiian beach. The caption read: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”’ [7].

Write to reflect and forget

I write to reflect. On Rich Doc Poor Doc with Dr. Bonnie Koo [8], Dr. Koo discovered through journaling on how to be a watcher of her own thoughts. I write down new ideas as they occur to me throughout the day. At the end of the day, or even in the future, I review my ideas. This helps me iron out the good ones. I throw out the bad ones (or edit them).

I write to forget. In Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey wrote “I never wrote things down to remember; I always wrote things down so I could forget” [9]. I do the same. For one, I can write down any events I perceive negatively at the time. I forget about the event. I forget about my perception of the event. I am able to review the event later. Any negativity I still I have, I release the energy into words

Writing clears my short term memory cache. George A. Miller famously claimed that our short term memories can hold at most 7 items of memory, plus or minus 2 [10]. By writing down my thoughts, I can safely store the short term memories there, and make room for other short term memories and thus more memories. By creating more memories, life will be more memorable. A memorable life is a good life.

“A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life” [1].

References:

  1. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
  2. Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
  3. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
  4. How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens
  5. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
  6. The 50th Law by 50 Cent & Robert Greene
  7. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  8. Rich Doc Poor Doc Podcast #17: Business Building with Dr. Bonnie Koo
  9. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
  10. The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Miller, George A., 1994

Thanks for making it through! What will you write about? Share in the comments below!

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