I come to writing from a background in science. Typically scientists speak in a language inaccessible and incomprehensible to most of the world. Full of acronyms and latin, medicine is particularly hard to comprehend. And it is made harder by the need to be precise. Time constrains note taking. What the patient says sometimes needs to be recorded verbatum. And an eye is always glancing over the shoulder – have I covered myself, would this stand up to scrutiny, would it support me legally if the patient sued? Horrible. Stifling. Prescriptive. And dashing of any literary flair.
Why do I write?
I always have.
A better question might be – why am I a scientist and not a writer?
This is easier to answer. I grew up at a time when the clever kids became doctors or lawyers. A few branched off into veterinary medicine and engineering. But that was pretty much the choice. No … actually, that was not the choice. It was the expectation. Particularly for a hard working loner who was socially awkward and desperate to please.
Biomedical sciences, criminology, cultural history, linguistics, teaching even – didn’t figure on the aspirational career ladder of my teachers (even!) and parents. So I dropped History and English in favour of Physics and Chemistry. I hated and struggle with the latter two and loved the subjects I had dropped. I sometimes wonder what a careers advisor would suggest today if I had that time again. Had I said that I wanted to be a writer I would have brought the weight of family and school disappointment down on my head. Or to be fair I would have taken my impression that they would be disappointed upon myself. Which is different. And bound up with the shy child, massively lacking in confidence who wanted to please.
So where does this leave me?
I work. And I have a love hate relationship with it. Mostly it’s a deep seated hate. But occasionally something happens that touches my weary hardened heart in a way that makes me question just a little did they get it right. All those years of work and exams. All that self doubt and questioning. In walks that one patient who says you changed their life and thanks you – does that maybe make it all worth while? It’s the stories that patients tell that fascinate the writer inside me. Life in all its good and bad moments. Inspirational – yes. But soul giving and resolve hardening too. I can’t do this much longer – pretend that I’m too busy, pretend that I have to put work and income first, pretend that I don’t need more. I do need more. I need to free myself. I need to write.
Again, where does this leave me?
With the opening of a small window; one that might allow me to write more. It leaves me with a dilemma. I want to write but I lack the skills of language to make a book good. I can tell a story. But I’m uncertain if I can write it down in a marketable way. I am therefore looking at ‘doing a course.’ The question is which one? M.A. or writing academy.
Whatever I do, it will have to be part-time. That bit about pretending to need to work was sadly more dream than truth. Perhaps I can work a little less, or more efficiently – more hours on fewer days.
Perhaps I might procrastinate less.