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Medicine and Writing

Medicine and Writing 2

If you read books on writing, you will find various theories on the art of rewriting. Some writers suggest tackling the whole project head on. Others recommend breaking the story down into manageable pieces: Part 1, Chapter 1, Scene 1, Paragraph 1, and Sentence 1. Still others advocate a multiple step approach, from structure to syntax.

In spite of all the great advice from experienced writers, sometimes things don’t work out. You can’t organize your thoughts in an outline. You can’t structure your plot into three neat acts. You can’t delete that scene or eliminate that character without the whole story coming apart.

You get overwhelmed and lost and don’t know where to go for help.

The same thing can happen in life.

Since my daughter’s mysterious illness, we’ve consulted doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, seeking first a diagnosis, then a cure. But in spite of all the great advice from experienced physicians, things haven’t worked out. My daughter still sleeps most of the day. She complains of constant headaches and migratory aches and pains. Her digestive system is completely out of whack.

Our family is overwhelmed and lost and doesn’t know where to go for help.

As a writer when I am stuck in a rewrite, I step away from the work. Sometimes I seek out other writers who have overcome similar challenges to see what they have done. Some writers have joined writers’ groups. Others have taken online courses. A few have hired professional editors. Still others have sent their work out to beta-readers for advice.

As a family, we’ve asked around and found others who have experienced the same mysterious illness. A teenage boy suffered for one year until he was well enough to return to school. Another teenage girl was misdiagnosed for several months before she was finally treated. Some parents have hired acupuncturists, herbalists, and even shamans.

In spite of all the advice I’ve received from others about rewriting, I have discovered only one thing remains true: I need to listen to the story.

In spite of all the advice we’ve received from others about our daughter’s health, we’ve discovered only one thing remains true: we need to listen to our daughter’s body.

In medicine and in writing, you need to know the techniques that have worked for others, but you also need to trust in your ability to decide what is best for you.

As I trust in the story, my rewriting gains momentum, building scene by scene each day. As my daughter trusts in her body, she slowly recovers, gaining a little bit of strength each day.

In an uncertain world, sometimes the answers we need are the ones we invent ourselves.


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