Just Keep Writing

Taking a break (or at least a slow-down) from writing has its risks.  One of the things that has helped me over the past four years (yes, I am soon upon my 4th blog-o-versary) is that I kept writing.  Writing begets writing.  The more you write, the more you write.  Once you start to slow down, your mind is not so honed in on things to write about.
I have justified my recent silence by the fact that I continue to write weekly for my podcast – something that can\’t be put off.  So I am not getting rusty.  But much of writing (at least writing worth reading) comes from passion, and passion is a hard thing to reignite once it has gone cold.  I don\’t mean passion about the state of healthcare, the doctor-patient relationship, or the unorthodox use of nonperishable items by the Armenian government.  I am referring to a passion to communicate.  I write because I think I have something worth being read.  Don\’t believe anyone who writes otherwise.  I write because I think there is something out there, lighthearted or serious, that is not being said by someone else.

For those who have followed this blog for some time, you may have noted previous slow-downs during trying periods of my life.  But I also tend to write a certain style of writing over a period of time, going through streaks where most of my posts are political, and others when they are mostly humor.  I am a sprinter, not a long-distance runner on a single subject.  I don\’t like to beat the same drum that I have beaten a lot in the past.  It\’s not just that I think my readers will grow bored with hearing the same stuff, I grow bored of it as well.  I guess that\’s the price I pay for being distractible.

You all know I am frustrated with the state of our system – especially in the way it treats primary care.  You also know that I am passionate about the fact that communication (or the lack of it) is at the center of the waste in our system.  We run medicine in a way that would bankrupt businesses in any other industry.  But as a writer, I am looking for new angles on this stuff.  I am looking for ways to explain things that I have not used before.  This takes energy and time.  This takes a lot of persistence.   Lately I haven\’t had much time, energy, or passion to persist.  I have gone through such times in the past and they have opened up again into creative periods, and am banking on that happening this time.

Given all of this, I have been able to continue this blog for nearly 4 years, which is longer than I have done a lot of things.  In some ways, it kind of contradicts the name of the blog.  In thinking about why it is that I have continued writing as I have, I see a few important things.  These things I would like to pass on to any who blog or wish to blog.

  1. Write about something you think others want to hear.  Each person has a unique perspective, and that is what blogging gives us the opportunity to share.  What is it like to be a self-employed person dealing with our healthcare system?  What\’s it like to be a specialist in a hospital system?  You are the only one who sees the world from your perspective, and showing others what it looks like from your vantage point can help them understand the whole better.  It\’s much easier to be passionate from your own perspective.
  2. Read others\’ blogs.  One thing that has fueled this dry spell for me is that I have stopped reading what others write.  This makes me sink into my own perspective and not speak as one adding to a whole.  I start to see the world from my own little corner and that makes my writing more repetitious and less relevant.
  3. Keep writing.  Writing is a muscle that needs to be used.  If you are not putting your thoughts and opinions into words that connect with readers, you will stop being able to do so.  I have the blessing of being able to write for multiple sources, so I have some means of keeping my writing going.  Still, it is hard to sit down and write for the blog again when I haven\’t done so for a couple of weeks.
  4. Understand the big picture.  Dry periods happen, and so do very productive times.  Yet the dry periods are not always nonproductive.  I really think that hitting the restart button and writing with a clean RAM is useful.  It may take time to reboot the ol\’ writing style, but writing is a long-term thing, so people will wait.
  5. Don\’t force it.  I have about 10 half-written posts I have done over the past month.  All of them felt forced, so they didn\’t get published.  You have to be yourself when you write, and it\’s better to take a break than to become something you aren\’t.  Blogging is about being who you are – it\’s journalism done by the people in the trenches.  If I have to sound like someone else to get something written, then I should take a break.

Musings is too big a part of my life (in the big picture) for me to put it down.  It has been a source of delight and of self-identity.  I don\’t know what I would be now if I had not started this blog 4 years ago.  I am writing this post to keep the embers from dying and to let my readers know I am not going anywhere.  I can\’t predict when I\’ll get back into writing full-swing, but if the past is any predictor, it shouldn\’t be too much longer.

I have said this in the past, but I\’ll say it once again:  I love to write because I love my readers.


9 thoughts on “Just Keep Writing”

  1. And you are loved by your readers. Breaks are good for recharging.

    When you are ready to post. we'll be here.

  2. Yep, I think you hit it on the head with this one. I remember when writing 3-5 blog posts a day was easy and normal for me. Then I stopped. Completely. And I have never been a regular blogger since then. I may be getting better because I am at least putting forth the effort and it is getting easier.

    I lost the passion for it for a long time. That was also the same time we were all being flooded with Meme's. Sometimes many of them in a single day. Keeping up with them was a trail in itself. Remember all of them?

    I understand completely about the way you change topics on your blog. I have never understood themed blogs or how someone can actually write about the same thing every single day.

    I hope you never stop writing, but I also hope you get back into that humor mode again soon….:)

  3. I love you Dr. Rob for your humanity ,humility and humor.When you are ready to fan the flames I will be here with totally inappropriate commentary. In the meantime rest and recharge.

  4. and i just found you! aw, well. I'll keep an online vigil for more of your musings.

  5. I was a writer before I was a blogger. Your advice is perfect for anyone who writes or wants to write. We all hit dry spells during which everything we write feels contrived, IF we're able to write at all. The best cure is a little distance; maybe writing on some other subject or for some other audience or project. It gives the mind a chance to breathe; a silence into which the muse can whisper.

    Thanks for letting us know what's happening for you right now, Dr. Rob. You're an excellent, always interesting writer, and you absolutely have smart things to say about medicine and your own way of practicing it. I really enjoy the way you shift from serious to funny and back again, and the information you offer is solid in both styles.

    I can always be patient for good writing. Best wishes to you. I hope your muse will start whispering inspirations in your ear soon.

  6. I love this blog! It's so different from the rest.

    (I admit, I'm not sure I get the boxing images, but I'm determined to understand their significance over time.)

    So please don't stop writing!

  7. Dr. Rob,
    Thank you so much for this post. Your tips are definitely keepers. I don't know if this will help, but I read something that helped me–Kim Addonizio (AWESOME poet) said something to the effect of when you're writing, you're emptying out and when you're not writing, you're refilling (by experiencing life, reading, etc–kind of like your tip to keep reading other people's blogs!) I like “refilling” a lot better than “drought” or “block.” Thank you so much for thinking of the rest of us while you're “refilling!”

  8. @Doc_Rob

    I have to say you have an extraordinarily passionate following. I'm guessing it mirrors your practice. Long time patients who care about you as much as you care for them. I love reading your posts and hearing a thoughtful voice from your corner of the healthcare world.

  9. Dr. Rob,

    I hope you'll take whatever time you need and then post with whatever frequency works for you. You add a lot to the medical blogosphere–you'd be sorely missed if you left. I wish you well.

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