I know even less about writing than medicine. But here's what I've figured out so far. I'm certain in another few weeks/months/years, this information will change dramatically. But for now….
1) That English writing major? Doesn't help one bit. Neither did that erudite senior seminar paper "Analyzing Literary Analytic Style: The Major Works of Stanley Fish's Literary Criticism." Means nothing in the real world of publishing. (That was a real title for my real senior seminar class that subsequently cemented my desire to study harder for the MCAT and go into medicine and NOT shoot for a masters in English.)
2) I thought I knew grammar, but apparently 4 years of college and I still don't know where to stick a comma. That's why God made editors.
3) Just when you think the book is perfectly logical and well-thought-out, some smarty pants comes along and totally punches holes all through the book. Stuff you hadn't even considered but then later are like, "Yeah, why DID the hero suddenly leave? That makes no sense."
4) A good editor is worth their weight in gold. And chocolate.
5) It's easier to negotiate a book series when you've already written the entire series.
6) It's fabulous to have great ideas. It's another thing entirely to get them written down. Coherently.
The practice of medicine has been part of my life for 15+ years now. The lessons keep coming. Just when I think I've got a great handle on things, new information comes out or I see something I've never seen before.
Here's what I've learned so far in medicine.
1) The learning doesn't stop at med school, residency or fellowship. That just scratches the surface. God, I was such a little punk then. Clueless.
2) Most of what is learned doesn't come from a book. It comes from experience, or it comes from instinct (a fancy word for experience + gut feeling). And it comes from trial and error.
3) Dr. House is right. Patients lie. All the time. Unless you can get them to trust you and tell you the whole ugly truth. Sometimes this will happen. But usually not when it involves controlled substance prescriptions.
4) There is humor in anything, even the process of dying. Sounds sick, right? Many patients have told me that they appreciate feeling "human" when I can still make (appropriate of course) jokes with them, even as they enter hospice. Everyone deserves to be treated like a human, not a collection or organs.
5) Emotional separation is necessary and possibly career-preserving for the physician. It's possible to care but not absorb all of the pain and suffering. Not having this ability to separate from the situation leads to depression and burnout. (been there)
Oh my, doesn't that title sound all romance-y and idealistic? Does it conjure up images of a perfectly groomed office and a woman in a fur-lined robe, madly typing away all day long, no cares in the world, eating boxes of perfectly packaged gourmet bon-bons whilst classical music wafts in an inspirational manner in the background?
So, here's the real day in the life of a procrastinating wannabe romance novelist.
Woke up to a cat grooming my head. Do you know what that weird kitty tongue does to hair? It pulls each individual strand, one at a time. Dammit, it's Saturday and I'm up before 7.
Kitty leads me to the fresh puke on the floor. Stares at me with a glint in her eye and then returns to bed where she promptly falls asleep. I am, unfortunately, wide awake. Snores from hubby emanate from the bedroom. Fabulous. Time for breakfast.
Yippee, Saturday. Sure, I'm on call, but there'll be plenty of time to get lots of writing done, right?
2 hours of my life, gone. Apparently the internet has taken me from Twitter to cute puppies to ASPCA videos to pitiful animals to news articles about animal cruelty. I'm mad about the pitiful animals, but haven't accomplished much more than wanting to get another pound kitty.
All right, after I check the Twitter feed, I'll be ready to write.
Public service announcement : I am alarmed by the amount of disease symptoms found in the typical text of romance novels. For the health and safety of the hero/heroines, I feel it my duty to alert my author colleagues of potentially life-threatening character conditions and suggest care and management options that all authors can employ.
So without benefit of typing symptoms into WebMD, here goes.
#1) "Her flashing eyes" -- Could be conjunctivitis, bilateral cataracts, or retinoblastoma (RB). Forget that RB is typically fatal by age 5 if untreated and your character is 25. We're not dealing in 100% reality with this romance novel thing anyway, are we?
#2) "His heart beat a tattoo against his chest" -- Clearly this description represents atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response. Give IV cardizem and if that fails, push amiodarone. FYI, expect to personally drop a load when you give amidarone. This med causes a prolonged pause in the heart where the person looks, well, dead, as they can be pulseless for several seconds until the heart rhythm resets and "jump-starts." (hopefully restarts)
I see babies every day of my work week and some on weekends. I live with cuddly cats. But this link has more serotonin-enhancing properties than anything I can prescribe. Just try and watch it without saying "Aww."
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.
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