Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Quivering Finger

It is hard to believe, but today marks the six-month anniversary of my blog, StorytellERdoc. Including today's, I have posted 72 short-stories since November 19th, 2009. I look at my archive, the comment sections, and the number of cool visitors that have visited "my baby" and simply shake my head at how things transpired to get to this point.

Thank you, everybody.

I remember the first time my writing group mentioned the possibility of me starting a blog. We were sitting in Marcy and Christine's living room, getting ready to critique our submissions for the week, when I shared a funny work story. "You need to start writing these down, Jim," they said. "Yeah, right," I thought to myself. I am not a blogger. I had visited multiple sites, both medical and generic, and, although some were brilliant, I simply didn't see myself fitting into this world.

My wife loved my writing group's idea. "Jim," she said, "you haven't seen a blog that you would mimic because either you haven't found it or, more realistically, it doesn't exist. Make your blog by your own rules."

Hmmm. That seed of an idea slowly took. I started thinking of stories that affected me during my medical career, and it wasn't long before I realized the common denominators of those stories most important to me.

Number one. Compassion. Or lack thereof. In today's medical world, I sometimes get frustrated at the lack of compassion and awarenss in regards to both the medical and non-medical issues. It seems that we must move patients, at times, like cattle. See more, bill more, don't spend as much time in each room. Bullshit to that, I say. Behind every face is a story, and shame on all of us if we don't take the time to recognize those stories. Why must we avoid humanizing a patient who is already human? I wanted to bring some heartfelt emotions back to each patient's case.

Secondly, the power of some of my patient stories are simply that I strongly associate their perspective with my own life. A Mother's Cry? I have three kids. Grandpa's Grandkids? I loved my grandmother greatly and couldn't imagine seeing her die in this manner. The Complacent Eyes? My son spent two years of his young life on chemotherapy--I know those eyes well. Heroes Among Us--both Gigi and Linda? How amazing to look at someone and their approach at life only to realize that, at some point, I may have taken a misstep or two down the "for granted" pathway. These stories hit their mark on my heart.

Thirdly, the underlying humor of some patient scenarios just, plain and simple, crack me up. I love a good laugh as much as the next person. If I can't laugh at the ridiculousness of some of these work encounters and life experiences, I am in for a long, boring haul. And a short career, actually. Among others, Double Crack, The Thong Expert, Meeting Candy, The Half-Load Predicament and It Wasn't Me! can take me immediately back to that moment where I find myself cracking up all over again.

Finally, what I am most proud of, are my stories of the ordinary. Sometimes, these remarkable stories sit among the muck of normalcy and boredom and, when I finally dig them out, make me want to jump up and down and share them with the world. An example? A Love Story. When I saw that son helping his father down our ER hallway to the bathroom, I wanted everyone to stop what they were doing in our ER and look at what I was witnessing. Instead, at the time, I only shared it with Weezie, one of my favorite secretaries, before writing the words to give this scenario a life. Big Stuff, Big Words, The Fringe Benefits, and This Father's Daughter walk along the same lines.

After deciding what perspective I wanted my blog to take, I put my fiction novel on hold and attempted several short stories. I submitted them to my writing group, appreciating their honest feedback. My biggest critic, though? Easy. My wife. My awesome, incredible typically-normal every-reader wife. I would hand her a story and nervously watch her read it from the corner of my eye. Her tears, her laughter, and the "yes" and "no" nods of her head told me all I needed to know about a piece.

Armed with about twenty stories and a committment to try to post three days a week, I finally decided to give this a go. The name was settled upon and, after a breakfast date with Christine, a design to my blog was decided. She graciously and unselfishly set the blog up for me, including the incredible banner. Big kudos to her. I joke with her that she missed her calling.

Finally, I had to write a profile about myself. Have you ever done this? After confusing myself more and more, I finally just sat at the computer and ripped it out in five minutes. What you see is the unedited version. After the final sentence, "I am a writer," I was tempted to include "I am not liking this self-profiling bit at all."

After my writing group and wife gave a thumb's up to my first, introductory story, the day finally arrived for posting it. I was filled with self-doubt. What was I thinking? Why was I wasting my time? And who would want to read my words, anyway? If I could only get twenty people to read my stories, I figured, this might all be worth it.

I walked up to my computer and sat down, hovering my right index finger over the left-sided mouse button. The computer arrow sat over the "Publish Post" button on my blogspot page. A simple click and I would be officially entered into the blogging world.

I couldn't do it. I wasn't sure if I was ready to "put myself out there." I looked down at my quivering finger. I took a deep breath. I reread my first post, desperately trying to find any grammatical errors or content problems. Trying to find any problems that would warrant stalling the process. I reread the post, again.

Finally, I looked at my trembling right hand and decided to quit being a wimp about it.


And from that quivering finger and subsequent click, here I am.

A few changes have come over the past six months. Now, I write most of my stories the day before they are posted. And no critiques to them (well, occasionally my wife will still get first dibs). They are, for the most part, in their rawest, unedited form. I no longer check comments and my email every hour the first day of a posting. I don't follow my visitor numbers and stat counter nearly as often as I used to. A naturalness and inherent comfort has begun to settle in.

I want each of you to know that it has been my privilege to write this blog. Seriously. It has been incredibly humbling to think that someone would actually take time from their busy day to search out my site and read my words. If there were an award for the coolest, most honest, intelligent, and faithful readership, you, my friends, would get it. To those of you who have blogrolled me (including my very first ones, Blisschick and Seaspray) and reposted my works on your own site, a special thank-you.

Finally, as I have said before, the friendships are easily my biggest gain from this whole experience. You all hold incredible, memorable stories, and I appreciate you giving me a glimpse into your lives and bringing your kindnesses into mine.

Funny how things work out. I have always loved to write and, until a few months ago, never pictured my outlet to be in this shape and form. Thankfully, others saw this as the perfect avenue for my words. You're involvement is making this a worthwhile journey in my life.

Thank you.

As always, big thanks for reading. And bigger thanks for helping me reach this milestone. Much appreciated. Next post will be Friday, May 21. See you then...


Rogue Medic said...

You write very well. You help people to see from your perspective. You get people to think. Thank you for your writing.

The Hopeful Elephant said...

I had no idea you were in a "writing group!" That's fantastic!

Very proud of you!

(I'm not mushy...) :)

WrightStuff said...

What a great post sharing this wonderful trip. As an early reader, I'd like to share that the pleasure has been likewise. I read every post and keep coming back because 'you never know what you're gonna get'. Keep up the good work Doc - in every sense of the word!

Jim (UK) said...

Always look forward to reading your blogs

Sharp Incisions said...

I hadn't realised that you'd only been blogging for six months. I always enjoy your stories, and as a medical student spending a bit of time in the local ER, I relate very much to the types of experiences you've shared - the times you connect with patients, the times they make you laugh or cry or both, the times when you're really proud of what you've been able to do, and the times when you hate that you can't do more. I am only just embarking on this path, but it is nice to know that these sentiments are shared with those who are further down the road. There are those that say it's inevitable that we'll become jaded and cynical, so thank you for showing them up!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

congratulations on the first half year! i am happy i found your blog. i have loved blogging for several years now and have several thousand posts and have met so many wonderful people, lots in person too!

smiles, bee

Katie Axelson said...

Happy half-birthday to the only blog I actually put on my schedule to check. (This past semester every MWF from 10:10-10:30 was blog time). I've thoroughly enjoyed the laughter, tears, and the "maybe I shouldn't read this in public" your blog has caused me over the last six months. :-)

Oh, and don't let that novel stay on hold too long!

<>< Katie

rlbates said...

Glad you did. :)

Val said...

I've only very recently begun to read your blog and I think it's one of the best that I now read regularly. And, for what it's worth, I've got you on my blogroll, too!

Cathy said...

I am so thankful to your writing group for encouraging you to take this step.

I first began a blog in 2004. It was 2006 when the medical blogs really started popping up. I remember when there were only 4 or 5 of them. The first one I followed was Kevin MD and I began following him on the very day he started his blog.

I have to laugh at you about checking stats. We have all went through that. Many of us use to be so entranced with checking site meter many many times each day.

One thing I have wanted to ask you about is...why emergency medicine? Why is this the field you chose? I ask this because, your personality, and disposition, suggest you would make a fantastic private practice physician. You seem like the type who would like to build up lasting relationships with your patients. To follow them through, rather than just a one time shot in the ER. I"m sure you're a very good ER Doc... Probably an excellent one. This is just a question I have wondered about.

tracy said...

And we have been blessed by You.

Anonymous said...

Your work as a physician, a caregiver and a professional caring person are clearly satisfying for you, Dr. Jim. But there's nothing like writing, is there? Writing lets us re-live the experiences that have meant so much to us or even changed us in subtle ways that aren't clear until the words are there, in handwriting or type. Not everyone is a natural storyteller, but you absolutely are. And you're a genuinely nice guy, too. Thank you for sharing your stories and your talent with the rest of us. I, for one, am proud to have your blog on my blogroll, and I haven't missed one story since you started out six months ago. Hello, Writer!
-Wren :o)

Cal said...

Happy 6-month anniversary! I am glad you keep on blogging, for our enjoyment.

Anonymous said...

I work with docs in a specialty that has a lot of type-A egos, and appreciate your compassion and writer's view. Your blog is a gem and enriches all of us! Thank you for what you do. I think if more people could read your work, the doctor backlash out there would lose some of its edge.

Anonymous said...

I honestly feel I am a better nurse for reading your blog! We all need snark and laughs but we need some humanity to have ballance.

Lisa G said...

Happy Six Months! The med blog world, and the internet in general, has been enriched by what you write. Glad you decided to take that step :)

t. said...

Happy Birthing Day to your blog, and Happy Anniversary to you, Doc!!

Thank you for sharing your compassion and your humor.


coulrophobic agnostic said...

And we're so glad you took that one giant click for mankind!

soulful sepulcher said...

I can't remember how or when I found your blog, but I was immediately hooked and was glad to find it!

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Am glad you're here! You are truly blessed.

Cheers, JJ

Classof65 said...

You have persevered and reached a half-mile stone! I look forward every day to reading your post and am just a tad (okay, more than a tad) disappointed if there is not a new post. Yeah, I know you tell us when to look for a new post, but I forget to read that part.

Please keep writing -- and soon you'll have a collection of stories worthy of a published book. And then you can retire and live off your royalties!

I love your posts.

Kate said...

I had no idea you'd only been blogging for six months. I've been at it for over 2 years and not had the following you have. It's amazing. You are an incredible writer. Your compassion shows through the words. You have a rawness that I admire and a virility that shines through everything. Keep it up, my friend. I will keep reading.

Anonymous said...

congrats on your milestone Dr. Storyteller!

Anonymous said...

Dear Doctor with a heart, I never miss reading your inspiring stories of life. I only wish all people treated each other with the kindness and compassion that is carried in your stories. Great work and thank you for taking the time to change my life.

muirwoodsue said...

Your blog is one of my favorite ones and I do look forward to reading each post. You are such a talented writer as well as such a compassionate doctor. Keep up the wonderful work!

Aubergine Kenobi said...

Congratulations on your half year! How time flies! I love to read your stories, I have cried and laughed with them and every other day breathlessly await for your new submission. Thanks for taking the time to share them with us! May you celebrate many anniversaries like this, and thank god you were able to convince your quivering finger to hit "send" ;)

KK said...

Dr. Jim,

When you put yourself out there in a public forum like this blog, you truly expose a part of yourself that most of us reserve for those closest to us.

You can't help but illuminate your inner-being as you describe your concepts, actions and feelings.

It's a very intimate thing.

And I would like to thank you for sharing it with the rest of us.

I read a lot of blogs because I find that blogs are a great way to encounter life in a deeper way than simply reading an article in a magazine or newspaper because they normally present a human side that is missing when people simply write about the facts. I think the feelings behind the actions and the opinions about the things we encounter is where the rubber meets the road (so to speak!).

Being a regular person with a regular career, I find that I gravitate towards medical and law enforcement blogs because those two things amaze me because I get to see them from the inside in a way that would never be available to me any other way.

And I know you are relatively new at this, but I feel compelled to let you know that your writing style, which seems to go along with your professional mannerisms, is quite simply amazing. Even outstanding in my opinion. You represent everything I admire in a professional.

My personal GP is like you and that is why I trust him with my very life (literally).

So I thank you for sharing.

I will also warn you of the blog "burnout" that always occurs the longer you do it.

When that happens in your life, I would suggest that you don't just quit to recharge your batteries, but to cut down on the number of the posts so you can keep up the quality of what you are writing.

It seems your position as a front-line provider will always give you lots of ammunition to write about.

So keep with it and know that your love and care touch people. Not only the people you treat, but those of us that experience what you do through the medium of what you write.

And that's a very good thing!

It seems this world we live in today is very cynical - or at least the reporting of it is. So your compassion is quite amazing and a breath of fresh air in a land of doom and gloom where everyone seems to take sides for idealogical purposes only.

You remind us that life is all about relationships and not just the facts!

So thanks for what you do - thanks for sharing that - and may God bless you beyond your wildest dreams......

Karen said...

I have no idea how I found your blog, but I always enjoy reading your posts... even the poop story before this post where I couldn't come up with one comment. LOL Keep writing, Dr. Jim!

Shannon said...

I for one am thrilled that you stepped off that proverbial cliff and decided to start. I've gotten so much out of your writing and thank you for the different, compassionate perspective you provide. Keep up the fantastic work and thank you!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through blisschick and I enjoy it so much. I can only hope if I have to go to an ER, I will have a doctor like you.

Louise said...

I check your blog regularly, and am never disappointed. Keep up the good work!

SeaSpray said...

Congrats on your 6 month blogoversary Jim!!

I can't believe YOU would question your obviously GIFTED ability to write. Your work is beyond blogworthy and could be short stories in a published book!

I *LOVE* your writing. i am sorry I have been remiss in commenting... but I hope to get back to reading/commenting and posting more in my blog. Derailed a bit as you know.

You are one of my favorites in the land of Medblogdom! Keep up the great work ..hilarious, moving and inspirational writing. :)

SeaSpray said...

P.S. Thanks for the link! :)

Chrysalis said...

I'm sorry I'm late in saying Congratulations on your 6 month anniversary. I read every one of your posts. I might get behind, but I always read them.

We are all so lucky that you began this journey. It enriches all parties. Happy blogging!

911RN said...

"It has been incredibly humbling to think that someone would actually take time from their busy day to search out my site and read my words."

Look foward to going to your site every morning on M-W-F. Only blog I follow- in my "favorites bar." Great writer, obviously, a good doc and a genuine, real person from what I have learned from your posts.Above statement captures this spirit...

Thanks for sharing your tales with us, providing a needed laugh, tears or reflection on life.

Unknown said...

I stumbled across your blog only a couple months ago. Finished reading all the stories in a few days, and have enjoyed catching up on the new ones whenever I can.

Aside from the many compliments I could give you for your amazing writing abilities and your talent at drawing your readers into the stories, my favorite part about your blog is the fact that it tells the true story of work in the ER. You capture and distill those moments in time that make the job of those of us who work in emergency care immensely rewarding, as well as thoroughly challenging, and at times heartrending.

I just wanted to say thanks for your stories of these past 6 months, and that I hope there will be many, many, many more months.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Jim you are a very talented writer. I don't remember how I found your blog but I am ever so happy that I did. I hope that you continue to blog and share your amazing stories for a very long time.

I am a nurse and I swear there is only one doctor that I work with who openly shows his compassion towards his patients and to the staff. I wish there were more, many more doctors like you, the world would be a much better place. Your hospital certainly is lucky to have you.

Anonymous said...

Over the last several months your blog posts have brought a smile to my face and often tears to my eyes. Thank you for "putting yourself out there." I hope you continue to share your stories for a long time to come.

Anonymous said...

I've been following along since the very beginning. I found you through a comment you made on some other doctor's blog. ERP or maybe it was WhiteCoat. I have dozens of RSS feeds on my "My Yahoo" page. The feed for your blog is at the very top of the list. Why? Because that's where it belongs. And should you ever decide to publish a book I have no doubt that it will be at the top of a bestseller's list. Thanks for publishing that first post and for all the ones that have followed.

Have Myelin? said...

You give an interesting perspective of what it's like from the "other side". I'm a chronic patient (usually frustrated) but it's nice to read... some sweet things from your viewpoint.

amyinbc said...

Just found you tonight. SO nice to hear of a doctor who takes the time to listen to the patient.

I have been frustrated for years by the 'hurry up and get out' care I had been getting.

I am not one that visits my doc often, maybe twice a year. So when I do visit please give me more than 3.4 minutes? Not coming with a huge list of ailments, usually just a RX refill but still, could he ask how I AM??