Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it.

The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness.

Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment.

The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way

Janet Gitch

Song Lyrics and Other Types of Writing

I love exploring different types of writing and I LOVE it makes sense that I often become lost in song lyrics. Lyrics, like poetry, personify and give agency to many different things. (They often break the rules of grammar without driving me crazy!)

The other day, I was listening to a forgotten playlist in the car and a John Mayer song---one that I've never heard---came on:

"If melody
Is my destiny
Then what's left of me
I'll give to you"

There. In 4 lines, you already know the conflict and tone of the song.....

Another John Mayor (a top 10!):

"I know a girl
She puts the color
Inside of my world
And she's just like a maze
Where all of the walls all
Continually change"

We have a character and someone who is deeply enamored by this character

Whether it's in exploring an illness or soaking in a new novel, it is good to consider this: if something is making it work, pick it apart and figure out why. I learned this helpful tool in my memoir writing class and now it has become second nature to dissect anything I absorb.
I've heard that good writing is many times the result of extensive reading. It seems important to explore different styles of writing, even those that are outside the genre we are creating in.

So, do you explore different types of writing?


"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

~Sylvia Plath

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Taking Out the Toxic

Our body has many mechanisms to handle foreign, unwanted visitors. Take a fever, for example: our body raises its temperature to try to get rid of an invader. Of course, this line of defense often leaves us feeling crappy which goes to show that even cleansing ourselves of bad things can feel, well, terrible.

But what about our emotional selves? Do we have mechanisms to ward off those toxic people and even more toxic thoughts?

I've been reading a lot about jealousy, competition, and doubt. It can be difficult to recognize and purge an unhealthy, draining person from your life....but it is so necessary. Sometimes we are toxic to our own selves, when we put our work or potential down. Sometimes it's others, who either try to imitate you or belittle you....many times, because of their own insecurities.

In the writing----and many other----industries, we already know that thick skin is a must. Maybe a part of developing that thick skin is learning when to perform an emotional purge....

How do you handle the toxic stuff?
Have there been any new toxic components in your life since you started writing?

I added a Medical Musings page inspired by my first writing injury! Make sure you don't push yourself too far when you're on the computer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How Much of Writing to Share?

I've found that in pursuing anything creative, people either:

1.) Find you inspiring and admirable
2.) Think you're wasting your time

I have read a lot of blogs that are telling me that other people who are not writers will not understand despite how much they want to. I find this to be more and more true as time goes on. So many times, people have asked, "How is your book not done yet?" and I have to take a deep breath and patiently explain that the process takes much longer than I would have ever thought. There are instances where I even become defensive or feel like I am disappointing others (like, for example, when it is assumed that I am not really working).

I guess the main conclusion I have come to is that it is okay for people to not understand and to inquire. All I can do is find comfort in other writer friends (like the amazing ones I've met on the blogosphere), keep treading the path I have embarked on because in the end, it is exactly path, nobody else's.

Do you divulge your journey as a writer (or anything) to everyone? Or do you keep a lot of it to yourself?

"Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel like I should be doing anything else."

My love for Audrey

When the weather becomes colder, I have an instant feel-good routine that includes hot chocolate, peppermint cookies, and a stack of Audrey Hepburn movies. Favorites? Roman Holiday and Sabrina.

There is something so endearing about Audrey Hepburn...and I am not just referring to her chic style, conventional good looks, and famous movies.

She exudes a palpable purity and grace that I think is hard to find in actresses today. Yes, they have their own strengths but there is a layer of innocence and class in those those characters.... that just tickles you in a different way...

Audrey dealt with many hardships in her personal relationships and spent her post acting years working with UNICEF. Knowing that this elegant, revered woman led far from a "perfect" life and battled such a relateable set of insecurities only adds to her charm.

"you can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or maybe just plain too ugly... you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn't conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found the only way to get the better of them was by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive"
Audrey Hepburn

Friday, October 22, 2010

Top Time Wasters

How is it that after years of studying and working, I still manage to be inefficient and easily distracted? In fact, I think that certain things have almost encouraged my A.D.D. But today, I am punching these little demons in the face.

First step, accepting the problem.
Second, recognizing its many forms!

Top Distractors:

1.) Facebook: Why do I keep refreshing the home page? Why do I care to browse through a million photo albums of people I barely even talk to?

2.) The NY Times, Huffington Post, and the New Yorker are lovely, lovely havens where I can get back in touch with the real world. However, I need to limit my interaction with said real world to the mornings.

3.) Blogs: Now these are my favorite temptations because they are almost always providing me with entertainment, knowledge, or both. I do need to set limits on how long I swim in the blogosphere, though. I could seriously peruse blogs all day!

4.) My own word documents

Here's a succinct sequence of events:

  1. Open Word document
  2. Scroll all the way through just to admire how many pages I've written
  3. Oh crap, it's already been half an hour?
  4. Proceed to blank page and dilly dally with sentences
  5. Go on author websites and scan through horrific Amazon reviews
  6. Erase the sentences...did I really think that trash was writing?
  7. Plot out things on paper...a=maybe a new template will help
  8. Cut the crap and allow the words to flow
  9. During coffee/chocolate break, revisit my old friend Doubt: You will never finish this. You have far too many books in your head. You have such a long way to go.
  10. Give Doubt a swift kick in the you-know-what and sit back down

I hope that by reading this post, you don't feel like you were wasting your time (because that would just be too ironic.) Instead, I hope that you are compelled to recognize your own distractors and get back to work!

Good luck!!!

How do you defeat distractors??

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lovely Poetry by Maya Angelou

"Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they'll make your soul impervious to the world's soft decay."
White Oleander

In honor of my new poetry page, here are fragments from 2 Maya Angelou poems:

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm So Glad I Lost

Yesterday, I started thinking about the idea of loss and all of the events that brought me to where I am now.

So many of them may not have occurred if I had "won" every battle I was fighting.

If I held on to every single relationship that crossed my path, I may not have had the opportunity for the ones that replenish me now
(on that same note, if my first crush was my last, that would have been a disaster). If I did not trash my initial 150 pages and rewrite my novel from scratch, I would not have had as strong of a story. If I had not left everything I knew and moved to the city of my dreams, I would have never tapped into the truth depth of my passion. If my mother had not forced me into singing lessons in the third grade, I would have never had to courage to perform.

Sometimes things, people, and places leave us so that we can carve out room for others
. While many parts of us stay the same, many others continue to evolve and in that evolution, certain facets have to be eradicated and refined.

Are you happy about any battles you've "lost"?

It's Okay .....

*To realize that sometimes, losing a fight can be a blessing in disguise

*When your jeans are a little more snug after a relaxing weekend

*To appreciate that editing a piece of work can often take longer than writing it

*To be a little "emo" now and then instead of trying to suppress negative sentiments

*When your main characters start to think for themselves

*To treat yourself to a meal out even though you've kept off grocery shopping for too long

*To miss cities the way you miss people

Sunday, October 17, 2010

While You Have It

(This realization comes to my main character but it also aligned with how I felt this weekend, after dancing the night away with great friends and even greater blisters to show for it. Sigh. Yes, that's a shout out to you, Shruti!)

They say that you don't know what you're missing until it's gone but every once in a while, you can recognize what you have right when you have it. Whether it's in an insightful conversation with a close friend, a sleepover that makes you regress back to childhood, the richness of a double stuffed Oreo, or a dependable, feel-good television show....some things exude their highest value in the present...if we let them.....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


As a writer, I doubt myself on a daily basis; in writing and in other facets of my life. Doubt is natural. A small dose can be motivating and keeps us in check. But when we doubt ourselves, aren't we automatically setting ourselves up to doubt others?

Yesterday, I read an article about a very accomplished physician and writer. I had heard of him last year when he published a best seller, intended to research him more, and somehow forgot. The article described his love for literature and provided a laundry list of his awards and accomplishments in medicine. He hides out in his office for two days a week just to write and apparently, his bookshelf is stocked with poetry and medical books. Amazing, huh?

For a split second, I considered reaching out to him with a heart felt e-mail but then I stopped myself. How naive (and stalkerish) am I? This revered Renaissance man's inbox is probably saturated with messages from all sorts of people. Why would he care about what I would have to say? In the slim chance that he even has time to read it, he will probably dismiss it with the other million e-mails.

After toying around with the thought, I decided I had nothing to lose and my intention---to express how grateful and inspired I was---was what really mattered. So, I shared my gratitude and medical/creative writing journey with him and without any expectations, clicked "Send." All I wanted was for him to know how much he had touched someone.

So, you can imagine my surprise when within one hour, I have a lengthy reply! He gave me advice, encouragement, shed light on his rougher times in balancing the two arts, and his contact information.

Sometimes we forget how genuine people can be. We allow their success to mark them as "unreachable." But in the end, they are people, just like the rest of us. They all started somewhere with something.

And no matter what, appreciation always goes a long way!

Do you suffer from daily doubt? When have you surprised yourself?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fashion, Medicine, and Dialogue!

Since my mind runs in a million different directions, I decided to split up this post into a few sections.

Fashion love: Since this past spring, I have fallen in love with one shoulder tops and dresses!

Relevant medical knowledge I must pass on:

In our 20s, we are making the calcium reserves for the rest of our lives. After that, we are maintaining what we've got. So, stock up on yogurt and milk (the best sources)!

After your 30s, iron is often the element of concern. Make sure you eat enough good cereal and leafy greens!!

Also, going with my ever lasting love for public health, I've realized that while it's good to study trends through graphs and numbers, it's important to remember people as individuals with unique backgrounds and concerns. In school, we place an emphasis on specialized patient care and I'm grateful for that awareness.

In writing news,

I edited my 9th chapter and tried to tweak the dialogue. This meant, taking out irrelevant adverbs, planting the tiniest bit of tension and foreshadowing, and trying to make it sound real. (Obviously, I may not have accomplished any of these so please let me know if I have not!)

Anyway, I found that saying the words out loud helps me write is slightly schizo but it does the trick. (So does eavesdropping on neighboring conversations, which is you can pick whether you would like to be a schizo or stalker...I prefer both.)

Here's a clip between my main character and a guy who just entered her life.
“No, yeah, better,” I stammer and laugh. “Talking is better.”
“Are you…drunk?” He asks, starting to chuckle himself.
“No, not really.” I say, somehow feeling awkward and comfortable at the same time. “Maybe just a little tipsy. Why? Are you?”
“No, no.” He says and I can picture the distinct wave in his hair. “I was actually falling asleep at this party so I decided to leave before I got kicked out for passing out in a club.”
“Oh, was it that boring?”
“Ha, no. I was just really tired. I wasn’t even going to go but it was my friend’s birthday and I missed it last year. She told me she’d be really pissed if that happened again.”
Why didn’t I picture Neil with a stable group of friends, when he seems like the type of person who can be everyone’s friend?
“Aw, that’s sweet. Did she have a good birthday?” I ask as I pay the cab driver and softly shut the door.
“Yeah, she was wasted before I even got there. You know, all those birthday shots.” He sighs. “Anyway, how much did you have?”
“Not a lot. Just a few…here and there,” I say, giving a two drink lie.
“A few what?”
“Cranberry vodkas.”
“Ha, I knew you’d be a girly drinker.”
"What's that supposed to mean? The fruity stuff just tastes better. I don't know...I can't handle beer."
"Well, we're going to get you a beer next time."
"Yeah. You should come out with me. With weekend."
"Hm," I mumble as though I am considering his proposal when really, I am dying to know what it would feel like to party with Neil Desai. How would I act? What would I wear? Is he the type to get bottle service? Does he sit with his equally posh friends, smoke imported cigars, and dissect complex ideas?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dear Writing

Dear Writing:

I miss you. Medical school and you are less compatible than I had predicted. I try to visit you at night but after twelve hours of class and studying, I struggle with either time or energy. I do love everything I'm studying but you just get me in a different way.

I miss editing endless pages of fiction.
I miss reading author interviews and interesting blog posts about you. I miss our days and nights together. In many ways, I feel like I am betrothed to someone else while you and I are having an affair. I covertly open my Word documents in the middle of class. I daydream about our time together while I put on my latex gloves, conduct patient interviews, and analyze the pathologies of the nervous system.

I know that I haven't been good about making you feel special but please be a little more patient. I promise I'll try to visit you this week, even if it entails sneaking away from my textbooks.


How do you fit writing into your schedule??