No Mystery Here

As long as I can remember, I loved science. My copy of All About Dinosaurs suffered frequent readings. I went through a rock and mineral phase that I’m sure dismayed my parents. Finally I found biology, and eventually I picked medicine as a career option.

I also loved to read. For my elementary school years, publication of a new Nancy Drew book was cause for major celebration. When I ran out of her adventures, I tackled my brother’s Hardy Boys. Eventually, I graduated to Agatha Christy and other classic mysteries. I read a wide variety of things, but of the more than 400 books in my Kindle library, well over half involve solving crime.

Medicine, science, and mysteries involve many of the same processes. In all three, there is a problem to be solved. In medicine, we want to know what’s wrong with the patient. In science, we need to understand a phenomenon. In a mystery, we want to know whodunit. In all these fields, we collect information to help us first: a history and physical, a literature review, and looking for clues. In each area, we then formulate a hypothesis. In medicine, it’s a differential diagnosis. In science, it’s actually called a hypothesis. In a mystery, suspects are assembled and assessed for means, motive, and opportunity. Finally, any hypothesis has to be tested. In medicine, we run tests or try a treatment. In science, experiments get performed. In the world of crime, evidence gets accumulated until there is proof that someone did it and/or they confess. The results can thenI be examined to see if we accept our diagnosis/hypothesis/result or if we have to rethink everything again.

I’ve written a lot of biomedical papers and a handbook for academic medical faculty. I began blogging to communicate about science and found I loved writing in this less formal way. Now I’m exploring the world of fiction, especially trying to put together mysteries. I’ve perhaps come full circle.

Treading Water

Blogging used to be a habit, something I did.

Needless to say, I am out of the habit.

Lately I have been writing but not blogging. I signed up for a wonderful course, a do-it-yourself MFA. Oh sure, a lot of it could be learned by reading the book of the same title. But paying for the course gives me

  • motivation to get my money’s worth out of it
  • writing peers
  • an interactive experience

I find this relaxing (I have a day job, so no financial pressure to get that draft done), and the process has taught me a lot. No one will give me a bad grade for not keeping up with the class, either.

As I write, I realize that this site will change. What has been primarily a source of information about kidneys with a pediatric focus will now include other stuff. I may start pitching that children’s book about my cat with kidney disease again. I may post bits and pieces of other works here.

I hope you go along with me for the ride. It should be fun. And I hope I get around to putting a few more words on the internet!

Best Practices May Not Be

Another writing prompt today asked about so-called best practices for writing that have failed epically when I have tried them.

My biggest failure was the year I tried to do NaNoWriMo. In November each year a whole bunch of people sign up for National Novel Writing Month, pledging to write 50,000 words (the length of a short novel) during that month. I knew this was not a good time for me. I travel to two national meetings in November (although that airport time should be a bonus), and there are these holidays at the end of the month. Nevertheless, I gave it a shot. I was going well until about 5,000 words into it. It was time to write something about the antagonist, and I knew immediately it was bad. The earlier bits about the protagonist and her world, based on things I knew well, came easily. I needed to learn more about the villain(s) before I could write about them.

The idea of grinding out a first draft of crap is fine. I’ve done that a lot with scientific writing. In this case, the need for further research became crystal clear, and I started in on that. I’ve also started a different project where the antagonist is in a more familiar world. I’m hoping I can get my feet wet with this one and go back to my NaNoWriMo project when I understand my villains better (although that may take some time).

I’ve since met people who have written and published novels drafted in a November frenzy. It just didn’t work out for me this time.

Reality Demands It Be Honored

I signed up for a bookclub with writing prompts recently to get back in the habit of writing for myself. The newest prompt really hits the target:

Prompt: Tell a story about a time when you had to honor your reality.

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing, which pretty much describes the past two years. In January 2016, my husband started acting weird enough that work colleagues noticed. I had seen some subtler issues for a couple of months, but of course, he would not go to the doctor. When the department chair said he needed medical attention, he got medical attention.

We found a grapefruit sized brain tumor.

For the past two years, my posts have been few and irregular. Some have been updates about my spouse, and occasionally I have pulled off a real post. I have been scribbling in a journal on a more regular basis, but that is really digital screaming, not writing I would share without a great deal of editing.

Treatment has not worked well with this cancer, and Jim had to enter a nursing home last September. As I faced the inevitable conclusion to his journey, I realized that I wanted to write for me again.

And here we are.

Sometimes your reality means you miss a scheduled post. Sometimes it means you dwindle for a couple of years. Either way, reality demands it be honored.

Thank you to DIYMFA for providing so many resources to get me back on track.

Past, Present, and Future

I always loved to write. I remember creating “newspapers” in my room after I got a typewriter, and I spent a lot of time working on the yearbook and newspaper for my high school. My love of writing kept me going in research, even when the experiments did not turn out as planned. Over time, I have found joy in non-scientific writing. I got to help create a magazine and write a handbook.

One could see my biomedical career as a response to my childhood reading habits. I explored books about science and biographies of famous people in science and medicine. My other love was mysteries. What is a hypothesis or a diagnosis but a mystery? In every case, the reader wants, no, needs, to figure out what happened and why. I dabbled in other genres, but I always returned to mysteries, even after I outgrew Nancy Drew.

Now I want to write fiction. and I really want to create my own mysteries. I am exploring possible characters and scenarios. I need to post these from time to time to get feedback and have the fun of others reading my words.

I will still write about kidney science and nephrology. I hope you enjoy the ride as I explore my creative side.