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Why Do I Write

Posted By Colleen Fogarty, Thursday, August 21, 2014

Today I sit at my desk, having blocked out time to write and cleared several piles of paper off my desk, (okay, honestly, pushed them behind the computer where I could no longer see them), facing an nth revision of a paper that has been rejected by two journals.  Discouraged by the work in front of me, I again face the question “Why do I write?”

“A perfect time,” I think, “to write that blog for CFHA, plugging our preconference session on writing!”

Does writing this essay represent procrastination from the real task at hand, revising the manuscript before me? Or does this post represent an honest self-appraisal of the inevitable roadblocks, or “writer’s blocks” that all writers face?

Why do I write?

Sometimes when I’m asked this question, or ask myself, I wax philosophical about the importance of sharing experience with a wider audience, the role writing can play in helping me know what I think, and the academic currency writing can generate in larger circles.

Why do I write?

Aren’t there plenty of other things I could or should do?--Teaching residents, seeing my own patients, documenting evaluations for learners, writing clinical notes for patients. Administrative tasks galore in my roles in residency and fellowship education. I sandwich in the writing; one more thing to do! Sometimes I DO write because I AM stubborn. No way I’m going to let this lug of text that I’ve invested time in, go into the metal file or circular bin.

Why do I write?

That’s another question altogether. Why me, indeed? The person who suffered the indignities of the red pen from college writing instructors after having been awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars “Voice of Democracy” essay contest prize during high school? Who sits today amidst a stack of marked up manuscripts, desperately trying to revise a paper in ways small and large. Who, like others in academic medicine, can feel no small dose of “imposter syndrome” when it comes to writing.

Why do I write?

Writing? Really? Why bother? It’s only patient volume in the form of my own patients and my residents’ patients that brings in the revenue to keep the lights on, after all. But the nagging voice of experience keeps saying, “Do it! Show them you have something to say!”

I slog back to the paper, pull new articles to review and reference, incorporate changes, discard ideas that I thought were truly revolutionary and reviewers found unhelpful, and allow myself to know, finally, that this revision won’t be finished today. But I have to coach myself to keep at it. Block the time, do the work, the slow, sometimes agonizing work of putting idea to word, word to sentence, sentence to paragraph, and slowly, slowly, build my thoughts.

For me, writing is a journey and a destination. Arriving at the destination requires embarking on, and continuing the journey. The rest stops, roadblocks, breakdowns, and route changes characterize the journey. Sharing these with others helps keep perspective that the journey is important, and allows us to collectively rejoice when we have reached the destination. 

Writing is a journey and a destination 

So, after sharing my writing roadblock I hope that you will join me and a team of colleagues, at the CFHA pre-conference “
From dissertation to dissemination: An interactive writing workshop.”

We will share the joys of writing, and offer strategies to address the inevitable barriers and frustrations that exist in the life of any writer, no matter how experienced. I look forward to sharing your writing journey!

 Colleen Fogarty, MD, MSc, is the Director of the Faculty Development Fellowship and Assistant Residency Director at the University of Rochester/Highland Hospital Department of Family Medicine. She earned her medical degree at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and completed residency at the University of Rochester.  Dr Fogarty has additional training in Family Systems from the University of Rochester and a Master of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the Boston University School of Public Health. A community health center “lifer” she has worked at CHC’s in rural Michigan, rural and urban western New York, and South Boston. She now provides care for patients and families at Brown Square Community Health Center (CHC), the site of her residency practice. Dr. Fogarty’s publication record includes both empirical and creative work. Her scholarship includes work in primary care identification and management of mental health conditions, intimate partner violence, and cultural humility training. Her empiric publications have appeared in Family MedicinePreventive MedicineThe Clinical Teacher, and other journals.  


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