A few months ago I wrote a post about being a doer, not just a thinker.

There are things in my life that I think about a lot. Things I think I will do someday, things that seem high and lofty, things that are beyond my present reach. Do I think that waiting long enough will bring them closer to my grasp? I must, and yet the opposite is usually true. The longer I wait to do something, the more insurmountable it becomes. My thoughts create excuse after excuse for why I can’t. These goals steadily rise higher into the clouds, and I am left in a valley of self-pity. I’ll never get there. It’s too hard.

I’ve always hoped I would someday write a book. Something meaningful and deep, that pours from my soul.

The thing about writing is that most people tell you it’s so hard. On more than one occasion I’ve heard people compare it to giving birth – as joyous as I feel birth is, I’ll attest to the fact that there is some discomfort involved. (Alright, let’s call it what it is, it’s pain. People who tell you you can have a pain-free birth are lying or disillusioned.) Why would I willingly sign myself up to do something I know is going to be difficult?

Recently I’ve read that writing doesn’t have to be difficult, and I can pound a book out in a month if I have the determination to sit down and write for at least an hour every day. As nice as that sounds, it also sounds too good to be true. I believe that writing might be easier than I thought, but I don’t think it’s easy. Rarely is something of value easy. When you pour yourself into something, it is at a cost, and that is the opposite of easy and free.

So I’ve found myself at a crossroads. I want to write. The act of writing a book has not quite reached the heights of Mt. Everest in my mind, but it’s somewhere in the Rockies at this point. I can choose to watch it slip away, and as the years pass I can tell myself I would have written a great book if I had ever actually dedicated myself to the hard work of doing it. Ten years from now I could look back and wonder what would have happened if I had just gone for it. Or I could stop thinking and do.

I’m telling you now, I’m going to do it. I don’t know how long it will take me. Every writer I read for advice gives me different stories of how to make it work. But I’m going to do it.

Watch me.

4 Responses to “A bold proclamation.”

  1. Go for it Kim. You CAN do it.

  2. JM:

    Good for you, Kim. I remember when you wrote that post about being a doer — and specifically being more intentional about writing — it really resonated with me. I know that writing is a way to reach deeper levels of understanding. As Ed Welch said, “When I only think about something, my thoughts are embryonic and muddled. When I speak about it, my thoughts become clearer, though not always. When I write about it, I jump to a new level of clarity.”

    But for the last few years, I’ve had this notion, “I shouldn’t write anything yet. I don’t have anything to say.” I convinced myself that instead of putting my energy into communicating my own thoughts that are probably “carelessly arrived at, or ill-formed and incompletely worked through, or utterly unimaginative repetitions of what people have already said”, I should exclusively focus on the task of listening to and mulling over the thoughts of wiser minds. “Then,” I thought, “maybe — just maybe — at some point down the road, I might have something worthwhile to say.”

    So I had been been — to quote Doug Wilson — reading until my brain creaked. But then I read your post and around the same time read the following quote:

    “When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. In learning to write, the pupil goes over with his pen what the teacher has outlined in pencil: so in reading; the greater part of the work of thought is already done for us. This is why it relieves us to take up a book after being occupied with our own thoughts. And in reading, the mind is, in fact, only the playground of another’s thoughts. So it comes about that if anyone spends almost the whole day in reading, and by way of relaxation devotes the intervals to some thoughtless pastime, he gradually loses the capacity for thinking; just as the man who always rides, at last forgets how to walk. This is the case with many learned persons: they have read themselves stupid. For to occupy every spare moment in reading, and to do nothing but read, is even more paralyzing to the mind than constant manual labor, which at least allows those engaged in it to follow their own thoughts. A spring never free from the pressure of some foreign body at last loses its elasticity; and so does the mind if other people’s thoughts are constantly forced upon it. Just as you can ruin the stomach and impair the whole body by taking too much nourishment, so you can overfill and choke the mind by feeding it too much. The more you read, the fewer are the traces left by what you have read: the mind becomes like a tablet crossed over and over with writing. There is no time for ruminating, and in no other way can you assimilate what you have read. If you read on and on without setting your own thoughts to work, what you have read can not strike root, and is generally lost.”

    For some reason, it was your post and this quote that confronted me and jolted me out of my paradigm. So, have I started writing yet? No, not much. But have I been open to the idea of maybe trying to write? Yes, I have.

    Thanks for that, Kim. And good luck in your writing endeavors!

  3. kim:

    James, I remember you sharing that quote and it got me thinking a lot as well. I am so glad to hear you are thinking about writing more. Everything you share on your blog is thought provoking, but there are often times that I wonder, “I wonder what James thinks about _______?” You have a unique perspective on things, as we all do, and your thoughts are so helpful in my own understanding of things. Lately, I especially appreciate hearing you unpack the issues of ethics in medicine. If you ever approach the dreaded topic of vaccines with a public voice, I’ll be first to read!

  4. JM:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bitten my digital tongue when I’ve come across a vaccine discussion/debate on Facebook.

    It’s interesting how in the last few years the anti-anti-vaccination movement has become so vocal and is shifting away from just presenting data and dispassionately educating the public to more aggressive strategies of shaming, mocking, and scaring the anti-vaccination crowd into submission.

    I’m not sure this is the best approach. The diehard anti-vaccination lobby will never be convinced, and trying to heap scorn and embarrassment on them will probably only make them dig their heels in further. And I suspect that the majority of average parents who decided not to vaccinate their children do so from misguided but genuinely well-intentioned motives. They sincerely want the best for their children and at least give some evidence of their concern by spending time trying to research and make what they feel is the best choice. Unfortunately they are being swayed by misinformation. I don’t think shaming and public humiliation is the best approach for these genuinely concerned parents. These parents probably need healthcare providers affirm their concern for their children and patiently, gently, and persistently try to win them over to the truth.

    I’m reminded of a related quote from Michael Pollan regarding a somewhat analogous (but far less consequential) situation: “Be the kind of person who would take a multivitamin, but don’t take a multivitamin.” The scientific data have established that for the vast majority of people, there is no benefit to taking a multivitamin. However, many people who take multivitamins do so from well-intentioned motives of trying to improve their personal health. They are just misinformed. We should affirm their motives, but gently challenge their conclusions.

    My heaping scorn on parents who have chosen not to vaccinate will not predispose them to listen to me in the future. And if I want to be in a position to help them in the many other health-related concerns (beyond those of communicable, vaccine-preventable diseases) that they will have in the future, they must be willing to come to me. If they don’t trust me, they won’t come. Yes, I should make my position regarding vaccines clear and duly advise them, but I had better try to establish rapport and foster an atmosphere of respect and trust.

    Probably the anti-anti-vaccination movement is just exasperated with the deluge of nonsense that has pouring out for years. And they are directing their mockery at the relatively few but vocal spokespersons for the anti-vaccination movement (who have caused massive damage and do legitimately need to be chastised). But many parents who are certainly less malicious and less responsible for the movement as a whole are being caught in the crossfire, and it’s not helpful.

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