From Dream to Reality: Thinking Outside of Your Practice Work

July 5, 2011

The process of medical education and training often required neglect of many other areas including hobbies, interests, and other pursuits. Now that we are doctors, it can be difficult to rediscover long dormant dreams or develop new ones.

One antidote to burnout that I have discovered is to develop and feed your dreams. For so many physicians, adolescence, young adulthood, and in some cases middle adulthood, was spent in relentless pursuit of a single dream - to become a doctor. The process of medical education and training often required neglect of many other areas including hobbies, interests, and other pursuits. Now that we are doctors, it can be difficult to rediscover long dormant dreams or develop new ones. Sometimes (or every day) being a doctor (and a mother/father, life partner, etc.) feels like too much to do in 24 hours a day.

However, it is natural and normal to develop or rediscover passions and dreams as you grow, mature, and enter new life-phases. One of my newer passions is writing. What started out as technical writing for medical journals has evolved into medical essays, blog posts, a single work of poetry when there was really no better way to tell the patient’s story, and more recently, fiction. To support this dream, I realized that I needed more than just parents and parents-in-law and a somewhat overworked spouse to read my efforts. I needed honest feedback from other writers. So, taking a deep breath, I started a writers’ group. Never having been in a writers’ group before, I really didn’t know what we were supposed to do. Drink coffee and talk about our favorite Hemingway novel? Read each other our latest creations and either rip it to shreds or clap politely? Just hang out and talk about whatever? I was really hoping that this group would force me to write by holding me accountable to the goals I disclosed to them and would provide me honest, even if difficult-to-hear, feedback.

It got off to a bit of a rough start, but I think our small group is now well-established and is able to provide encouraging yet helpful feedback. I recently brought a short story I wrote to share. This was scary for me because it was my first foray into fiction. My group was very supportive, made a suggestion about a line change that was simple but made the story much better, and observed, accurately, that a lot of my writing revolves around death or dying. What else can you expect from someone whose profession is all about preventing or easing death!

With their confidence in my story, I developed some of my own and submitted it to a small writing contest. I was thrilled to win the contest - nothing big, but big for me. I don’t know that this is the start of a literary career, but it sure feels good to pursue a dream of mine and find some support along the way. What’s your dream?

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