If we are what we do repeatedly, then I am a mover, a writer, and a student.
I carve out time for my physical practices: moving my meat-suit is essential for my mental health. A good sweat and some high-quality movement cures most of my lethargy and apathy, at least for one day.
I ensure that I spend at least an hour or two each week smashing my face against the keyboard until I have something to post on Sunday. My writing practice and my writing ability stems from a numbers game. Most of what I write is pretty bad, but if I keep writing, then eventually something worth reading will float to the top.
I don’t bring that same focus to my reading practice. These days, the only things that I read are my social media feed, dense powerpoint lectures, Reddit threads, and Step One review books. My mind is so focused on simply surviving Course Five that I have set aside my habit of reading for at least fifteen minutes, three times a week. This dosage ensured that I read a solid chapter in a sitting and chugged steadily through a piece of writing.
Abandoning that practice means that I have lost the influence of writers better than myself. I notice my writing is less florid, more to the point, and without the boldness of bright metaphors and creeping thematic ties. Additionally, I rarely read anything longer than a few hundred words, losing my long-term attention as a reader.
A writer that doesn’t read is an odd beast. A sprinter that can’t jog? A dancer that can’t march? I’m even failing to draw a clean parallel.
Perhaps this is an appropriate reflection of my overall state of mind. This isn’t a piece of writing that will determine my self-worth or even my skill as a writer. This is a personal project for public consumption. A journal for anyone to read, to understand what goes through the mind of one student as he traverses a medical education. First year was full of wandering thoughts and careful meditations. Second year has strapped me to the front of a train heading straight for Step One.
I know my writing has changed. I wish I could write something that I know is worth reading. That might be the ego talking. I think I’ll settle for writing something that I can read later.
I’ve kept hand-written journals from my time abroad, in Korea and Egypt, as well as boot camp, with the US Marine Corps. With the passage of time, it’s such a lovely practice to review these accounts of trials and struggles. Conflicts I can now barely recall felt so important and insurmountable at the time. Loneliness and self-doubt that left me filled with regret and longing for home seems so transient with only a few years of separation.
I hope that with the help of these long form reflections I can eventually take this 30,000ft view of my medical education. It helps to remember that these days, I’m not a writer that studies. I’m a student that writes. And reads, on occasion.
Long Form Sundays
- On acquiring difficult skills
- On cut hair (or a meditation on identity)
- On the learning curve
7 thoughts on “On a writer that doesn’t read”