I juggle a lot of hats. I have a house in the big woods to run, and four fur babies to take care of. The human kids are (mostly) out of the house, but don’t think for a minute that means there aren’t regularly occurring mom emergencies. I’ve got two author identities and two professional licenses and that doesn’t scratch the surface of all of the selves I am and can be.
Most of my selves get along pretty well, but I used to have trouble integrating Nurse into the mix.
Nurses need to be practical, organized, professional, and task oriented. These have never been my strong suits, I’ll admit, but I’ve managed somehow to get an acceptable Nurse Act together. Whereas writing – while it’s not exactly wandering about with my head in the clouds and a pen in my hand – certainly does access the creative, intuitive, artistic side of me.
Recently I’ve realized that nursing and writing have more in common than you might think.
Here, let me demonstrate.
What is your reaction to this photograph of a lovely example of male humanity? What do you notice? How do you feel?
The Nurse, while fully capable of realizing that this is a splendid hunk of a man, is probably going to zoom in to those marvelous forearms. Just look at those veins! Perfect for an IV start. Really. They just don’t get any better. The desire to touch, to just run a finger along that raised vein and think about sticking a needle in it is strong.
The Writer, also impressed by a beautiful specimen of manhood, is thinking other things. How would he fit into a story? Is he the villain, the lover, the hero? How can I kill him off? Or should I give him a happy ever after?
Another thing nurses and writers have in common is this: we want to see the blood.
Nurse: Unless you’re spurting arterial blood and in danger of imminent death, our first impulse might not be to stop the bleeding. Not that we want to cause you pain, or anything, but if a finger like this shows up in our vicinity what we really want to do is pull the skin apart and see how much the wound gapes. How deep is the cut? Can you see underlying tissue or bone? Is there anything in there that needs to come out? You know – metal fragments, splinters, that sort of thing.
Writer: Some writers are squeamish about physical blood, preferring to focus their curiosity on other types of wounds. But all writers share that intense curiosity about the workings of things. The writer brain is fueled by thoughts like, what happens if? Our best writing grows out of a desire to look deeply into the roots of things, and that includes all of the vast suffering that afflicts humanity. We delve into the dark places of human lives. We write sadness and fear and jealousy and anger.
Nurse: Once we’re done looking at wounds, then we’re pretty big on bandages. We like to see what hurts, and then we like to fix it, as far as we’re able.
Writer: Maybe. Writers tear apart the fabric of lives, societies, even entire worlds. Some of us then patch things back together, leaving characters stronger for their scars. Some writers like to leave things in ruins, though, the equivalent of a nurse who has taken to the dark side and is using her position to kill off patients instead of trying to help them. I’m a happy ending kind of writer, in general. Or at least a happier ending. It can’t all be sunshine and lollipops and some of my characters do die along the way, but both the nurse and writer in me agree that we want hope and resolution.
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