Friday, February 26, 2010

The first impuse to write

Do you remember the first time you thought of becoming a writer or poet? Many of my current writing friends have revived a love from a dormant dream in the past. I can think of three major nodes in my life when the impulse to write really got me. Or rather, shoved me.

The first time, I think I was in fourth grade. I was incessantly reading Judy Blume and trying to tackle Watership Down but getting nowhere because it was way out of my league. But all those sad rabbits on the cover inspired me. Surely I could write a novel!

I started with a piece of blank paper. I folded it in half. In flowery italics, I wrote "Joanne" on the front. Already such a tragic-looking title, right? Inside the piece of paper, I wrote the following:

Joanne was twelve when she got sick. The doctor came into her room and said, "You have leukemia." Her mother cried. Joanne died.

That was the whole book. Who knew writing a novel could be so friggin' difficult? I picked up the pen again in college and took a creative writing course. I was proud to use the word "garnet" to describe something instead of using "red", and I wrote a few decent paragraphs but some overall really bad short stories. I remember thinking, it's probably a good thing I'm pre-med.

Finally, eleven years later I was an attending physician in internal medicine in New York City's Bellevue Hospital. I took care of a sick patient I couldn't remove from my thoughts. At two in the morning, I sat down at the computer. At four in the morning, I submitted a short piece about my experience to the Annals of Internal Medicine's humanities section, "On Doctoring". To my astonishment, it was published.

Bang. The writing bug was back full force. I thought, this is sooooo easy. So I wrote more, submitted more, and felt the first of many painful rejections. The bug crawled away, and then in the fall of 2008, I joined the Seven Doctors Project, a writer's group led by a poet, Steve Langan. The point of the project was to help established doctors find a creative outlet in writing, be it poetry, non-fiction, fiction, even music lyrics. I joined, and something odd happened to me. I became a writer.

Since then, I've been writing poetry, more non-fiction, and went back to my fourth-grade dream of writing novels. And I haven't looked back.

So when did the bug bite you? And I'm not talking about a teasing nibble. When did it take a fat, juicy chunk out of your soul?


Anonymous said...

Wowee! What a story! I didn't realize you were so close--I'm in the capital region! Anyway the writing bug hit 1 1/2 years ago and I've written 5 novels since! Yes, the first one had a psychiatrist MC. Needs overhauling, but I still love the story.

Congrats on finding a great writer's group! And congrats on your blog! :)

raskings said...

Good for you, Lydia! Good luck with all this.

DaniSue said...

The story you wrote in fourth grade made me laugh :)
My family are all big readers, and my mom is a writer, so reading and writing was always a big thing in my house. I think I started writing as soon as I learned how. Short stories, fairy tales, essays, fanfiction.. I was always, always writing.

Lydia Kang said...

That's so awesome guys! I only wished I started earlier, but I guess it's never too late! ;)