The thing is, I didn’t even mean to climb, metaphorically speaking. I never meant to write a novel. It kind of… happened , but I think that the best things in life just do. I think that you simply have to know when to surrender and go with the flow.
As a teenager, I used to be an editor for the school newspaper and I also wrote short stories. Two of them even won a prize in the local writing competition. But then, something changed, something new came along. Ta-daaa (drums and trumpets) – Highschool . Then I became more concerned about being cool than actually doing something. I did manage to spare some time for studying, however. But my specialisation was Sciences, so I focused on Chemistry and Biology. Writing simply didn’t fit in any longer.
After Highschool , came Med School. Between the huge amount of studying and the desire to have a little bit of fun , too, writing was completely forgotten. I sometimes remembered that I did in in the past, but I somehow didn’t write a single line for more than a decade. I’ll tell you one more thing about medicine- it also makes you less human. It is a paradox, but it is true. In the first year, you learn Anatomy by dissecting a body in class. You HAVE to forget that the conglomerate of bone, muscles, sinews and organs once was a living, breathing human being. Or you simply wouldn’t be able to continue. As your study advances, you work in a hospital. The amount of suffering you see is huge, especially in the ICUs and palliative care units. Not only the patients’ suffering, but the pain of the family and friends , too. There is always the twenty-something-year -old, lying in a hospital bed, walking the thin line between life and death, after a car accident. You say to yourself, ‘Hey, that could have been me!’. Or the 19- year-old breast cancer patient , who probably has another six moths to live. At first, you cry . It gets to you. But then , you grow a thick skin. You have to.
If you are unable to grow insensitive, you have to quit.
Of course, everything in a certain measure. I’d never be able to treat my patient as if they were walking, talking pieces of meat.
The system treats them like that, anyway, so you need your doctors to remain a little human. Finding a balance between not involving yourself emotionally in your case, and yet having empathy and understanding for the humans standing before you, is a continuous challenge. But that is a whole different discussion, I was merely trying to explain to you why I have been denying my sensitive side for years. The overwhelming majority of doctors don’t realise it, but this profession changes you fundamentally.
However, there were bits of pieces in me I simply couldn’t erase. As I child, my parents used to take us along in very extensive road trips. As you can imagine, it was incredibly boring for a child of ten. So I began making up stories in my mind, and as time went by, they became more and more elaborate. That was a habit I didn’t shake off. When I wasn’t able to sleep at night, I used to lull myself to sleep with these stories. Sometimes, the saga went on, from day to day. I would continue where I had left the characters on the night before.
I still did it last year in June. It was the first day of my three-week vacation. I was making up a story , centred on a strong female character, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 17th century. I fell in love instantly with the story, and saw the huge amount of possibilities which had arisen. It was too much to contain in my head. I simply had to put it on paper.
It was insane. Something inside of me, which had staid hidden for years and years, had finally broken loose.
I worked eight to nine hours per day during my vacation, and two to three hours in the evening , after returning to work. It was crazy. I lived and breathed my novel , all that I wanted to do was write. It felt easy enough, the ideas flowed unrestrained, the trouble was that I had to do the research , too. I wanted my book to be historically accurate, so I had to invest some time and money in reading specialised books. I don’t know how I pulled it through, but in two months the first draft was ready. I was incredibly proud of it. I had actually written my first novel!
What next? Of course, I wanted to publish it. But first , there was some editing that had to be done. I came to carefully re-reading what I wrote, in a more objective state of mind. I tried to detach myself from the craze and the enthusiasm I had felt when I wrote it. And then , came the horror.
Unclear, complicated phrases. An uncertain sense of setting, not so specific to the times and eras. Scenes that felt too rushed, or that have simply been summarised in a few words. That was definitely not what I had in my head. It was supposed to look entirely different! What happened ? And , most of all, what to do?
Bearing the metaphorical cliff in mind I had described to you in my first post, I had spontaneously begun an ascent, without a backpack , appropriate shoes, or even a map. I started without a compass, on the first road which happened to lay under my feet. The downside was that I had failed to recognise the signs, the fact that the road was narrowing, that the walls were closing in on me, and that it was darker and darker.
I had ended up in a cave, and , moreover, it was also a dead end. I could see a little light creeping down through the ceiling. So there was an exit, but how on Earth would I get there? What to do?