5 Things the Hospital Can Teach You About Writing

Photo by Suat Eman, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Suat Eman, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Sorry I’ve disappeared!  I’ve had a family member in the hospital, so I haven’t been posting regularly.  Spending my days at the hospital has given me some ideas about writing, though.

1. Act with urgency

When you’re at the hospital, everything has to be quick because lives and health are at stake.  I know writing isn’t the same as a human’s life, but try to think of it as if it’s that important.  When you leave your writing, go back to your writing with urgency and work quickly to get ideas down before they leave you.  This will help you be more productive and keep you focused on your work.

2. Know your history

Nurses and doctors spend a lot of time making sure they have a patient’s full medical history, and often recheck it during the stay.  They can’t treat a patient fully if they don’t know all the issues the patient has had in the past.  It’s the histories that help give proper care for conditions and can help inform doctors about the causes of medical problems.  It’s the same with your characters.  If you don’t know their pasts, how can you know where they are going?  How do you know how they will react to a given scenario?

3. Details matter

Just like doctors need to know about every little symptom to make a diagnosis, a writer needs to know every detail about characters, setting, and plot to write authoritatively.  Even if you don’t need all the information to write your story, it all helps you create a clearer picture in your mind and leads to better description and a more engaging story.

4. Routines matter

Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff members have routines.  It’s how they make sure every patient is seen, every medication is delivered, and every room is cleaned.  Without them, they couldn’t do their jobs and keep up with so many patients.  For a writer, routines are important because they keep you working productively and keep you in practice.  The longer you take away from your writing the less you’ll think about it, so keep up with a routine to make writing a priority.

5. Every case is different

No two patients have the same medical problems, and doctors take different approaches with each patient  In the same way, no two writing projects can be approached the same.  Even if you use the same point of view, your characters and setting will be different from project to project, and reusing the same flaws and plot points will make your writing boring.  Remember, your options are limitless, so don’t get stuck on the same worn out ideas each time.

One other thought:

Hospitals are exciting places full of people with different jobs and backgrounds, different stories, and different reasons for being there.  If you need some inspiration, a hospital can be a great place to get some ideas.  You’ll see the joy of birth, the sadness of death, and everything in between.  Probably the most useful thing you’ll see is how people react to various situations, so next time you’re there (and I hope it’s for good reasons, rather than sad ones), try to people watch.  You’ll learn a lot about human emotion.  Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Have you seen anything at the hospital that you might be able to use in your writing?  Leave a comment.

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