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Imposter Syndrome

I’ve had a professor talk before about Imposter Syndrome. He said almost all English majors had it. Basically, it’s that feeling you get that everybody knows more than you and you really aren’t qualified to be here (and maybe you should drop out and be a nurse.) The thing is, he said, everyone feels that way. Everybody is going to have read a different section of literature, and it’s really easy to get haughty when you know something that someone else doesn’t, or when somebody gives a “wrong” interpretation of a text.

I was talking to my writing friend yesterday, and we talked about basically feeling the same way about being writers. I read Anne Lamott and feel totally inept at being a writer. She basically takes getting published out the equation, which is realistic, but I still want to be published. I want my books to help people, and they’re not going to do that sitting on a hard drive. Beyond that, my friend can speak the language of Anne Lamott. I don’t. And Lamott’s language seems to be the language of the contemporary writing world.

I’m telling myself that this is Imposter Syndrome, too. I am more of a niche writer; I like books of faith. Anne Lamott is Christian, too, but I think I prefer Madeline L’Engle’s brand. Perhaps, if I can keep myself in good habits, I’ll have my own brand of faith one day, and it will help others figure out theirs.

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Distracted

I’m not really sure what to write for the blog. I have been overwhelmed with other things, like papers and and strep throat and rapidly approaching Valentine’s Day, that have kept me rather distracted. I think I have an idea for at least the next two pages of my story, though; I’ll include a section from the homeless patient’s point of view. I’m not sure how much he’ll tell the audience about his backstory, but maybe he can at least hint at it. It seems like a good place to get the ball rolling on the actual plot of the story. So far I have a bunch of characterization.

Oh yes, and it’s probably a good time to pray about my story again. If nothing else, this blog always reminds me to do that.

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Sick Days

Expectations of a sick day: I could finally finish the two books I planned on having finished last week. I could work ahead on the actual story and figure out the two main characters. I could post on this site about the things I’d learned. I could, in general, get ahead on my work.

Realities of a sick day: The sick day turned into a sick four days. I much preferred to curl up on the couch and stare at the tv than try to make sense of the written word. The draw of family and friends, especially those hours away, was much stronger than the weight of work. My brain, in short, did not want to think.

I suppose this counts as one of the “bad days” of writing. Thank you, streptococcal sore throat, for ruining my plans. At least you may show up in my story one day.

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Three Pages

I accomplished a rough three pages of my project yesterday. I need to keep up/ increase the praying about my piece, because it’s definitely helping. (Not to say that these words are directly from God, but surely He’s doing something when unexpected answers show up while I write.) I had written down a rough two pages when I thought the piece was set in 1983 and Dawson was a security guard, so I basically rewrote the whole thing. Now it’s 2008 and Dawson works as a transporter. The pages are still definitely a rough draft, but I like them much better now.

The most surprising thing that came up yesterday  was a man in Room 103. I didn’t think about giving the homeless patient a foil for this story, but once Cadence looked at the door, it made sense. I’m not sure if Mr. 103 will be running from anything or if not running from anything would be more effective. I’ll have to keep working on that. I think his wife still has her job, but he lost his, and they have five kids to take care of. And now he has pneumonia.

Why do we have to be so mean to people when we write?? I guess this is, or at least could be, a microcosm of how God feels about us. I know that Mr. 103 is going to help the homeless patient, but poor Mr. 103 only knows that he’s horribly sick and can’t provide for his family. As much as I want to skip to the end and solve all of his family’s problems, life doesn’t work that way. He has a couple jobs to do before then.

I agree with Ashley Abramson: writing really is a spiritual discipline.

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Interview 1

Interview with a former financial VP for a local hospital

What is the title for housekeepers/ cleaners in a hospital? Would they be assigned wings/ wards or be everywhere as needed?

Title: Environmental Services

Assigned a floor/ wing/ section; some quick cleaners are hired to speed up the turnover between patients in at-capacity hospitals such as this one

The General Medical floor would be where patients go after the ICU; patients often have severe infections, pneumonia, are recovering from cardiac ICU, etc. A homeless patient could be in the General Medical floor to recover from sunburn, dehydration, malnourishment, etc.

How was the hospital affected by the 2008 market crash? Did the patient’s needs change?

Volumes fell: patients with elective services (like knee surgery, etc.) put off the procedures.

More patients were unemployed, so more patients did self-pay or charity care. Charity Care: patients under certain poverty guidelines written by the government and the hospital corporation provide for the care of people who cannot pay. This hospital has a very generous charity care program.

A homeless patient brought in by someone willing to pay for his care would initially be set up as self-pay, then would have to give the other person access to his account to cover the bill. If the homeless patient had insurance but did not have the card with him and refused to sign for the other person to cover the bill, this could cause a problem.

For workers, jobs could easily be obtained in July 2008 before the crash. After the crash, retirees were trying to return because their spouses lost their retirement.

Were there any improvement plans for workers in 2008?

There was not a formalized plan from corporate at this time. However, every department was always looking for ways to be more efficient. They focused largely on clinical outcomes and services.

Did the election of Obama as president affect anything at HCA? Did the outrageous oil prices?

Obama’s later Healthcare Act had a small impact on decreasing bad debt and charity care, thus increasing volume. However, the Act increased deductibles/ co-insurance for everyone. By 2016, several insurance plans went bankrupt across the country. No real changes beyond his influence on the economy occurred until the Healthcare Act.

Gas prices had a much greater effect on the workplace. Employees were struggling to get to work. Because the hospital was open 24/7,  there were not many opportunities to rearrange shifts or to work from home. Further, there was no way to add the correct amount of money to a person’s paycheck to cover the extra cost of gas. Thus, the hospital tried to connect people for ride sharing and carpooling.

What is the general feel of hospital culture? Do patients and housekeeping see each other? Would security be roaming the halls?

Environmental Services and patients interact when Environmental Services come in to clean the rooms. Environmental Services also check with nurses for special needs among the patients.

Security would be stationed in Emergency Department, walk the main floors and hallways, and walk/ drive/ bike around the building. However, they would not walk patient hallways unless an incident occurred.

Other jobs where patients and workers interact include imaging technicians, transporters, dietary workers, phlebotomists, pharmacy workers, IT people, and materials management. Transporters, dietary, and materials management would not require a college degree. Transporters would take patients downstairs when they leave the hospital or move them between floors and units. Dietary workers would bring up meals and talk to patients to ensure that they have everything they need. Materials managements would be responsible for purchasing supplies and bringing them up to the correct floors.

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Genre Mapping

I’m not sure what genre I’m trying to write. My first explanation led professors to call it a “novel in stories.” Upon further discussion, I think I have managed to totally confuse us all. Thus, I drew a map.

Maybe this is just a normal novel with many narrators. Maybe it is more novel-in-stories than I thought. Maybe it is a hybrid.

I suppose I shall just write and see where it takes me. Part of me likes the idea of a slightly more disjointed book. That way, I could jump time and note it by time stamps or alluding to national events rather than a flowery paragraph of how everything has changed and an oh, isn’t it dramatic?. The characters could show the changes for themselves in how they act, interact, and react.

Lots to think about, and probably lots more to pray about.

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Prayer and Setting

My professor and Madeleine L’Engle talk a lot about praying for one’s work, that then one can serve the work and the work becomes bigger than the writer. I didn’t really understand what this meant. I had prayed for my stories in the past and that seemed like a natural idea to me, especially since I try to talk explicitly about faith in most of my writing. Serving the work was a little confusing, but it seemed to reminisce of those times when I would be writing and inspiration would strike and I would write for hours more. Thinking about my book idea, I knew it could be bigger than me, but I also knew it was nowhere near that stage yet.

Two nights ago, I realized that in the two years I had been turning this book idea over in my mind, I had never prayed about it. I was stuck with a main conflict, a connecting theme, a list of characters, and two introductory chapters that I hated. I could write a more convincing section on the father than on the two main characters, but I knew it wasn’t his story. Hence the reason I decided to work from the middle out for Practicum: if I knew how Dawson and Cadence acted in the hospital, I could reverse engineer their characters in the beginning. Even with all of that in my mind, though, the story was more hole than whole.

Two nights ago I wrote in my prayer journal for God to please use this work for His glory.

Yesterday, out of nowhere, I suddenly wondered if I should change the time period of the setting. Though this idea probably stemmed from an initial desire to avoid interviewing people (even if they were my boyfriend’s parents), I came up with two pages worth of ideas in about ten minutes. The economic recession and my firsthand knowledge of what the city was like in the late 2000s provided tension through the roof and brought the outside world in ten times better than the relative calm of the 80s. Changing the setting made the rest of the story make sense.

I know praying for God to use my writing for His glory will not magically work every time like it did yesterday. Even so, I believe that, over time, the work will be bigger than me. Thus, every baby step forward I make in this process is ultimately for His glory.

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Thoughts on Madeleine L’Engle

I read ahead in Walking on Water. In general, I really love this book. It’s written rather similarly to Gilead, which was probably the best fiction book I have read in college. Both Gilead and Walking on Water use rich vocabulary, intellectual lines of thinking, and repetitious references to grace. Because of these two books, grace might be my favorite Biblical concept.

On page 86 of Walking on Water (Convergent 2016 version), L’Engle says, “So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain.”

I need to find ways to keep my clock wound, as L’Engle suggests. I need to pray more, to write the visual prayers and not just the list prayers, to actually listen for what God’s voice might sound like. I need to write more, to not be scared of the blank page, to not get distracted as soon as I run out of ideas after a few paragraphs.

Discipline might be the biggest thing I work on this semester. I’m trying to get to bed at a consistent time. I’m trying to establish consistent writing habits through this blog. I’m trying to pay better attention in church. And yet, I’m working on spontaneity, too. I’m trying to not get so stuck in my routines that I never do anything but work. I’m trying to not eat the same sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. I’m trying to not avoid conversations with people that might disrupt my schedule.

It’s a paradox, and a tension, and it seems like that is what good writing, and maybe even a good life, is made of.

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What Everyone Runs From

For the week of 1/10/17

A list of possible characters and what they are running from:

  • Dawsonhis past (the loss of his parents; instead of building walls, he tries desperately to protect)
  • Cadence: her past (her father’s overbearing control, her mother’s unhappiness)
    • Needs more development
  • Nurse Ann: heartbreak (avoids relationships so she can’t get hurt)
    • Perhaps her story relates to Uncle Jerry’s; see below
  • Homeless Patient: handouts and family problems (his pride prevents him from accepting help in the hospital and from apologizing to his wife for a plethora of small problems)
    • Twist: he is willing to give up his comfortable lifestyle and live on the streets to avoid acknowledging he disappointed his wife
  • Runaway Patient: pain (physically, surgery and recovery; emotionally, feeling useless)
  • Cadence’s Father, Matthew Littlefailure (to provide for his family, to make his wife happy, to secure Cadence’s material well-being through a marriage to Harry)
  • Cadence’s Mother, Lindy Little: gender stereotypes (being a submissive homemaker, being a “victim”)
    • Submissive despite, or because of, her mother’s strong will?
    • Leads her to change over the course of the novel
  • Dawson’s Uncle, Jerry Evans: loneliness (loss of his closest relations and now Dawson)
    • Struggles with burnout as he overworks himself to avoid the loneliness at home
    • Perhaps causes Lindy’s change as she helps him cope
      • Could occur in the hospital to tie back to Dawson and Cadence
  • Cadence’s Neighbor, Harryhis geeky temperament ( marrying Cadence would cement his position as a normal citizen rather than goofy eccentric)
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First Ideas

For the week of 1/10/17

A synthesis of the ideas I worked on this past week:

  • The overall idea for the book follows a couple who run away from home, elope, and start working in a hospital. The male protagonist named Dawson could work as a security guard, while the female protagonist named Cadence could work in housekeeping. This storyline needs more development, which I hope to gain as a side effect of writing climactic events for my Practicum project.
  • The book will include anecdotes both in the hospital and in Franklin that explore the idea of running away. For the Practicum project, I would like to write about one particular event in the hospital when a homeless man comes, despite refusing the person paying for his care. He should be full of surprises, though. Perhaps he is homeless by choice to avoid conflict with his wife. Perhaps his wife is the one paying for his care. If not his wife, perhaps he is wealthier than the person paying for his care and that is why he refuses.
  • Another patient’s story, which should perhaps precede the aforementioned story, is a man running away from pain. In this instance, the man is running away literally: he  tries to run out of the hospital to avoid some painful treatment, like surgery or perhaps physical therapy. In light of this story, when the homeless man tries to wheel himself out of the hospital to avoid incurring a larger bill, Dawson might make a witty comment about the runaway patients.