Sunday, April 1, 2012

a is for advice

When I retired after thirty years in Family Medicine to “begin again” as a wannabe writer, I told my colleagues and patients that I was retiring…when I meant that I was quitting. (Don’t get me started…).

Of course, I didn’t put it quite that way. It wasn’t as though I simply got fed up with things, turned in my stethoscope and tongue blades, and slammed the door on my way out of the office. I wasn’t impulsive about it at all. I agonized over the decision for three years. I didn’t ask to be excused because of exhaustion or forgetfulness or ill-health. It’s just that I felt so old. And there was so much I still wanted to do. And I felt like time was running out for me.

The adage, “Life is too short…” takes on new meaning when you get to be my age. Life is too short to stifle desire, to dwell in regret, or to abandon hope. Time is too short to neglect longing. To withhold passion. To delay gratification. Go ahead…you fill in the blanks.

So...contrary to common sense, I abandoned my medical practice for the sole purpose of finishing the novel I have always longed to write…with no MFA, no acquired expertise, and no prior experience. Meaning that I may not be the person you should turn to for ADVICE when it comes to fulfilling your dream of writing and publishing...or picking up your paints, or composing a song, or choreographing a dance...whatever it is that you long to do. Nevertheless I have sought ADVICE about my writing so many times from so many people for so long, I could write my own book about it. What to do and how to do it. What to avoid and how to avoid it. When to ignore ADVICE and when to embrace it. What about plot, tension, conflict, characters, scene? What about editing and formatting? What of inspiration and motivation and dedication?

Out of all of it, this is the best piece of ADVICE I can offer:

As you begin whatever it is you are inspired to undertake, remember that as a child, your first step, your first meaningful word, your first recognizable doodle all required untiring practice and immense patience until finally...success! And this will, too. No one expects you to run a marathon or paint a masterpiece or sing an aria in the beginning. Nor should you compare yourself with the master whose work you so admire.

When you write or draw, keep an eraser and plenty of clean white paper close at hand.

If you are learning to dance, expect to stumble.

When you sing, try for the high notes, too.

Do not be discouraged because others have already discovered their voice, taken to the stage, or published a book.

Their success is proof that you can do it, too.
"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer
 but wish we didn't."

--Erica Jong--
Tomorrow I'll tell how you'll know when it's time for you to BEGIN.


  1. Oh Jan, thank you for this inspiring post!

  2. Great advice. I think you give it perfectly. You're very brave for changing careers.

  3. Beautiful.....just make like Nike and DO IT!!

  4. Wonderful, and I couldn't agree more! We only get one life, as far as we know, so we've got to make the most out of it. No matter how old we are, it's never to late to pursue our dream. (Even if I never make it to my intended destination of publication, I plan on enjoying the trip.)

  5. What a great post, Jan! Truly words to live by! And the perfect advice! See you tomorrow...

  6. Love it! Great advice. You can't do anything unless you try. Can't learn unless you take a chance. Can't excel unless you work at it.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  7. Thanks everyone! I'm getting ready to visit each of you now. We rock!

  8. Welcome to the challenge, Jan! And what a great post to kick it off! I could have written this one myself, only I wasn't a doctor lol. I think leaving a profession like that would be much more difficult to explain to people.

  9. Thank you so much for this post. It was exactly what I needed, and I hope you enjoy this wonderful journey!

  10. Great post! It was a timing read for me. Thank you!I look forward to reading more in the days to come.

    There are so many interesting blogs on the A to Z challenge. I'm glad I found yours.

  11. Wonderful advice, very inspirational. Thank You.

  12. Nice post. This is one I did on life being too short. Life is too short