Believe it or not, I’m actually a registered nurse (you know, when it comes to paying the bills). My first nursing job after I graduated from Baylor University with my BSN and received my license was working as a school nurse. I happened to work for one of the inner-city high schools in the major metroplex of Dallas, so I saw all kinds of sad and terrible things in that line of work. There were teenage pregnancies, kids on drugs, abusive boyfriends, horrible home life situations, etc. One year we had a football player injured on the field during a game; he ended up paralyzed from the waist down, dependent on his mother for care of his personal needs. It was his senior year – and he would never walk again.
Migrating into the operating room (because when you get tired of kids talking back, working where the patients are all asleep is very appealing!) didn’t help my perception of the world. There were patients with shrapnel embedded in their bodies from living in other countries, left in continuous pain. There were car accidents that left permanent disabilities and rare disorders or diseases that brought on the consequences of old age long before a patient reached adulthood. There was the woman with a metal plate in her skull because her ex had taken a shovel to her head – and she’d survived. But there were also times when I watched someone die, and there was nothing we could do to save them.
After witnessing so much pain and suffering across the wide field of nursing, maybe it’s no surprise that I turned to writing; at least as an escape for myself, if not an opportunity to “fix” in my stories was what so obviously broken in the world around me. You can’t save everyone as a nurse. But you can save everyone (character-wise, that is) as an author – or at least, you can give them all the endings you desire or that they deserve.
Still, I always thought my career choice of nursing was at odds with my chosen vocation of writing; one is heavily steeped in science, the other is much more creative. But as I think about it, nursing is the science of caring for individuals physically whereas fiction writing is the art of connecting with individuals emotionally. So really, both involve relating to specific people on a level of deep need… perhaps the two are not so dissimilar after all.
Of course, the problem with nursing is that you can only ever combat a small percentage of the hurt and pain that surrounds you, and even then, you can really only help one patient at a time. Plus, your focus is on the physical ailments; the emotional scars run deeper, and are much more complicated to heal.
But as a writer… I can do so much more. With a book, the number of lives you can touch is unlimited. My stories can reach people I’ve never even met. Now, I know my books will not stop hunger or end abortion or cure cancer. But maybe they will make someone smile, make them laugh. Maybe my stories will cause them to forget about how much their life sucks, even if it’s just for a little while. Maybe they can give people hope, show them about love, or help them find who they want to be, or who they ought to be. My books can go anywhere and do so much more than I ever could in a nurse’s office or a hospital. And so I find once again another reason for why I write 😉.
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