February 26, 2011

to give a name to the problem

Q: Who is your best critic? What makes a good critic?

When I was home (post-boards) last week, I attended a lecture by author Tracy Kidder where he talked about the dynamics of his relationship with his editor (and now friend) and the qualities one needs, as a writer, in a critical eye.

He had some really profound thoughts, including:

"you become what you pretend to be" (said to Kidder in reference to becoming a writer by another writer who was an alcoholic at the Iowa's writer conference; during the lecture, Kidder remarked that he's found that it's easier to become an alcoholic than a writer...)

he also said that the most important role of an editor is "to find out what is wrong, and to give a name to the problem"; this obviously made me think of the role of a physician, and how often times even when the medical world can offer no help, giving a problem a name legitimizes it as real, and also gives you something tangible to either accept or fight against (whichever seems more productive at a given time).

especially as I am about to start my first rotation in psychiatry, one of the more frustrating (?) areas of medicine because there's so little we understand about mental health and even less that we can do to help (though there is more and more!), I like the idea of the NAMING of a problem being a goal or a service unto itself.

I love this quote, and while I don't feel in the middle of my life,
I definitely feel RIGHT in the middle of medical school -
between being a knowledgeable student in a classroom and
a clueless physician-in-training in a clinical setting:

"this is where I have always been coming to. Since time began. And when I go from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now, my love, we are here, and we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere"

-A.S. Byatt, Possesion

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