September 26th, 2011

crossed heart

a soft heart

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

Twelve hours can be a long time. Especially when you're trapped in a room with someone. It's sort of like the premise to a horror film, except pretty frequently its my job.

It's one thing if your patient is super critical and intubated, and you're busy with them the whole night. Then, the night just flies by.

But when you're there, one on one, to make sure they don't hurt themselves, or fall out of bed, or pull off all their dressings and go running down the hall...those nights can get long.

You treat emotionally needy people all the time as a nurse. And usually its easy to set boundaries, because you've got things to do, other patients to see. But not when it's a one on one, over night.

So you sit there, and of course, you talk. You can't not talk when someone talks to you. It'd be creepy, seeing as you're sitting in their room, and just plain rude. So you're nice -- which makes some of our more boorish patients flirt with you, because whyever would someone in a uniform being paid to sit there who is a female be nice to you unless they were interested in you? (she asks, ironically.) -- and ask some questions, about what happened, and where they've been...and it all just spills out.

A lot of our patients are so needy, so excited to have company, have someone listen, it breaks your heart.

I have had patients tell me such amazing, heartbreaking things. That they think their stepfather killed their mother. About when they were raped. When other people spit on them. All the times they were ever beat up.

What do you do with all that? Where does it go? It's hard to hear. I'm a do-er, not a listener. Tell me to tear down a mountain, and I'll start hauling away rocks with my bare hands. Give me a patient that's been so emotionally damaged by the events in their lives that they've turned to drinking and drugs or vice versa, and I feel very ill at ease with my inability help. Fever, I can fight. Emotional alienation, deserved or un? I'm lost.

So I just be nice. That's all you can really do. Sometimes I'm shitty at it. Sometimes, shamefully, they know. Sometimes, sadly, they know, and they still don't care, they're so happy just to have someone in the room with them that even though they know I'm pretending to care they're still thrilled.

You be nice, and you care in a professional way, but you try not to care too much, because you know what life has in store for them outside. You don't want to be emotionally invested in that. All you have is here, and now, and your 12 hours to treat them like they're human and hope that they agree. Because you're not going to cure anyone of a lifetime of addiction in those 12 hours, or steer away the juggernaut of depression. No advice is going to take. All you can do is treat them like they're human, like they count. When nursing isn't the pills or the science, the only things you really have to offer are an open ear, and a soft heart.

crossed heart

How to Write a Book in Six Months — begin at the beginning

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

So I'm 40k into Shapeshifted now, and I lost steam on this very next part.

5k from now, I've got some stellar stuff from the last draft that I can't wait to get to. But how do I get to there? Why's this part here feel wrong? How do I fix it?

I dunno. So I've got to go back and begin at the beginning.

Obviously when you start writing a book, you begin at the beginning (or the point that you think is the beginning unless you're very clever or lucky.) But when you get lost where you're at too -- well, for me, I have to start over again.

I hate doing it. I wish I were a machine all of the time, but I'm not. Sometimes I outpace my brain, or the emotions of the story that were once transparent got obscured, or maybe the plot is clunky and I need a day or two to find an elegant fix. I'm not going to rewrite the whole thing (although sometimes, yeah, you have to) but I'm going to go back and see what happened. When I'm writing fast, it's easy to be like one of those zip-car hot wheel things that you thread the grooved plastic line through and then zing off...and run out of steam.

It's an irritating part of the process for me, one I'm continually in denial about. I spent all last night -- a good night, off work, well slept, nice dinner -- staring at my computer screen, and then eventually wandering off into a wikipedia K-hole reading about all of the unsolved serial killings ever....that we know about. DUM DUM DUMMMMMMM! Yeah. Great late night reading, that.

And today I woke up depressed because I had Wasted a Good Day, and how was today going to be any different, etc. (You can see why so many of these posts are focused around being nice to my writing-self, because I'm not wired that way, I have to fight to be like that.) Then I figured out -- about ten minutes ago -- I have to kick my depression off, and go back to the beginning.

So tonight I'll be rereading The Book So Far. Chances are, I'll find some things that annoy me, and fix them or flag them -- but there'll be some parts that I forgot I wrote completely that'll be rockstar, and I can be proud of. I'll regain some confidence and remember I'm not so bad at this afterall, and I'll physically remind myself To Be Patient (and also to stay the hell off of wikipedia, especially the pages with LISTS. Sheesh.) I'll probably solve my problem, and figure out where I need to be. It's OK to start over, reconsidering is not the same as retreat.

Don't be afraid to go back to the beginning. If the now isn't working, start over again.