Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why I Write Blogs

Preface: I entered the blog below into a contest sponsored by James Malinchak International Inc, which has a list of 42,000 followers. The idea was to spot a blog that would generate speaking engagements. My blog was selected as one of the finalists, but alas did not win in the end.

I’m a physician. I write blogs. In fact, over the last four years, I’ve written 1627 blogs. I try to write at least one blog a day. I have written four in a day. Other days I have done none.

Usually I write in the morning. I often go to bed with a title in mind. I wake up with the design of the blog fully formed. I’m a big believer in the right brain as the design mind.

Why do I write? Because I have to. It’s a compulsion.

It isn’t for money. I get an occasional small check from Google for ads run on my blog site. But that’s it.

It isn’t for controversy. Only rarely do I get a negative comment that sets me off. It isn’t for fame. Perhaps that will come if this blog wins the prize.

I write to learn. What do I know until I’ve written it down? How could I write if I were not constantly reading and learning from my superiors.

I write to defend doctors. We get a raw deal with this health reform bill. It regulates the hell out of us, and it will reduce our Medicare income below that of Medicaid. Most doctors feel the same as I do. In a book by The Physicians Foundation called Health Reform and the Decline of Physician Private Practice, in completed surveys of 2400 doctors, 86% answered “No” to this question, “Do you believe the viewpoint of physicians was adequately represented to polity makers and the public during the run-up to passage of health reform?” In another survey, 60% said they would not accept new Medicare or Medicaid patients. I write to tell the public of this bad news.

I try to write clearly. I seek to make my blogs readable. I use Rudolph Flesh’s “Fog Index” to measure readability. The Fog Index is defined as : Average Length of Sentences + Number of three syllable words X 0.4. The answer supposedly represents the average reader’s grade level required to read your stuff. So far this blog has a Fog Index of 5.2.

I write to make a difference – in the lives of physicians and the lives of patients.

When I write, I try to follow the examples set by my literary heroes. They are E.B. White , who wrote The Elements of Style, and George Orwell, who wrote a famous essay called “Why I Write”.

White describes 21 approaches to style:

1) Place yourself in the background.

2) Write in a way that comes naturally.

3) Work from a suitable design.

4) Write with nouns and verbs.

5) Revise and rewrite.

6) Do not overwrite.

7) Do not overstate.

8) Avoid the use of qualifiers.

9) Do not affect a breezy manner.

10) Use orthodox spelling.

11) Do not explain too much.

12) Do not construct awkward adverbs.

13) Make the reader know who is speaking.

14) Avoid fancy words.

15) Do not use dialect unless your ear is good.

16) Be clear.

17) Do not inject opinion.

18) Use figures of speech sparingly.

19) Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clearly.

20) Avoid foreign languages.

21) Prefer the standard to the offbeat.

George Orwell said he wrote for the sheer joy of words- and their sounds and associations. He gave four reasons for writing.

(i)Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

I confess. As a blogger, I am guilty of all four of these impulses.

1 comment:

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

You are doing a fine job. Author of Charlotte's Web would be proud!