Why this doctor writes and puts himself out there

Recently, Dr. Mike Sevilla decided to hang up his podcasting mic, his blogging tools, his Twitter creds, and his Facebook presence, all in one fell swoop. Find out more about Mike the man, and why he decided to take this drastic action, at his website.

Now, I have known Mike for some time on Twitter primarily, where we will sometimes comment back and forth about issues of the day or one of his podcasts or one of my blog posts. We’ve never been close, personally close, as I have come to be with other friends in social media. That said, there has always been that connection, usually unspoken, with another doctor who wants to make a difference by what he thinks, says and does online and over the air waves.

Mike started out in this social media space as many doctors have, anonymously. He began to use his real name just a short time back. Now, I can’t speak for Mike and exactly why he decided to bow out and regroup. He has already said a little about this, and he will say more if and when he decides the time is right to do that. I can, however, speak for myself. Oh, yeah. You know I can.

If you’re not in this game, not ever or not yet, you need to understand some things.

If you’re a writer, you have to write. It’s a compulsion. For me, it’s the first thing I want to check off my ToDo app list for the day after making coffee. I write to think out loud. I write to teach. I write to share feelings. I write to celebrate. I write to mourn loss. I write to dream. I write to chastise. I write to lose myself and escape the grinding, wrenching, painful day-to-day stuff of life. I write to exercise a part of my brain that gets little use in my real job. I write because I have been a writer since I was a little kid, since I won that first essay contest medal in school or that first D.A.R. speech competition and realized that if I wrote it, if I said it, somebody would pay attention to it. I write because I’m a a writer.

If you’re a doctor, a good doctor, you want to share. You want to teach. You want to put out there what you know, thinking that you can reach just one more person and bring insight to just one more soul who needs it. It’s about ego, of course it is, because you wouldn’t or couldn’t do it without a healthy one, but that’s not all.

It’s about being needed, being relevant. It’s about knowing that what you do makes a difference in this world. You can share by talking to one patient at a time. That’s perfectly fine. You can write columns for your local paper. You can give speeches about a new surgical procedure at the Lions Club. That’s fine. You can do a podcast like Mike did and reach many more people on a regular schedule.

The point is, you want to be heard, and you find the best way, the way that fits, for you. Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms have made it easier than ever to instantly share things, says things and advertise things that we think, process and create. Blogging platforms like Blogger and WordPress have made it possible for anyone to publish anything. Much of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it is terrible. Goes with the territory.

So, this is all touchy-feely and kittens and unicorn tears and sparkles, right?

No.

If you put yourself out there, if you speak and blog and write and tweet and post and podcast and comment, other things will happen. Trust me on this. I have several well-worn T-shirts.

You will be misunderstood. The thing that you created that you thought was magical and insightful and full of deep hidden meaning for all of mankind? Well, I hate to tell you this, Skippy, but people don’t read your stuff in a vacuum. They BTOB (bring their own baggage) and it colors not only everything that they do but everything that you do. They will take what you hammered out and interpret it with tea leaves, hammer it out on their own anvils, and make it their own. It will be a shadow of itself by the end of the day, after a few hundred hits and a few dozen comments. If you can’t stand the heat …

You will be praised. This is intoxicating and makes you keep coming back for more. Oh, come on, go with me here. Do you think I would keep writing solely for myself if I thought none of you ever read me? If I thought nobody out there cared what I said? I might as well just do a diary entry every morning and be done with it. I need you. I want to hear from you. I cherish your comments, both on the blog and on Twitter and on Facebook, and dare I say this, in real life by the use of something called the phone! I learn a tremendous amount from you, my readers and friends. You may not want to believe that. You may not want to believe that social media and what goes on in this space is real. It is. It’s true.

You will be vilified. If you’re at the top of your game, if you put yourself out there as somebody who knows something about something, somebody else is going to shoot you down, or at least try to. It’s human nature. We’re a jealous bunch. We’re vindictive. We’re snarky. We love to see people succeed, but we love seeing them trip up and stumble even more. If you join the game, be prepared to be shot at. It’s happened to me. It’ll happen to you. It’s not fun. Sometimes it’s downright painful.

I sincerely hope that Mike will decide to come back to the social space, even if it’s in a radical new way. I hope he works through whatever it was that caused him to take this time out. I hope most of all that this does not deter other doctors from joining the conversation.

As you can tell if you’ve read any of my stuff over the last seven years, I am passionate about what I do. The system I work in, health care and the mental health part of it, is badly broken. I flail around in it every day doing he best I can to take care of my patients. I also think about it and write about it and I want to make a difference in how this care is being provided. I want to call attention to some things that I think are not right. I want these things to change. I want to play a part in changing them.

I’m a doctor because I care about people.

I write because I’m a writer.

I’m willing to put myself out there on both counts and deal with whatever comes my way.

Greg Smith is a psychiatrist who blogs at gregsmithmd.

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  • meyati

    Many people write, because they do care-though much of the caring is self-centered. I enjoy reading your musings, direct thoughts, edifications, and just plain sharing yourself. You’re always enjoyable because you use different writing styles and POVs, while we hear the voice of a real person speaking to us. That is a difficult thing to do.
    Yes, I have my own baggage, but I find you on point in giving me a new POV, showing me the other side of the coin, and the times when we agree.

    • Greg Smith MD

      meyati

      I have enjoyed your comments and perspectives in the recent past and hope you continue to visit.
      Thanks.

      Greg

  • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice Robertson

    Writing is therapeutic. This is a huge problems for doctors. I believe the anonymous writers more than the ones who name themselves (unless they are retired) because in their chosen field having an opinion can lose you not only your income but your identity (and that’s why doctors need to write because their very core cries out at injustices, victories, and the human need to connect in a way that isn’t always possible with patients in office).

    I guess I just want to encourage doctors to keep on writing (even though some are simply annoying, and some show their true inner intentions, and some are shameful., ambitious, narcissitic..it’s simply a reflection of a very well trained human struggling in a regulated white coat world).

    If anyone needs to vent via writing to inform us that the invisible blanket (that separates us from connecting) is there for a reason, or even reach into a hurting heart to heal through words what happens on both sides of that blanket….it’s doctors…surely their stories are some of the best to be told…which means in all your travails you may be some of the most interesting story tellers online:)

    You have an audience….I hope you keep on writing….and that somehow you feel released into the same literary freedom that allows tormented writers to create rich characters that thrust us into deeply introspective life situations that transform. You too can capture a real life character and teach them transforming skills.

    • Greg Smith MD

      Alice,

      Thanks for that thoughtful comment. I hope you will visit my blog, read, and comment often.

      Greg

  • Rob Burnside

    In personal relationships, it seems that things unsaid often carry more weight than things said, and that we frequently resort to symbolic language to bridge the communication gap. Errors and omissions abound. In the written word, with the exception of poetry which can be deliberately oblique, we are obliged to strive for clarity. And, very fortunately, we usually have the opportunity to edit what we write before we hit the “send” button.

    I’m frequently misunderstood in conversation because I don’t verbalize enough, or well enough. This comes in part from lack of practice. Life has picked up speed, become digitalized. There simply aren’t as many opportunities for good conversation as there once were.

    In writing, I can usually get my point across without misunderstanding. I don’t mind being disagreed with as much as I mind being misconstrued. Of course, this happens in all forms of communication, but less often, I think, in writing. This is one reason why I like writing. Another, and perhaps less selfish reason–I’ve had a lifelong “word” fascination that only seems to grow as time goes by. Take “onomatopoeia” for instance…

    • Alice Robertson

      One of my favorite words is “phantasmagoric” (it’s from Chesterton’s lively anarchic romp, The Man Who Was Thursday). The word creates delight!

      I know doctors often have to keep an arm’s length from a connection with patients, but gosh….when they break the rules it can be…well phantasmagoric! Ha! Word fun! But truly…I have a daughter with cancer and the ENT encouraged me to write to him (apparently being a doctor can get a bit monotonous…or maybe it was his own form of mercy towards a hurting mother…but he said he broke the rules and we became friends).

      I am not sure words can truly express what his correspondence with me meant. I trusted him more…well beyond my daughter’s health. It felt priceless. He walked me through a period of dark terror, but his letters created sunshine that was brighter than the dark cloud that threatened to envelope me.

      And that is why it’s important for doctors to write, because knowledge leads to understanding, then wisdom and contained within that is healing beyond what medicine can offer.

      • Greg Smith MD

        “…knowledge leads to understanding, then wisdom and contained within that is healing beyond what medicine can offer.”
        Beautiful. True.
        Thank you.

    • Greg Smith MD

      Wonderful thoughts, Rob.
      Look at the time.
      I must go write another post.
      Tick tock.

      G

      • Rob Burnside

        Tempus does fugit, Doc! Looking forward to reading whatever you’re writing. If I were a literary agent, I’d have sent you a contract proposal months ago.

  • DD Cross

    I visited Dr. Mike Sevilla’s website, read some of his commentary, and I’ve got to say it’s really very good. Not quite KevinMD yet, but it’s worth following, He’s an extremely talented guy with some compelling points of view.

    I can appreciate the time and effort he puts into his work, and glad I chanced across this today. Good job Dr. S!

    I’m also a writer, however, I write novels so there’s a little variation in the process. As an MD, I hear from colleagues daily who want to flee clinical practice, and think breaking into the writing world is a path to take. Anyone can write a book, right? Here’s my take on that notion . . .

    The complexities of writing, editing, working with publishers, your agent, marketers, and your audience makes medical school, residency, clinical practice, a breeze in comparison.

    My first novel was published over a decade ago–it was like winning the lottery, and my 24th earlier this month. What a lot of aspiring writers don’t get is that it’s not simply writing–that’s the easy part–I knock out a few thousand words a day no matter what–it’s rewriting. Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.

    • Greg Smith MD

      Thanks for this enlightening comment Dr. Cross. Yes, there is a lot more than meets the idea in any creative endeavor. So glad you have been so successful at it! Good luck in the future and thanks for reading my post.

      Greg

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