Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: July 2021


One year and four months – I’m guessing this is a predictable time frame for what I’m experiencing.

Burnout, moral injury, call it what you will – everything (except writing) has become a struggle. Especially work.

Let’s repeat that: especially work.

My ER (and I’m sure this could be said of ERs everywhere) is not in a good place.

A mass exodus of nurses post COVID has left us critically understaffed, struggling to cope with surging numbers of patients. There aren’t enough nurses to adequately care for them, which leads to further instability in what was already an unstable environment.

Patients, angry at not being seen in a timely manner, lash out at nurses drowning under unsafe patient loads. Verbal abuse and threatening behavior is the norm, heaped upon nurses struggling to practice safely without the resources to do so.

I am left feeling numb, the images of death and suffering from COVID always there, the loss of my medical director to suicide part of this senseless tragedy.

I realize this is a phase of grieving that, hopefully, will pass.

But it’s left me questioning the point of my job, and “leadership’s” tone-deaf response leaves me feeling further stranded.

The life raft is slowly coming apart, leaving one faced with the prospect of staying above water with no one to count on except yourself.

It’s a lonely feeling.


Part of the pleasure in making art is becoming lost in a world that’s unfolding before your eyes. It’s a mysterious thing – you aren’t entirely in charge of what’s happening.

Say I’m really into a story. At a certain point, the characters just take over. I’ll sit down to write with no preconceived idea of what’s about to happen beyond knowing it’s a scene with two or three specific characters.

Then I just kind of let them take over and tell me what they’re going to do.

It’s a little bit creepy, but also very cool.

I think about it all the time.

I know something special is happening, and quite honestly, it doesn’t much matter whether anyone else gets it or not.

It’s good to me, and I’m not easily impressed.

You’re Not Fooling Anyone

When you’re updating an app and it says, “Bugfixes and performance improvements,” what they really mean is, “We’ve developed better ways to track you and sell your data.”

Jesus – do you think I was born yesterday?

And yet, I just hit “update,” like everyone else. This is the world we live in.

There’s no escaping it, and if you think you are, you’re kidding yourself.

This is a Hero

Sometimes, since COVID, people will find out I work as a nurse in a NYC ER, and they’ll tell me, You are a hero.

I always always say thanks before assuring them that I am not, in fact, a hero. I’m just an ER nurse who showed up to work in a pandemic. But this post isn’t about me.

I recently took care of a guy who’d had his share of troubles in life. When EMS gave me report, they said, this guy’s special, a real hero. Medics don’t bullshit about this stuff, but I was busy, so I filed it away and got on with my work.

When I had a moment, I ran a search on his name and found a news story. It turns out that last year, he came home to his apartment in the Bronx and found the building on fire.

FDNY wasn’t there yet. So what did he do?

He ran into a burning building and started saving people, of course. Over and over – six in total. When FDNY got there, they found him collapsed on the second floor. Apparently he was going back in to make sure he didn’t leave anyone behind. He suffered permanent damage to his lungs from smoke inhalation.

When I asked him about it, he said, I guess I’m a fucking idiot. I just couldn’t let those people suffer.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a real hero.

They show us who we can be, if only we try.

Why Am I Posting Less?

Because I’m a third of the way into my first novel, that’s why.

And let me go on the record and say I’m having so much fun that I can’t wait to sit down and write just to see what happens next.

I’m deep in the process of discovering what I am capable of — It’s beyond cool to discover something new to learn and attempt to master at the age of 64.

Having had four short stories published confirms that I can write, but short stories and a novel are two different things. Writing a short story worth publishing is a brutally exacting process, so just because it’s shorter doesn’t mean it’s easier.

All writers have individual strengths and weaknesses, and part of the fun is trying to find your weaknesses and overcoming them. But one of the things I’ve learned is that the long-form seems to be comfortable for me. On days where I’m not working in the ER, I don’t seem to have a problem cranking out a thousand words. Of course, how good they are remains to be seen.

But that’s part of the fun — will it hold together as a novel? Can I weave multiple narratives in a long-form story? Can I write it in such a way that the reader doesn’t want to put it down?

The truth is I don’t know. But everyone has to start somewhere, and I’m starting here.

So posting less here isn’t a sign of lack of discipline. I’m just focusing my finite resources where I feel they need to be and enjoying the ride.

It’s All a Question of Perspective

So if someone spends their life making art that no one sees except them, then they die and it all ends up in a landfill, is that tragic?

I don’t think so.

If nothing else, it enriched and gave meaning to their life.

And that’s not nothing, now, is it?


If you’re creating art and it’s giving you pleasure, maybe even surprising you, as if its telling you what it wants to be and not the other way around, here’s what not to do:



There is a time for learning, and a time for doing.

Sometimes they overlap – but whatever you do, don’t interrupt the latter to engage in the former.

What I’m trying to say is this: If you’re in a state of flow, where you feel like art is flowing through you without any conscious thought – don’t question it.

Something special is happening.

There’ll be plenty of time to try and figure it out later.

For now, just get out of the way and let it happen.


Riding the line between one’s inner life and the outside world, between giving to others and giving to oneself, between that which cannot be explained (art) and that which can (science), between the thrill of risk and the boredom of safety.

Finding the sweet spot is the goal, but it’s easier said than done.

Know yourself, and don’t force it.

If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen organically.