Why Do We Write?

It’s not about fame and fortune.

Paul Cerrato, senior research analyst and communications specialist, Mayo Clinic Platform and John Halamka, M.D., president, Mayo Clinic Platform, wrote this article.

“If you can hear the world singing, it’s your job to write it down.” Those words, from Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, sum one of the many reasons we continue to write blogs, journal articles, and books on digital health. Despite the perilous events on the world stage, and the polarization that shows up in social media, we still hear the “songs” of forward-thinking clinicians, researchers, and technologists, and that drives us to tell others about these exciting developments.

We also write because we want to leave something behind once we’re gone. John’s daughter, a naturalist at the Smithsonian, recently penned a heartwarming note about one of his older books:

“I found a copy of GeekDoctor today while organizing my bookshelf.  I read the chapter about relationships and families. You wrote that if your daughter can say 'I feel good about me' then she has been successful. You said there is no greater achievement as a parent than raising a child who is self-aware, resilient, and always learning. I wanted you to know that on my life journey, I feel good about me and I'm learning more than ever."

Since the book will always be with John’s daughter, he can be part of her experiences, regardless of time or his personal presence. Similarly, Paul’s daughter has become one of his biggest fans and has eagerly devoured all five of the books we have written over the years. It’s part of the legacy we leave behind.

But these motivations only scratch the surface. Sometimes we write from a sense of righteous indignation and frustration. Patients experience many injustices and inequities in the health care ecosystem, and we feel obligated to bring these problems— and the potential solutions— to the public’s attention. Empathy is also a factor: It is hard not to be moved and saddened by the suffering of others, especially when one is privy to transformative new diagnostic and treatment options that might alleviate their pain.

Of course, on a more selfish note, we enjoy writing because it gives us the opportunity to indulge our curiosity about the world and all its wonders, and the research we conduct enables us to gain deeper insights into nature’s mysteries. There are no words to express our gratitude to all the readers who have followed our work over the years. Thank you doesn’t quite say it all.

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