Tuesday, October 25, 2022

All In A Day's Work by Gabriel Valjan


Most writers have had other jobs. What’s one thing you learned in an entirely different professional setting that you’re grateful for?


My employment history is eclectic, in that I worked in industries unrelated to my college and graduate school education. There is no rhyme or reason unless I impose a narrative, but each job provided me with an experience that helped me become a better person. I tied what I am grateful for from each position and explain how they helped me with my writing.

Engineering. I was exposed to procedural thinking and numerous tools for solving problems that proved invaluable to plotting. The Ishikawa or fishbone diagram, for example, is the 5Ws from Aristotle.  Aristotle, like my Shane Cleary, asked, Who, What, When, Where, Why, and sometimes How. The difference is that engineers ask Why five times. As a writer of crime fiction, I can’t help but think it’s the nerd version of “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”

Registered Nurse. Raymond Carver used the term “the human noise” for life around us in the coda to his short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Nursing is a front row seat to that noise under duress. I learned to write better dialogue because the job taught me register, or how to modulate speech in different circumstances.

Doctors and nurses are educated in ways that make them antagonistic to each other. Doctors cure. Nurses advocate for their patient (always reduced to ‘the client’ in healthcare documentation). When a physician rounds on a floor, she doesn’t want to hear from the nurse that Mrs. Jones isn’t eating because she might be depressed that her children haven’t come to visit her. The nuance here is the word ‘might’ because nurses are legally prohibited from making a diagnosis. Without strategic advocacy, the MD may order a PEG and get nutrition on board. The ethical concern here is subjecting the patient to an unnecessary procedure. I learned that what physicians understand are lab values, because numbers paint the portrait of the patient, so I learned to talk their language first and advocated second.

I learned from nursing that to help others was to sublimate my ego. While every job gave me positive and negative experiences, not everything was material. A writer needs discernmentthe other Editor to decide which details best serve the writing and Imagination to take the personal and make it universal.


Dietrich Kalteis said...
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Dietrich Kalteis said...

A writer needs to decide which details best serve the writing, taking the personal and making it universal. Well said Gabriel.

Catriona McPherson said...

I didn't know you were a nurse, Gabriel. But I am not surprised. Cx

Susan C Shea said...

Fascinating perspective. Gives me something to think about, so thanks, Gabriel.