URS rush, rush, rush, versus write, write, dreams

(Linda 翻译)

For nearly all my life I had a very busy lifestyle. I like to do many things at one time, and I’m quite (maybe too) fast. When I was a medical director, I had many doctors and staff visiting my office, so I tried to save time by placing a clock ticking visibly before any visitor, so that he/she could see time literally passing quickly! My secretary would call me at 30 minutes into the meeting, to let us know time was slipping, and to hurry up. And forget lunch, it was bananas and bagels on the run, usually nibbled during a noon meeting. My son remarked to me, later as an adult, that, as a teenager he had come to visit me in my hospital office, and was amused to see me dash in, say hello, grab a banana, and dash out, still eating, as I walked, or more likely, ran out.

I suspect that this rush, rush, rush style began when I had to learn how to move fast and compete to get on the bus when I was a child, in the crazy hectic lifestyle of hyper-cosmopolitan and bustling Hong Kong. I had to learn to run very fast, with great agility, to navigate among a huge crowd of people who were not lined up in any order. There were often sadistic drivers who deliberately stopped in different places, before or after the designated bus stop, just to confuse people, just so the drivers could laugh at the crowd panicking to rush to the right spot to get into the bus. However, I learned to guess where exactly the double decker bus driver would stop, by estimating the car’s deceleration, unless he was super-devious, and re-accelerated again! Most of the time, as the likely smallest person, I would be the fastest to run right up to the door, and hop quickly into the bus; otherwise I would miss the bus and be late for school or home. My hyper-competitive spirit and city wits were born and honed in this way.
我怀疑这种匆匆忙忙的生活方式是因为当我还是个孩子的时候,在繁华的大都市香港,我要学会快速、敏捷地奔跑和穿行在一大群没有排队的人群中间挤上公交车。而且经常有司机故意在车站前后不同的地方停车,为的就是看着那些惊慌失措、着急的人们冲过来上车. 而我学会了通过汽车的减速来估计双层巴士司机到底会停在哪里,除非他非常狡猾,减速后再次加速!大多数时候,我可能是最小的,我会跑得最快,直接跑到门口,然后迅速跳上车;否则我会错过公共汽车,导致上学或回家迟到。我的高度竞争精神和城市智慧就是这样诞生和磨练的。

Photo one: Friendly double decker bus of today, compared to those less friendly ones that “trained me” in my early rush, rush, unfriendly life. The colors and shapes are the same, though.

Even when I was young, my rushed life extended to food: since I did not want to waste a minute, I gobbled down my food so quickly, that I would always be the first at the dinner table to finish my food, so I could get to my beloved books. Often, I had to reluctantly tag along with my parents to the many late evening dinners that my dad was invited to, as a physician and church deacon. But, I would definitely be carrying my story books, and reading as I ate. Then I would quickly finish eating and retreat to some corner to finish off my books, usually missing out on lots of other presumably delicious dishes still to come. I remember later on in life, when I was doing medical missions in China, my staff assistant would laugh at my crude meal habits, accusing me of never even tasting the food; I just swallowed it, she claimed; which was sort of true.
在我年轻的时候,我匆忙的生活也表现在了吃东西:因为我不想浪费任何时间,就狼吞虎咽地吃,所以我总是第一个吃完饭,这样就可以看我心爱的书了。因为我父亲是一名医生和教会执事,我常常不得不和父母一起受邀参加许多深夜晚餐。但是,我肯定会带着我的故事书,边吃边看。然后我会很快吃完,缩到某个角落去看我的书,因此经常会错过很多其他美味的菜肴。我记得后来在中国执行医疗任务时,我的助手会嘲笑我粗糙的饮食习惯,说我其实从来没有品尝过这些食物;只是吞下了这些食物;这话的确有几分正确 。

As people like to joke, I never took time to “smell the roses,” it seemed. However, I did manage to write many scientific articles, more than 400 during my academic career, reflecting my rush, rush, life in academia, but also sort of my feeling that these were the roses I was given to smell on the way. Writings as roses, because I’ve always had a childhood writing dream. I dreamed particularly of being a writer of children’s stories, since I read voluminously as a child, and just admired those wonderful writers who so charmingly introduced me to their special worlds.

Many doctors might feel it to be a chore to write scientific articles, but actually to me as a scientist and physician, it was a joy. The dozen or so scientific books published under my name, all related to nutritional and health issues of children, so I could feel it was not that far from my childhood dream! I have participated in many more scientific books, probably over 40, as contributor of one or two chapters, all related to childhood diseases and nutrition, but I have finally given all those books away in our big move from Cincinnati to Seattle. Some people feel that is a pity, but, since they occupied a lot of shelf space (medical books are huge), I felt I “had to move on!” I have only saved a copy each of the books that were “my very own,” and they are partly on one book shelf proudly displayed in our new small condo home.

Photo three: “My very own favorite books” on childhood health and nutrition, in lieu of children’s story books. But the childhood dream lingers on….

Contrary to those who feel intimidated by writing, my secret was that, in spite of a crazy schedule, I would lock myself in my office, and refuse to see anyone, emergencies excepted, for several hours each day, just like staying in a mini-prison (see my URS “Writing from Prison Story”), so that I could really write and write. I had a sign on the door, declaring “will reappear at 430pm” or whatever the time would be, when I would poke my head out the locked door. I know that some people can stare at the computer for days, and still not be able to write the first sentence. Fortunately, that wasn’t my problem at all, because I loved to write and write. Maybe it was just a variation of my love of a rush, rush, life? In fact, later on, when I discovered a good automatic dictation system that I could train, writing became even less of a problem, since I could just talk and talk into the microphone, and see the words just spill out onto the Word-Perfect page.
与那些被写作吓倒的人相反,我的秘密是,尽管日程安排得很疯狂,我还是会把自己锁在办公室里,除了紧急情况拒绝见任何人。每天都要呆上几个小时,就像呆在一个小监狱里一样(看我的《曾叔叔的故事—-在监狱里写的故事》),这样我才能真正地写作。我在门上贴了一个牌子,上面写着“下午4:30 (或其他时间)再出现”。我知道有些人可以盯着电脑看上好几天,还是写不出第一句话。幸好这根本不是我的问题,因为我喜欢写作。也许这只是我对匆忙生活热爱的一种体现。事实上,当我后面发现一个好的自动听写系统时,写作就更不再是一个问题了,因为我只需要对着麦克风说话,就可以看到单词跳到页面上。

Whether I was writing a scientific paper, or, later on, an Uncle Reggie Story, the approach wasn’t that different. Let’s take the example of the story. Whenever a new story idea came up, I learned to quickly jot down a very brief outline of the proposed article on paper, laptop, or smartphone, and file the idea immediately, so I would not forget. Then, when I was ready to write up the topic, I would start to dictate quickly, talk and talk, according to this framework, truly as if I’m telling the story to someone directly in front of me, at coffee time (literally during “coffee with Uncle Reggie,” hence my book title).

Thereafter I spend lots of time editing and editing, usually 20 or more times. I can edit practically anything as long as it is written up, any paper even if it is totally unpolished, and even if it looks at first to be terrible. It always gets better, after each edit and finally, amazingly it becomes readable. It sure beats a blank sheet of paper with nothing on it!! You cannot edit nothing! That is probably a major secret of my writing.

This “system” of effective writing arose likely from my noticing that most people respond to real questions quite naturally, and often surprisingly well. For example, I had to appear quite often on TV to deal with health care questions regarding newborn sick babies, since I oversaw the neonatal intensive care units in Cincinnati, or to answer questions about nutrition research that I was involved in. At first, I felt this could be intimidating, but soon I realized it wasn’t much of a problem, since the questions were basically daily questions I handled routinely anyway.

And similarly, for others “put on the spot” suddenly to answer questions: if people are directly asked questions in areas of their expertise, they often easily answer the questions, smoothly and precisely. But if you ask them to sit down and write on “a topic,” even a subject they should be familiar with, but without specific questions, they just seem to freeze. They can’t even put down one sentence, sometimes. For me, during a nice coffee or sandwich with a younger person, while casually chatting, some question commonly arises that triggers a vivid reminder of past events, from my quite large reservoir of stories, and various experiences in my decades of travel, work and ministry. And from these prompts, the stories will later be “written up.” It’s all very “natural” and “organic,” and I would love my written stories to be just like I am telling you the story spontaneously, right in front of you, face to face.

Photo two: Being interviewed on TV helps to train one’s mind to focus and give cogent answers. It isn’t as bad as it looks. Similarly, I learned that simple questions, like Q and A, help prompt writing juices.

When I think of my writing hero CS Lewis, I am actually totally befuddled and humbled to know that he barely traveled: I have traveled on record more than 3 million sky miles, visited more than 150 cities of the world, and have learned 20 phrases of 20 languages, in order to navigate in these cities, including fluency in 5 of them. And so, at first blush, it might seem that these experiences could be helpful to others.
当我想到我的写作英雄CS Lewis时,我真的感到非常困惑和谦卑,因为我知道他几乎没有旅行。而我的航班记录达到了300多万英里,访问了世界上150多个城市,同时为了在这些城市中活动,学习了20种语言的20个短语,包括流利地使用其中的5种语言。而这些经历表面上看来可能对其他人确实有帮助。

But on further thought, it is quite possible that these are just a negative reflection of my rush, rush, rush previous life, where I basically had little time to even contemplate the complexities of life, let alone write them up in any meaningful way. You could even accuse me of “galloping horse, fleeting flowers, zou ma kan hua,” the traditional Chinese expression for people who just rush through life at high speed while supposedly seeing only blurry flowers. I feel so blessed right now, however that, better late than never, I do not now have to rush, rush, rush, but actually have some time to read, think, and write in a more focused way, trying to collect my thoughts from many decades, and crystallize them into some coherent principles, themes, and stories. My original childhood dream lingers…..

Literary types claim that my category of writing is “creative nonfiction,” where I am weaving a real story out of my life experiences, synthesized in a potentially meaningful way. It is fun to think of stories, after I write them, as traveling to who knows where, landing finally in some far-off place that I can only dream of, maybe even in a foreign language. Imagine it as a story that comes bobbing up to the seashore inside the legendary sealed bottle: I had the common romantic notion, as many kids might have, of writing a message, and throwing it into the sea. One day I really did that, into the South China sea, so who knows, that bottle might still be floating around in the huge, huge, oceans of the world. It would be my greatest joy if I should receive a feedback from that kind of dream! Send me a note if you do retrieve it, please.