How Nursing School Taught Me To Write

No matter what “big dreams” effort someone is talking about the number one objection is “I just don’t have the time.” Likely you already know that each of us chooses how to spend our time so I won’t attempt to wax eloquent on aspects of purposeful focus or prioritizing our choices or how taking responsibility (not the same as blame) effects what any one person is capable of doing on any given day. What I do want to discuss briefly is the sacredness of time.

Without a vision or a mission

Without quoting gurus or experts I can say unequivicolly from my personal experiences that without a goal in mind I accomplish nothing. Over the years I’ve taken the guidance to “write down your goals” as a necessary evil—something required by life coaches or success trainers that is applicable but not deeply connected to my experience of life. I mean, I somehow get to most meals and some type of sleep every night whether I write down my goals for food and rest right?? And when I write out all my goals I’ve often ended up resenting them, feeling these stated goals are there to punish me when I don’t show up for yet another 5am writing-block or another noon self-care slot during my days.

Then I recalled how I survived nursing school.

Nursing school is a beast that devours students left and right, tossing aside those who can’t “hack” the system long enough to endure archaic, arbitrary rubrics while learning how not to kill our patients. (No, that is not an exaggeration.) When I first arrived in my classroom I was handed about 10 different sets of rubrics, calendars, class syllabi and student handbooks. I love a good organizing challenge but this was pushing it way past my comfort zone. And I had already decided that it didn’t matter what was thrown at me I was going to endure and graduate to become a Registered Nurse.

So I went home and began to kill a forest or two by printing out all the paperwork. Then I stacked everything in piles. And THEN I pulled out a GIANT presentation board and drew a calendar grid in HUGE bright colors. I threw everything up on that quarterly calendar—assignment deadlines, clinical appointments, class times, test deadlines, work schedule, internship schedule, my children’s school schedule and even the church calendar feast days/services that I wanted to fit in. Everything was drawn out in color coded permanent marker—it wasn’t like I could erase and reschedule a clinical day unless I called in because I was deathly ill. If something on the calendar needed changed I would WHITE OUT the error and re-write it on the correct day/time. And several quarters I re-did the poster-sized goal sheet over again from scratch when it became too messy.

Once all the time-set deadlines were written up on the calendar I added time-chunks for study time and work-completion time. I advised my children, my friends, and everyone else who was in ear-shot that these times were #1. Set in Stone (unless someone needed the ER, and they’d better NOT need the ER!) and #2. Sacred — no interruptions allowed. None. Period. End of sentence.

As Dr Phil’s been known to say…

“And how did that work for you??”

Bottom line? I graduated nursing school with way-past a C average and with strong recommendations from my clinical preceptors, passed the state boards on my first attempt and am a successful hospice home health RN today.

Now I’m juggling different but very real “stacks” of roles with varying deadlines, timelines and requirements. I am a nurse working full time in an independent role—scheduling my own client meetings, triaging their needs and meeting them whether we are fully staffed or understaffed on any given day in my small agency. I am a single mom to 3 growing-like-weeds teens (well, one is an almost-teen) who have their own goals, dreams and deadlines. The heart-voice projects on my plate such as the Living Water blog and my memoir project “A Jar, A Woman and Jesus” along with oooh, a bit of playing in my yard and houseplant wrangling from time to time not to mention the church year fasts, feasts and services along with my emotionally taxing profession and my #1 priority role as a mom and…where is the time to write exactly?

Goals or Yokes?

Another day I’ll get deeper into the weeds on the topic of a calling or a central purpose in life. For today I want to circle back to writing down goals as a pathway to finding time to write. In nursing school I never identified that my time management methods were actually an exercise in writing down my goals and prioritizing them. I learned to LOVE making a check-mark next to each deadline met, and each appointment completed. I learned that I could put on my goal-grid “mini vacations” where I’d block out time to “do nothing,” and follow through to truly enjoy down-time where all I produced was a deeper, longer sleep or an extra cup of coffee out on the porch listening to the rain.

So when I came up against the resurrection of my big dreams of writing, speaking and living-out my full creative side—something I’d put on the back burner during nursing school entirely—I was at a loss at first. I discredited all I’d learned during nursing school as an “imposed” framework of deadlines that I’d managed to survive. Often I’d pictured nursing school as an exercise in outlasting that beast tearing into me and stretching me into shapes I’d never experienced before! But when I sat down to make a list of to-do’s for the Living Water blog, this “Writerly Meditations” blog and my other creative efforts (social media, networking with other writers, spending time allowing my mind to cogitate on favorite subjects) I found myself pulling out a calendar once again.

First I blocked out work hours, services, children’s horse shows and other time-set appointments. Frankly once I’d set all those down on paper I was surprised at how much space I still had and was currently wasting beating myself up for not doing “more” toward my big dreams. That’s all 3 hours of television watching every night was really accomplishing—down time sure, but did I need 3 hours of it every night till 11pm?

Then I circled every hour on my week where my heart-voice would have the greatest freedom from interruptions, where I wouldn’t have to multi-task or rapid-switch between several inputs at one time and where I’d be closest to the experience of Wholeness that I love. Again I was surprised! Only when my babies were little and insisted on waking up between 5-6am was I ever “successful” at being an early bird. Yet, when I contemplated when the best ideas come to me it’s not as I’m falling asleep but as I’m first awakening and, frankly, the shower is a place of amazing creative flow!

A Calendar of Goals for my Big Dreams

There I had it in front of me. My surprisingly simple time-chunk outline.

It wasn’t enough, however. The first week I pushed snooze every single day, scratched through my goals and pushed them (on paper) from one day to the next in my daily planner. And felt worse and worse and worse about my ability to actually make writing and speaking a part of my life again.

Maybe it wasn’t a good time. Maybe my children needed me to be constantly interruptible. Maybe I just couldn’t figure out this dream-to-goals thing. Maybe I’m not cut out to share my heart-voice.

Even as I repeated these doubts to myself I knew that they were all lies—lies that would be cold-comfort if after another year of “it’s not the right time” putting-off procrastinations I end up without a completed manuscript and without a re-ignited set of blog articles. The decision I’d made when I first heard that the Ancient Faith Contributor’s Conference is going to be IN PERSON in 2022 slammed the door on those tempting procrastinating doubts.

I picked up my calendar for December and in RED INK added deadlines to my blog posts for Living Water. Then I added WRITING DAYS in purple ink (my favorite color) on those Saturday’s or work holidays I could manage to carve away from paper routes, feast days and horse show responsibilities. And suddenly it was all in front of me. I’d drawn out a calendar of goals.

These writing times are not tied to times of every day—so if I sleep in past 5am and write from 6-8am instead, I’m not a failure. These days are tied to goals. Now I easily add in other goals for social media, fixing up my website or sharing posts into my daily goals rather than hourly-appointments and the balance between perfectionism and failure is staring me right in the face.

Bringing forward the success of the nursing school struggle

And now something heretofore (I couldn’t resist using that word!) unimaginably HUGE like publishing my memoir and starting two new blogs at the same time is broken down into doable daily/weekly goals. Not only do I have a road map, I have a road map that I know I’ve been successful with in the past. I can bring forward the same “determined to survive the beast” decisions into my writing and speaking creative endeavors in a way that affirms my belief that I can do and will do big things one day at a time.

All that to say: nursing school taught me how to be a writer. Thanks to lessons that beast taught me I am more of who I am meant to be than at any other time in my life. And Glory to God, I paid enough attention to those lessons to remember them now that I’m ready to creep out from under the bushel to let my little light shine.

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