Brain Surgery

By Lydia Palmer

All my life, I have been at the top of my class. This is not a way of me patting myself on the back, but just so that you have some background information for what I am about to lay out before you. I have the grades and the drive that someone would need to make it through medical school. This, combined with the detail that many of my relatives have found a place in the medical field, has totaled together to an obvious sum: I should probably aim to be a doctor. Yet, here I am, in my senior year of high school, diverting from that direction to one of writing. To reference the cliché, many people would look at a major in English and think, “Well, it’s not brain surgery.”

But what if it is? What if threading together words to form a mindful piece of writing is equivalent to weaving suture string through a wound or repairing a hemorrhage in the brain? For me, it is just that. Writing takes much thought and regard to detail. At this point in my life, I have written many things. I have also watched Derek Shepherd perform brain surgery many times on Grey’s Anatomy and think I could manage that as well. Just stick with me through this metaphor to the end. Writing takes much thought and consideration, and an English degree is just as versatile as a medicinal doctorate degree. Important writings have changed the course of our world. From Old Testament manuscripts, to the Mayflower Compact, to the Declaration of Independence, writing has molded this world to change into what it is today.

When I think about it, words have shaped the very existence of my life. My parents had to verbally discuss to have a second child, to send her to a school that emphasized reading, and to encourage her to compose creative writings of her own.

I live in a small, southern town. Right as you read that, you most likely visualized a tiny main street with little boutiques filled with women who speak with slowly pronounced drawl. Well, you could not be any more correct. My town is characterized as the “Front Porch of the South”. Front porch conversations are the birthplace of so many good thoughts and words. Words are everywhere, but that is not to say that they are average and that it takes no skill to compose them well.

Since I have never performed a surgery and my knowledge of them is mostly from a television drama, I will revert back to thinking of surgery as the childhood game “Operation”. Do you remember that game? A kid uses metal tweezers to remove small objects from the inside of a patient. If the kid taps the tweezers to the borders of the operation area, a buzzer goes off, and you’ve lost the patient. As morbid as this is, this is so often how it can be with writing. As writers, we must compose words that stay within the metal boundaries of our topic or current genre. While it is fun and creative to step outside of these bounds, it can be just as dangerous. Making medical breakthroughs comes from thinking outside of the ordinary practice and risking lives, and so do literary progressions.

Another commonality shared by brain surgery and writing is urgency and working time. For one thing, it takes much longer to write a book than it does to perform brain surgery. However, both are exhausting in the duration of the task. Brain surgery, again, according strictly to my knowledge from Grey’s Anatomy, is often performed at unideal hours and can last for many hours. Standing for that long has to wear a person out physically, but being focused and having so much precision for that long has to tear a person down to nothing by the end. Writing is a little bit different, but still just as draining. You know that sting that comes from staring at a computer screen all day? Try doing that for thirteen hours into the early morning. Watching the sun rise over your laptop screen is a feeling that cannot be described, only experienced. Whenever someone wanders into Seattle Grace Hospital with a brain tumor, Dr. McDreamy operates right away. With the same urgency, we, as writers, must convey our thoughts to the world.

All of this to say, it is brain surgery. Writing is difficult. Writing takes many hours of sitting at your desk or in your bed and wanting to rip out your hair because you just cannot meet that word count today. So, as writers, we continue to meticulously choose words and hunt for synonyms to perfectly portray our thoughts to those around us, and to change history.