Why I Write

        Lately a number of people have asked me why I write.

        We ran into Cory and Lorene at a festival, and Lorene told my wife, “When a man is compelled to write like that there is often a reason.”  I find Lorene, like my wife and daughter, to be astute.  (Woman are often quite intuitive)  She is right.  There is a reason.

        For one, it is creative, and I want to leave some creative work behind before I am outta here.   I created a medical practice for similar reasons.  In my own house I am gonna be second fiddle, though.  My wife gave me two children.  No matter how good I write, I ain’t that creative.

        Music is creative too, but when you perform folks often want the same tunes every time out.  They ain’t that way with books.  Every page better be fresh or it’ll never see print, and if it did no one would read it.  I feel sorry for comedians.  They go from town to town, and whether you see them in Nashville or L.A. the act, with very minor variations, is the same. Once they find the formula for a laugh, they don’t stray far.  They can’t if they want to stay in business. 

        Of course they come up with new material, but as for a musician, there is serious time in the woodshed before it is ever unveiled.  Then it is the same thing over and over.  It is even worse with golf.  The path to the top is a repetitive pounding of eight million practice balls.  I was way too ADHD for that routine. 

        With a book, every page is new, and every book better be different.  As soon as a post goes up on the blog, in a day it is history.  I like that.  You have to keep on the move.  For the same reasons, I enjoyed life as a general Doc.  There was a new experience behind every door.

         As a doctor, I saw some injustice in my time.  Part of my compulsion to write is from the desire to show the story.  Because of the nature of our work it has to be fiction though.  We are sworn to secrecy, and I view my patient’s right to privacy as inalienable.  I can never use real names of patients, and when referring to medical events I am obligated by ethics to change minor clinical details to make the situations non-identifiable.  But as we have said before, “for it to be good fiction, it need not necessarily have happened, but it must be true.”

        Still, the main reason is to try and be anywhere on the planet with my wife as to creativity. She can weave and sew, and does pottery, beads and all sorts of cool things, but most of all she gave me those two kids.  I can’t compete with that, so I’ll have to write and do the best I can.

        Gotta study some doctor stuff today, and I’m gonna work on my book.  It is coming along.  See you early next week.

Dr. B

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10 Comments on “Why I Write”

  1. Ted Lehmann Says:

    One of the most difficult parts of teaching, for me, was to try to get the idea into my kids’ heads that history and the facts associated with it often missed the truth, while good fiction illuminated truth in ways history never could. I never doubt the truth of your stories or the integrity of your vision. In fiction there are often “unreliable narrators.” Holden Caulfield is one of these, in that it’s hard to know whether to believe him or not. With Dr. B, it’s easy to trust him. – Ted

  2. drtombibey Says:


    I guess young people sometimes haven’t been here long enough to know life can be difficult. (You’d like Cory and Lorene- they are sharp for young’uns, of course they are bluegrass folks)

    In non fiction life, I am often fascinated by how different people can interpret the same events in different ways. It is all still real, huh? I guess fiction can be the same way.

    As far as Dr. B, I reckon I am fairly benign, and I do try to go for the truth as best I can figure it.

    Of course in medical school, they told us 50% of what we would learn would be wrong- they just didn’t know which 50%!

    I believe music holds a lot of truths, too, and that is one resaon I write about it so much.

    Dr. B

  3. Ponder Says:

    “Why I Write”. To me, it’s a no-brainer. That’s what you do, it’s in your DNA – in addition to tending to countless folks around these parts, plus playing your music. I have a cherished note that you personally wrote to me after the death of a loved one that will always be with me. As you’ve said of others: Dr B., you’re a good ‘un. Yours is one of my my most cherished friendships. An original, one of our maker’s prototypes, and unfortunately a dying breed. Here’s to many more years of friendship.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Bless your heart Ponder, you’re a good’un too, as was Mr. P. We have a gig after church at 3:00 today. Come out if you can- it’s free. (You get what you pay for!)

    The best to you and all of yours.

    Dr. B

  5. pandemonic Says:

    I figured that was why you write. 🙂

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    Other writers often do understand the obession.

    Dr. B

  7. mrschili Says:

    I’m going to second what Ted said – one of the true joys I get out of literature is the questioning of the reliability of the story.

    I get into it a lot with colleagues of mine about the “faithfulness” of films and books about actual historical events. One of my MOST favorite films to teach in a lit class is Mississippi Burning. Based on events that happened during the Summer of Freedom in 1964, this film is a GORGEOUS character study. Many of my colleagues wouldn’t use the film, though, because it takes (rather large) fictional leaps with the facts. I use that pas part of my lessons – we critique the artistic decisions that directors and screenwriters make and we’ve had some really fantastic discussions about how important fiction is in the telling of history.

  8. drtombibey Says:


    Mississippi Burning is indeed an important story.

    I think as long as we say up front it is fiction and how it is related to the truth it is O.K. In my case, because medical events desereve privacy, I have no choice but to write it up in a fictional style.

    One reason I want to try fiction about doctor work is ’cause I don’t think as many people have tried it as fiction about law or other professions.

    And very few have explored the relationship of bluegrass music and medicine in fiction yet. Sometimes my agent doesn’t know what to make of me, but the one thing he concedes is I am unique in his stable- no other physician bluegrass fiction writers so far.

    Dr. B

  9. kwjwrites Says:

    One of my favorite quotes is the following by Emily Dickinson:

    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant

    Emily Dickinson

    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
    Success in Cirrcuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise
    As Lightening to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind—

    This – to me – is the purpose of writing. Good fiction often strikes more at the heart of truth than does the gospel version.

    Kim J.

  10. drtombibey Says:


    I like that one! I am compelled to tell my story with honesty but still preserve folk’s privacy. Fiction was the only way I could figure out how to do it.

    Thanks for checking in- I enjoy your perspective.

    Dr. B

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