Four Part Harmony Part I

        This post goes out to KC who asked if I’d share some of the thoughts from the recent ADK teacher session on “The Mandolin Case,” titled “Four Part Harmony.” Part I is today, and I’ll post one every Monday for a month to complete the series.

       Part I was “Why I Write.” I’m reminded of a college Philosophy exam. It had one question. “Why?”

       One student answered “Because.” He got an ‘F.’

        Another answered ‘Why not?’ He got an ‘A.’

        So I guess I’ll stick with ‘Why not?’ My motivations were multi-factorial, but they fell into three general categories.

        The first was simple enough; writing made me feel young again. Back in grade school the teachers would have us write stories, and I often was awarded a blue ribbon. After “The Mandolin Case” was released and so many people liked the book, it brought back those same feelings of validation I experienced so long ago. Stories made me happy as a child, and I guess adults don’t outgrow the desire to be accepted. My world accepted me, and it was fun.

        It’s strange, ’cause in my work as a Doc you do make a difference, but it’s my job. I have a moral, ethical, professional, and legal obligation to deliver the goods even when I don’t feel good myself. If you lose your muse in the Doc gig you’d better find it PDQ or else become mired up in a heap of big-time trouble. (Someone asked what my speciality was and I said, “Staying out of trouble, and I’m real good at it.”)

        As a writer it seemed different. I was under no obligation at all; I just wrote because I believed I had something to say and wanted to share it. When my book got good reviews it made me feel like the kid with the blue ribbons again. I’ve often said with art you toss your heart out there and see if people stomp on it, but they embraced it. I was both touched and humbled by the response.

        The second reason was a sense of immortality. We don’t have any real immortality except in Eternity of course, but somehow I could envision that my writing would allow my ideas and dreams to live on beyond my time. One of the dominant thoughts that drove me was one of my kids as old people in the nursing home reading to a grandchild on their knee. The child would ask, “Was great-grandaddy really like that?”

       They might answer, “Well no, I think he made that part up.” Then they’d flip to another page and say, “but now that scene at the Bomb Shelter is real ’cause I was there.”

        Already our family stories live on. My son is a helicopter pilot and a paramedic, and my daughter is a sophisticated University young lady. They were both raised in part by middle-aged bluegrass pickers. When they tell their stories, their young friends think they must have made them up, but the stories are true. Our way of life lives on in them.  

        Maybe a hundred years from now some kid will find my story on a dusty book shelf, read it, and decide we had such a big time that they needed to make art part of their life, too. Perhaps long after I’m gone a weary doctor will realize others have been there before and find some comfort in the pages.

        The third reason was practical; my survival. All I ever wanted to be was a simple and decent man;, a country doc with a wife, 2 1/2 kids, a dog, and a picket fence life who got to play some music on the week-ends off call. I found it wasn’t always so simple. When I began to write about Indie he showed me how to make it work. You remember his line? “It doesn’t take any special talent to be wicked. Anyone can do that. But to be a decent person requires creativity to the point of art.” I wanted to be decent, but also not be trampled on in this hyper-competitive modern world. Indie, through the process of writing about him, showed me just how to do it.

        I have several more projects in the works. but if I never got anything else done in the art world, that reward alone would be more than enough. Through writing I developed my strategy. Now if someone sets out to do me or my people wrong I just smile and wave a matador’s red cape in front of a brick wall. I tell ’em I don’t think I’d charge on through. 80% of them have the good sense not to, but 20% run headlong smack through the cape and into the wall and then get knocked out.

        When they come to they ask, “Why did ya go and do that?”

        My response is always the same. “I dunno. Read the book.”

        I’m as imperfect as anyone else, although I hope I was a decent man before the book. But writing took my life philosophy to another level. It yielded a hard-fought tranquility that is mine for the rest of my days. As Irene Lehman said, “When a man writes like that, there’s a reason.” Through the process of writing I solidified what was important and true to me and why it was so. And it was more reward than money can ever buy. As a writer, I found every little bit of me, and realized I liked me just fine, imperfections and all. If anyone out there is still searching, writing ain’t a bad way to find yourself.

        And it’s a fun journey.

        I’ll be back next Monday with Part II, “How I Became a Writer.”

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: book tour talks, The Monday Morning Post, Writing


You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

14 Comments on “Four Part Harmony Part I”

  1. Wonderful post, Dr. B. I think you’re right about the writing–that we are under no obligation to deliver–but subtly, the more we do of it, the more that changes. For example, when I come to your blog to visit, I expect to get a nice warm sense of being, a comfortable take on my world. If you didn’t deliver that, or added politics to your topics, I might not come as often (but you always do deliver). True, you could change your writing style, but would the price be worth it to you?

    The more I read of your blog, the more I know what I’ll get if I invest in your book, and it seems to be a good investment.

    BTW, does your publisher have a deal with Amazon to provide pre-pub copies for Amazon Vine readers? I will pick your book the next time I get my Vine list and write a review.

    • drtombibey Says:


      They say you should write what you know, and all I really know is me so I guess that is why it comes out the way it does.

      As I read your response I have to agree. We are under an absolute obligation to write what is true to ourselves. Our readers count on us to dig deep and find that every time.

      Wow, that is a good question about Amazon. I’ll have to ask my publisher ’cause I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know. I’ll find out, though.

      Dr. B

  2. jel Says:

    I might have said this before ~ I’ll say it again

    AM glad ya took up the pen! Ya are good! 🙂

    have a safe week!

  3. johnlmalone Says:

    I love this blog. I’m glad you found mine else I would never have found yours. Your book has a fascinating title. I will look for it in the library.I’ll look forward to reading part two

    • drtombibey Says:


      I appreciate you dropping by. I’m gonna add you to my blogroll. I have a lot of lady readers, and I appreciate every one of ’em, but for some reason not as many guys read my blog.

      “The Mandolin Case” is a medical legal mystery resolved by bluegrass pickers. (The truth was found through art more than science) The easiest way to find it right now is on I hope you’ll check out the reviews there.

      All the best and stay in touch.

      Dr. B

  4. johnlmalone Says:

    okay Tom. will look it up. don’t hear much bluegrass on the radio stations in Australia; in fact don’t even know a single bluegrass song or group

    • drtombibey Says:


      There is a great mandolin builder in Australia named Gilchrist. He is respected the world over and is one of the very best. I named one of my characters in “The Mandolin Case” partly after him.

      Dr. B

  5. First let me thank you for stopping by and reading my blog and taking the time to comment. So many people are either afraid to leave a comment or don’t know what to say. As writer’s I think we don’t worry so much about writing something from the heart and providing support or encouragement for fellow writers.
    “The Mandolin Case” is an unfamiliar title to me, but I read a lot, and my pile of TBR is quite high, although there’s always room for one more. I find the idea of infusing your knowledge with your art very intriguing.
    I grew up surrounded by country music and bluegrass musicians so it’s something that stays with you. Like you mentioned in your blog…everything gets passed down to our kids.
    Your blog fascinated me, and I’m glad I had the chance to read it. I’ll look forward to your next installment of ‘Four Part Harmony’, and I’m thankful you took the time to look up my blog or I never would have found yours. 🙂

  6. drtombibey Says:


    I played a lot of shows with my mandolin over the years. As a writer I am somewhat new, but the two have much in common. To me comments on the blog or good reviews on “The Mandolin Case” are like applause at a show; they indicate someone was touched by your artistic efforts.

    Your blog sorta jumped off the WordPress Dashboard as real, and that is why I stopped by. Thanks for your visit over here. Hope you’ll come back.

    Dr. B

  7. jel Says:

    morning Dr. B

    hope y’all have a very Blessed EAster!

    • drtombibey Says:


      Same y’all’s way. Like all of us, I’ve made a few mistakes along the way. (In my line of work I am just thankful none of them were tragic) But this redemption is a beautiful thing, ’cause we are all forgiven as long as we are genuine in our request for it.

      Dr. B

  8. newt221 Says:

    Great post Dr. B. It is good to know that there are people out there want to “work at” being decent. I am glad you are one of them. You are my inspiration!

    • drtombibey Says:

      Hey Cindy,

      You inspire me too, I read your post the other day and it reminded of a couple of my “all around” employees; the ones who learned about every task in the doc biz to the point you want to keep them on the job forever. Two of my key employees are nurses who have worked with me for more than 25 years. They always put the patient first and make my job so much easier.

      Hope you and yours have a very blessed Easter.

      Hey, look for part II of this series Monday. There’ll be a shout out to a few readers in that post.

      Dr. B

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: