Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How Writing Changed My Life

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From Jeff: This is a guest post by Jeremy Statton. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. He blogs about Living Better Stories. You can follow him on Twitter or download a free copy of his eBook Grace Is.

The last time I wrote anything was my freshman year in college for a history class. I was headed to medical school, a life dedicated to science. Writing was of no interest to me. In fact, I hated it.

Writing Photo

Photo credit: Ramunas Geciauskas (Creative Commons)

Fourteen years later, I finally put pen to paper again, and it changed my life.

The plan

By nature, I am a planner. Scientific. Precise. I had my life mapped out. A plan that any parent would be proud of.

As a senior in high school I decided to become an orthopedic surgeon. The course of my life was set. College. Medical school. Marriage crammed into the empty space somewhere. Maybe kids. Then Residency.

For the most part, life went according to the plan. Kids came earlier than expected. Much earlier. But it all worked out.

Mixed in the background of everything was church. Although life is full of uncertainties, for me church was not one of them. I attended every Sunday, dressed in coat and tie, armed with my Bible. I fit the mold. I was in the club.

I viewed God with this same precision. The same science. I was one of those people who had the answer to everything. The world was black and white and the Bible was a prescription for whatever ailed you.

God was understandable and I, more than anybody else, understood him. I had all of the answers. Yes. I was one of those guys — I was a jerk.

The mess

You would think a scientist would understand the Law of Entropy, that instead of being predictable and organized, life becomes messy.

Eventually it happened to me. My tidy view of God fell apart. I was forced to choose between a family member, someone I loved, and my church.

I then did what I never imagined: I quit.

Suddenly, like a tornado that reaps devastation in just a moment, I found myself standing in a heap of rubble, all of my answers laying at my feet, ripped to pieces.

The world becomes a scary place when the one thing you felt certain of completely falls apart.

Entropy sucks.

The medicine

I found myself on a journey that I had never intended to travel. A journey to find myself. This was when I began to write.

My heart was burdened, and I wrote to get what was in me out. I started writing because if I didn’t, I would explode.

Writing was the imperfect medicine for my broken soul.

In some ways life started to make sense again. In other ways it didn’t, but writing helped me heal.

It wasn’t much, just a little blog. A place to confess. A place to explore different ideas. A place to meet new people.
A place to find me.

But writing has changed me forever. Changed me for good:

  • Writing helped me understand the ideas that were swirling around in my head and gave them substance.
  • Writing gave me the confidence to explore new ideas.
  • Writing helped me meet new people, new friends that were either on the same journey or understood my own.
  • Writing showed me the value in people, especially those that are different from me.
  • Writing forced me to ask questions about what is most important in life.
  • Writing taught me to take risk.
  • Writing taught me to feel instead of just looking at the world through the lens of science.
  • Writing taught me to love.
  • Writing helped me find God again.

I am still an orthopedic surgeon. I am still married, now with four kids. I go to church, but it is completely different. I go not out of duty, but out of love. But now I am a writer.

How has writing changed your life? Tell us in the comments. (If you want to share this article on Pinterest, consider pinning this quote.)

*Photo credit: Ramunas Geciauskas (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • Sandra Delemare

    wonderful! I can identify with a lot of this.
    Can anyone tell me how to link it to my blog – at some time I plan doing a post on the theraputic use of writing

    • Lori Buckle

       Thank you so much, Jeremy, for your lovely post.  It really spoke to me.  As a pastor’s brat, I was a model Christian for most of my life.  Then my husband had to be hospitalized for a mental illness and my life almost fell apart.  Like you said, entropy sucks!  It’s been a few years, and now my husband is doing better and holding down a job.  I love this quote of yours because it summed up how I felt, too.

      “My heart was burdened, and I
      wrote to get what was in me out. I started writing because if I didn’t, I would
      explode.”

      Writing is the only thing that has kept me sane.  God has been wonderful, though.  Through this process of “getting what was in out” I re-discovered my childhood love of writing, and am now pursuing it passionately.  Together, my husband and I are trying to use writing to help others who have suffered like ourselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=662304655 Shelley M DuPont

    Jeff,  I’ve been blogging for some time, but I’ve tried to keep it tight and focused.  It’s not working because that’s not me.  I need to let my writing take its own course of action like Peter Elbow said. Put pen to paper and let the thoughts flow out of it.  I have a blog, but it needs some readjusting to who I am, not who I think I should be.  

    Of all the great bloggers there are in the blogosphere, I enjoy your writing the most.  Always fresh and encouraging. 

    Thank you.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Shelley. But credit where credit’s due: This was a guest post by Jeremy Statton, a talented writer and good friend.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Like Jeff says in his “Writer’s Manifesto” write for yourself, not others. Freedom is a beautiful thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=662304655 Shelley M DuPont

    Sandra,
    You can either add Jeff to your blogroll or use the hyperlink icon when you’re writing your post.

  • Alicecrumbs

    I love this!

    Writing allows me to be me. I’ve never been loud, and I let my shyness trick me into thinking I didn’t have much to say. When I write I feel like the empty parts of me are being filled up again and the dormant bits are revived. I still feel like my writing is a whisper and not a shout. But at least I have a voice.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I bet there is a lot to Alice. Let your voice be heard. : )

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  • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

    Writing keeps me sane. I have a hard time verbally expressing myself sometimes, but when I can sit down and write, it all falls into place.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It’s fun when that happens.

  • http://www.lisahallwilson.com/ Lisa Hall-Wilson

    Yes – I agree completely agree. When my marriage came apart at the seams and I began living life moment by moment (not even day by day) I turned to writing. I created a character stuck in my situation, and the words just poured out. It was cathartic, it gave me purpose, and rekindled in me a desire to tell stories. That first novel set me on a journey that I never imagined – and when I down I still turn to my writing to heal.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Do you keep writing on a regular basis?

  • http://www.bethcoulton.com/ Beth Coulton

    I love this- ” Writing was the imperfect medicine for my broken soul.”  Amen and amen. It has amazing therapeutic powers.  It has been, for me too, great medicine in my life for my heart and soul when times were tough.  It’s a prescription I’ve given out to my son going through depression, or anyone with a struggle.  Write, write, write.  You’ll be amazed at what pours out, because what pours out is who you really are; what you’re really thinking and feeling.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      learning to be comfortable with the self is valuable. Thanks, Beth.

  • Sandra Delemare

    Do follow the link and get Jeremy’s free ebook, Grace is, it’s just the sort of book I’d love to write – in a word, grace it what I love to write about.
    Thanks, Jeremy, and Jeff for sharing this

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks, Sandra.

  • Stephanie Hilliard

    When I began discipling a young man several years ago, one of the first things I encouraged him to do was start keeping a journal. I knew that writing, if only privately, would do just as Jeremy states – it would help him make sense of what was going on in his head.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       That was a wise thing to tell him Stephanie. When you write out what you’re thinking, it can make sorting through it much easier.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I agree, it can private as well, but it is good to do.

  • Sandra Delemare

    yeh, I’ve found a way of linking this on my blog!
    Like you, Stephanie, I’ve suggested to people (in my case patients) that it’s a good idea to keep a journal. I’ve kept a very intermittent one for years – there’s stuff in there that I’d probably choose not to go back to (must remember to destroy it before I die – but written in my strange speed writing, with cryptic allusions that I hope only I would understand)
    Writing’s good – helps you get your head round stuff (sorry Jeff, one of the weak words).
    some is good, so I keep a short version that is good to flip through now and again to see how far I’ve come – and how great and faithful our God is.

  • http://twitter.com/MARLdblE Marlee Ward

    Hey Jeremy (and Jeff),

    I think your post is so encouraging, because it points out a couple of amazing things. First, it just confirms for me the idea that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and he never ceases to get at our hearts for Him.

    And second, it’s that being authentic, honest, and open in our writing not only serves as healing for ourselves, but as comfort for others. Being that open can be very difficult (especially when writing on the web). Hats off to you for exercising such courage – it’s inspiring.

    Personally, I love writing because it helps me understand what I know. Putting my thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and knowledge on paper (in my own words) somehow cements my understanding in way that allows me to really “get” whatever I’m writing about. Writing helps me convert experience into wisdom, and I think that is a powerful thing. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I love your point about God knowing us and seeing us and ultimately loving us. I was in a bad place because I chose it for myself, but he was kind and gentle and got me out of it. Thanks, Marlee.

  • http://profiles.google.com/susanwbailey Susan Bailey

    I started reading, probably for the first time in my life, after my mom passed away 2 years ago. I loved what I was reading so I started a blog so I could write about it, with the intent of meeting other fans of what I was reading. Within the last year writing has begun taking on a life of its own. It’s exhilarating and scary, fun, frustrating – it runs the whole gamut. It makes me feel alive again. Reading has stretched my mind in ways I could never have imagined, and it’s improved my memory too (I don’t find myself searching for words so much when I talk). Writing taps into my creative side which hasn’t been tapped in a really long time. It touches that sweet spot. :-)

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I read a lot more too. I now read the stuff I used to avoid. I’m excited about your story, Susan.

  • http://www.nginaotiende.blogspot.com Ngina Otiende

    What a journey.

    Interesting how the small things can become the small cog that turns the big wheel of our lives. 

    Writing has helped me become a better thinker. It has sharpened my focus, made me more bold  and strategic. It has upped my backbone – I realize that writing (just like life) is not a mad-dash to stardom and success, just a daily purposeful journey in which you learn, lean on/help others, with goal of leaving a legacy.  Great thoughts in this post Jeremy.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Don’t take the small things for granted.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Writing has changed my life by allowing me to express myself freely. When I speak publicly, I tend to get very nervous and stumble through my thoughts. Instead, by writing, I am able to let my thoughts flow and correct it as I go.

    It’s also allowed me to form new friendships with people I never would or could have connected with before. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Both have happened for me. I especially enjoy the friendship part. I look forward to getting to know you better, Joe.

      • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

         And I look forward to getting to know you better as well, through the blog world and through our LIFT class.

        • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

          LIFT class? I’m not sure I heard back from them. How do I find out more?

          • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

            Whoops… My bad, I got someone else confused with you. Someone with a very similar name is involved with a class I’m taking on improving leadership skills through Willow Creek…

            • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

              I applied for that but hadn’t heard back. Guess I got rejected.

              • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

                Sorry to hear that. It’s been a great course so far. Maybe if they do another one you could be reconsidered?

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I’ve noticed what you mention happening to me as I journal. And as a blogger, writing has helped me focus my thoughts and develop them further. The responsibility of my voice being public has caused me to step up my game.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Agreed. Going public is a big deal. I had to develop some courage for it.

  • http://www.creativehogg.com/ Josh Hogg

    Thanks for sharing your story Jeremy. I wish more people would write in order to find what’s inside their hearts. One of my favourite parts of writing is something you outlined:
    “Writing showed me the value in people, especially those that are different from me.”

    Writing has taught me perspective and to see things differently. It has taught me to fully explore an idea before reaching conclusions. It has taught me that things aren’t always as they appear. It has also taught me that, there are many ways to accomplish the same goal (there are many different ways to write an essay or story).

    Best,
    Josh

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It was another writer who showed me that and it is something I constantly try to remind myself of. Thanks, Josh.

  • http://www.brandongilliland.com/ Brandon

    Wow! Great story! This really inspired me…thanks for sharing!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      You’re welcome, Brandon.

  • Crystal_gettings

    Nice post! Writing helped me feel alive again when I had become dead inside. It was quite difficult to begin at first, but it got easier. Writing helps us to express ourselves in ways that I don’t believe we could verbally. Sometimes, our thoughts are just too much. We need to get them down on paper.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      There is a beautiful thing that happens to a thought as it travels from you brain down your arm and into your hand.

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

         poetic. :)

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    How has writing changed my life?  For better and for worse, it’s who I am now.  It has pushed me out of some comfortable places I’ve been in.  It’s helped me make some great on-line friends.  It’s given me something I’ve been looking for all of my life, and just didn’t realize it.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Comfort isn’t good. I’m glad you got pushed.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    Great post Jeremy and it’s awesome that you’re pursuing your passion. Writing has helped me get a message out that I’ve been thinking about for over ten years. It has helped me get on the path to pursuing my dreams and helping others!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I’m excited for you Kimanzi. Just keep going. Don’t let anything get in your way.

  • http://colebradburn.com/ Cole Bradburn

    Great story Jeremy, thanks for your transparency and sharing.  I grew up Lutheran (and a know-it-all) and also had my tidy view of God fall apart.  Through that brokenness God drew me closer to Him, and showed me that my plans were just that… mine alone.  I had not been relying on His provision, or seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  

    I learned that there is consequence to not aligning my purpose with His, and that discovering His purpose for me required a daily renewal of my mind by seeking Him.

    This is my favorite post you have written, well done Jeremy.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      agreed. it was excellent.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks, Cole. The compliment means a lot.

  • Sojourner

    Jeremy, yours is a beautiful story about how God can shake us up, for the purpose off scraping away the junk that prevents us from seeing ourselves and Him as we both really are.  It’s amazing that he loved you enough to being you the trial, for the purpose of making His grace more real and your “worthiness” irrelevant.  You story and your blog are both great encouragements.  

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It is amazing.

  • Abigail Sampson

    This sounds a lot like my life. I too was the “perfect Christian” and had a prosperous plan for my future. When I was 21, I got married and we moved to LA so that I could go to art school to study animation in hopes to one day work for Pixar (heehee). But during this time, everything fell apart. My health, my marriage, my family, and God. I was so busy with school and my career that I pushed everyone away. Eventually, I worked myself so hard I got really sick and couldn’t continue anymore. So I had to quit school. I felt like a failure and I had such a hard time facing my family. Luckily quitting school was exactly what I needed to do. I was able to mend my broken relationships and get myself well again. When my husband and I had a baby, I got into photography which got me to start creating art again. That led to creating my own blog site which ultimately forced me to start writing again for the first time in years. That’s how I ended up finding this site. I wanted to improve my writing and I found that and more (inspiration). Thanks for this awesome post Jeff and Jeremy! 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks for sharing your story, Abigail.

  • Lorna Faith

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Jeremy:) I sure can relate to writing being an imperfect medicine, but healing all the same. I can relate to things around you falling apart and writing to help sort through the mess. God sometimes surprises us, doesn’t He? The thing I didn’t think I could do(write) has become the very thing that God has used to help heal me.  Go figure :-) BTW I agree with Cole…awesome post:) 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      I’m glad you found a reliable way to discover God further, Lorna.

  • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

    Great post Jeremy – I can relate to your journey. Thanks for sharing Jeff!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks, Michael.

  • PWooldridge

    Loved this true, brave article.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It’s fun to hear people call it brave, because I am anything but. Thanks.

  • http://unknownjim.com/ Jim Woods

    Jeremy, I’m really glad you shared your story. What a powerful story it is too. I find it very surprising that you haven’t been writing for years. Your story is a bit like mine. It took a breakdown to have a creative breakthrough. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Your living a great story, Jim. Keep it going.

  • http://www.wildbillkerr.com/ Wild Bill Kerr

    Jeremy, thanks for the inspiration.
    Writing got me back to church and back to God. By writing down my goals on my mirror and blog I get help from other people to keep me focused on achieving my goals. 

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      It’s funny how God is there, but sometimes we need some help finding him through all the distractions.

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    I wasn’t as determined planner as you, but writing is helping me to discover and chase my dreams. writing a blog has introduced me to knew friends, challenged my perspectives & provided a wealth of knowledge & inspiration.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I love how social you are online, KC. I’ve certainly benefited from your church. Thanks for putting your words and yourself out there.

  • Mike Madden

    Hi, I am now following your blog through Bloglovin. I would appreciate you taking a look at mine (I’m new at this!) and considering a follow (not compulsory). http://mmm-number-1.blogspot.com

  • Felicity Dale

    Jeremy, your post really resonated with me. I, too, trained as a physician. I hated writing with a passion for many years–maybe because all the scientific writing was so restrictive. I eventually gave up medicine when we moved from the UK to the USA and the licensing didn’t allow us to continue in practice. Since then, I’ve taken up writing–like you with a blog and now with several books. I have found that God has used writing to change my life too. Thanks for this post.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Great to see you on this blog, Felicity!

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      What an exciting adventure for you! Keep us updated.

  • Nils

    As a ‘recovering pharisee’ I found your description of being a ‘know it all’ with all the answers pretty descriptive. (About me).  Well said.

     Having survived entropy (mostly) I’ve begun again to explore writing in a different way. I still have to drag it out of me.. but it’s working.

     Most of us are familiar with Jer.29:11 about the whole plans to prosper’ thing but  I’ve since found vs.13 more compelling. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

     Interesting, wherever I look these days..there He is.  Real prosperity is realizing He’s always there.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      When he becomes the desire of our heart, then all of our longings are met, and then we can live life fully. Thanks for the reminder, Nils.

  • http://flailingthroughlifeandlove.blogspot.com/ Hillary

    Interesting post. Writing is definitely the side kick or faithful dog in life that never lets you down and shows you the reality you need to see when you need to see it. In so many ways, its the untapped part of your brain that makes you genius. Great post. Glad you found your voice and its medium. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      It took my a decade to realize writing was the on refuge to which I always returned when life got difficult or weird. That’s a good sign you’ve found your dream, in my opinion.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Thanks, Hillary.

  • http://granbee.wordpress.com/ Rose Byrd

    I have been SO healed by writing every day!  Loved this post!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Agreed. This post was like a salve.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Juan-Cruz-Jr/100002369801554 Juan Cruz Jr.

     I’ve always wanted to write for as far back as I can remember. But for many years I put it off. Finally,  last year I decided to start a blog to get back to my love of writing, and leadershup. Writing has helped me focus on what I am passionate about. I write about leadership in practical, simple way, and from a Biblical perspective. Writing has also helped me focus on other things that I am passionate about. It really has ignited a fire in me to take action on the things that I want to do, and not just talk about them.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks for sharing, Juan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katia.kantziavas Katia Kantzia Vas

    Why do we have to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves again!
    I dropped out of Athens Law School at 19 to get married and come to Chicago. My new life was lived in neat little boxes…a new home in a far away land, a new husband who worked the longest to provide for us, 3 children in just 10 months, a fourth followed a couple of years later, Church and God a continuation of childish approach,  and me, in a large cage, loving taking care of everything and everyone exept my self.  Looking back, I was so blessed but didn’t really know it…blessed with patience to do what was needed without asking much in return…until one day, I could no longer keep my self in the cage and, when the first 3 children went to college, I was “prompted” to go back to school as well.   The best thing for me, an experience that changed my life and opened up my horizons. At the same time, things started breaking up as well. First, the church walls started cracking and not even God could, or wanted, to protect me for the winds and the noises that were aiming at me and were driving crazy. Then, the little box I had put God in began falling apart as well, and God was leeking out in confusing and unrecognized forms, a  God who became more estranged as I was being defiant.  Soon after that, my legs wouldn’t let me walk….litterally! No doctor,  however, would touch me for years because I “was too young” to be operated on (where were you then Jeremy?). Finaly, at 45 I had a hip replacement and reconstractive surgery in my pelvis. Just a few years later came a second replacement.  As if this was not enough, 2 emengency revisions followed, one of which left me unable to walk, even stand, and on a wheel chair for over 2 months. That was the time of freedom for me…I became free from responsibilities to my family and other people; free to serach for my soul and God, both of which were actually so close that I hadn’t been able to see them….Angels too, and Jesus! “Coincidences”, in the truest meaning of the word, kept bringing me closer and closer to what is important in life, bringing “teacahers” to me, guiding me to do what was necessary to do  to heal my self, my body, my soul.  I started writing to “right” my life as L Cameron says. Journaling every day, any time I needed to talk to me, to God, to Angels.  Answers to questions were not late to come, just as more and more questions were rising from somewhere inside me. At some point, those pages of my journal were asking me to give them a voice; they were asking me to share them with others so that we all become teachers and students and the same time. At this point, my manuscript, written from the heart and the soul and not from my brain, is being edited and hopefuly will be soon published. It is about this one year of my life as I am sailing toward Ithaca, my final destination, nurturing body and soul, living the moments of the days and seasons, learning and sharing, taking care of my family, 92 year old mother, husband, 4 adult married children , 9 grandchildren, and many wonderful friends.
    Jeremy, it has been a pleasure finding you…I am grateful you were sent to me!  Love your posts, the stories you chose to share that touch my heart and the hearts of many.  God bless you and your large family!
    Jeff, thank you too for hosting Jeremy…God bless you too!

    • dekem

      Wow! What a wonderfully inspiring story. Looking forward to seeing the book. We have a wonderful God. I’m planning on writing my own story of his love, grace and acceptance.

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