As I was sending in the (finally!) completed manuscript of the 5th edition of my textbook of electrophysiology last week, I was interrupted by two thoughts.
The first was that, while I enjoyed writing this book, I did not have as much fun as I had with the first four editions. Oh sure, I still entertained myself by trying to embed as many jokes, innuendos, double entendres and other amusements as I could into the text (95% of which, as always, will be caught and removed prior to publication by the editors – who are up to my tricks). But still, writing about cardiac electrophysiology is necessarily a desiccating endeavor. I guess I’ve gotten used to the free-reign style of writing I employ here at the CRB, and perhaps it’s ruined me for writing textbooks, at least as far as my own enjoyment is concerned. Sure would be fun to write a book in the style of this blog.
The second thought came to me as I pressed the “send” button, thus instantaneously zapping all the text, tables, and illustrations that comprise a medical textbook to the publisher. Even as recently as seven years ago, when I did the 4th edition, the process involved bundling up three copies of a thick manuscript, and three glossy prints each of all the illustrations, tables, etc., into a bulky package, and hauling it to the US Postal Service for (eventual) delivery. How the world has changed in so short a time! (I sez to myself.) No need to do things the old way anymore.
Ruminating on these two thoughts for a matter of mere hours, I called an audible on my plans (such as they were) for my immediate future.
I’ve been thinking for more than a year that I need to write another book on American healthcare. It would be a book about what Obamacare expects (and will demand) from all of us citizens. I believe that if we Americans understood what really is to be expected of us from now on (instead of believing the soothing prevarications and wishful thinking commonly thrown our way), then we would do something about it. But Life got in the way, and I have not done much more than think about such a book.
My failure to act creates a seemingly insurmountable problem. The message I hope to convey, if it has any legitimacy at all, is most pertinent right now, before the November election. Given that I have not begun my book, the time frame appears difficult.
Indeed, as anyone who has published a book knows, unless you are writing about last week’s celebrity kidnapping or, perhaps, a Whitney Houston bio (in other words, unless you are writing about recent events so momentous that the usual chains of publishing protocol must be rent asunder to accommodate you), the time that elapses between the conception and the publication of a book is usually measured in years.
But, as I have noted, things have changed. So I have decided to try taking advantage of some of these changes, to try something a little different.
I am going to attempt to write my book right here, on this blog.
This is what I propose to do. Working as quickly as I can (while still fulfilling all my commitments to the various enterprises which are actually paying me to do things), I will compose my new book in real time, on line, here on the CRB. Quite simply, as I finish each chapter I will post it here.
The chapters I put up here will be a work in progress, essentially a draft. I reserve the right to change what I have written at any time, as much as I think I need to. I make no representations regarding how often I will post chapters, or even whether I will be able to carry this project to completion in a reasonable time, or at all. (I’ve never written a book like this before – I doubt many have – and I don’t really know that it’s feasible.) I risk making a great fool of myself, but acquaintances would tell you that such a result should not create too great an additional burden for me.
I am sure regular readers will recognize large parts of this book as I post it, because I intend to incorporate themes – and even text – from some of my blog postings from the last five years. But I hope that presenting those words and themes in the more coherent and more logical form of a book will give them new life, and possibly extend their meaning.
Because this will be a work in progress, I invite (beg) comments and criticisms from all (or, as the case may be, both) of you. I promise to consider every comment seriously (as indeed I always do), and I will undoubtedly incorporate many of them into the revisions I’ll be making all the time.
Once I decide that the book is finished, I will plan to publish it in electronic book form (Kindle for sure, maybe Nook) under my own label. Unless this occurs by Labor Day at the latest I will consider the entire effort an abject failure. If by some miracle the book does well in electronic format, I will plan to seek a real publisher in the future.
I realize how backward this all is. But (sez I) see how the world has changed in such a short time!
I will end this strange post with a personal note.
I will embark on writing this book despite my better judgment. On two occasions in my career – once as a practicing physician and once as a consultant to a biomedical company – I had very scary and very personal run-ins with officials of the federal government who had the authority (and the desire) to extract large fines and/or lengthy incarcerations from lots of people. While I myself was not a direct target in either of these matters, and indeed suffered no real damage from either, these episodes were extremely distressing to me, and even life-changing.
I have written about one of these encounters in my temporarily obsolete book, “Fixing American Healthcare” (I’m hoping it will eventually come back in style, thus rendering its current obsolescence obsolete), and here on the CRB. I have not written about the second encounter, which was much more recent. In that second encounter, while I was being interrogated under oath by a prosecutor from the Department of Justice, the opening line of questioning, which lasted far longer than I ever could have imagined, concerned my writings here on the CRB, writings which were not remotely related in any way to the matter at hand. While the line of questioning itself was not particularly intimidating, and even occasionally bordered on expressing amusement (it might have been irony, though I do not expect irony from the DOJ), the message seemed clear: We in the DOJ know who you are, and we know in some detail what you’ve been saying about the government’s role in the healthcare system. And we find it very interesting.
I must have looked as calm and collected as Richard Nixon during the Kennedy debates.
In short, I doubt that such episodes with the Feds are things I could ever get used to, and I would prefer to avoid them in the future if possible.
And so I am ambivalent about the ultimate success of this book. I would be delighted, of course, if the book is successful, as that would indicate that a lot of people will have found it helpful to them, and perhaps some of them will be motivated to affect certain changes that might help all of us. The remote prospect of such an outcome is what compels me to write it.
But I must admit that if this book simply drops into oblivion – which is certainly the more likely outcome – that would be just fine with me. I will be able to tell myself (when what I think I see coming actually arrives), that I did what I could to sound the alarm. I will have done what I thought I must do. And having tried my best, I hope to enjoy my failure (and thus my success in staying under the radar as much as possible) with equanimity. And with an abiding sense of peace I will take my Obamacare medicine along with everyone else.
Here is the up-to-date archive for all the chapters that have been posted so far.