Creating in public: Jordan Grumet on writing literature in the blogosphere

September 18th, 2006

Karl Zipser: Jordan, your blog is unusual because of its broad scope. You write about topics ranging from art collecting to internal medicine, and also publish your poetry and stories there. What was it that first inspired you to start writing a blog?

Jordan Grumet: In my younger years I had written quite a bit of poetry. As I describe in a series of posts, the process of becoming a physician hardened me. It squashed the more sensitive side and I stopped writing. The creative side has slowly worked its way back since the birth of my son Cameron.

I started my blog as a companion to my web site in which I collect and sell art work. In the beginning I concentrated mostly on art topics. My idea was to generate interest in art discussions and increase flow and readership to my site.

Karl: That’s practical.

Jordan: Yes. But reading other blogs, in particular Ed Winkleman’s, inspired me. So I had a paradigm shift. I went from writing solely about art to revisiting my poetry and starting to write creatively again.

Karl: And your blog is the primary place for this?

Jordan: I use my blog to practice the art of writing. Most of my posts are spur of the moment and are made up as I go. Often I do not know where a post or story is going when I start to write it.

Karl: How does the open, public aspect of blogging affect your writing? Is there a feeling of inhibition, or something the opposite of that?

Jordan: I love that my blog is public. Having an audience challenges me, challenges me to continue creating. To give it my best.

I have found that there is an interconnectedness in the blogging world. Recently I posted a story about rape called “Her Blues” at the same time as one of my commentors wrote about her own rape. It was a completely random coincidence. Neither of us knew about each other’s plans. Yet I find that the things I write connect with my reader’s experience. This is highly gratifying.

Karl: You talk about “random coincidence” in what you and others write. Is that really the same as “interconnectedness?”

Jordan: Maybe there is less “random coincidence” out there than we think. When you connect with your fellow bloggers (i.e. read there blogs and comments) you get to know someone in a much different way then when you meet them in person. Instead of being distracted by their looks or even their facial expressions, you are keyed into something much more important . . . their words. It is more intuitive.

I once wrote about how doctors use nonverbal cues to glean information about their patients. I think that something like this holds true among bloggers as well. Sometimes by reading a statement or post we subconsciously sense other’s needs and react to them. Was it a coincidence that we both posted on the topic of rape at the same time? Maybe. Or maybe we both sensed the need in ourselves and in our community of medical bloggers.

Karl: You talk about the importance of communicating with words, but also “nonverbal” communication. I’m confused.

Jordan: I think the word “nonverbal” is problematic. I guess what I am trying to say is that the mood of the blogosphere can be changed by subtleties in how and what people post. For instance if someone I usually read who is a prolific poster all of a sudden takes a few days off it means there is something wrong. Maybe they are having a crisis. Maybe they are feeling tired or bored. These things affect my mood as I post. And whether their posts are light and humorous or serious or sad, these things definitely affect what I write about.

Karl: Can you give an example of this influence?

Jordan: Recently in the medical blogosphere there was a lot of discussion about what was going on with the doctors accused of euthanasia during Katrina. This inspired me to write “A New Orleans Story” which was a more positive look at healthcare in that area of the country.

Another example is with the story “Her Blues”, which I ended on a positive note because I sensed from comments and others posts that some positivity was needed. There had been so much discussion of people’s horrendous experiences among the medical bloggers. Yet these “survivors” were healing, living life, and standing strong. I wanted to recognize that in my story.

Karl: You see the blogosphere as a real community?

Jordan: I believe that the blogosphere is a community. It’s not in the traditional sense a geographic/economic community. However, this frees us to concentrate on what is most essential . . . the emotional ties that bind us together as people. In a good active blogging community you will have a group of people who discuss difficult and often essential life issues. Blogging can bring people together. In many ways isn’t that how we define communities? A group of people with shared goals or experiences?

Karl: But is there not a danger of the integrity of your work being compromised by such a public way of writing?

Jordan: My writing is affected by the blogosphere, but the topics and presentation come from my inner voice. I had written the poem “Her Blues” 10 years ago. I blogged the story “Her blues” (which includes the poem) recently. The stories are innately mine. My interactions in the blogosphere add color, texture, and shading.

Karl: You were frank earlier about starting your blog to increase traffic to your art collecting/selling site. Now that you have made a paradigm shift in your blogging — to creative writing — have you abandoned the economic goal? Are you content to provide your writing for free?

Jordan: My paradigm shift has certainly changed my goals. I still operate my site selling artwork, although sales are definitely down. I would love to feel that my writing appealed to enough people that I could make a living at it (I would really enjoy that). On the other hand, writing has taught me that while there are a lot of things I don’t like about being a physician, I could never stop doing it completely. It is safe to say that my enjoyment in medicine is greatest since I started blogging and writing.

For now I will continue to provide my writing for free and I believe blogging is the best way to do this. I would like to write and have “traditionally” published either a novel or a collection of short stories. Not as much for economic gain but more to get my writing out there for others to see.

. . .

12 Responses to “Creating in public: Jordan Grumet on writing literature in the blogosphere”

  1. Candy Minx Says:

    This is another incredible interview to read on a blog(I have an interview coming soon on my blog too…with a curator of National Gallery in Toronto…) and I love this idea. I also love the trend we are seeing among so many people who started web sites and then switiched to blogs and the level of satifiaction and community/company people are getting from this activity. It really is something.

    I enjoyed the transformation from one activity to another and so what if we don’t make money at it, it really is true the best things in life are free.

    You both have unique voices and ideas posted on your blogs and a real treat to be introduced to them.


  2. Karl Zipser Says:

    I enjoyed doing this interview a lot. I’m sure you will have some good questions for the curator . . .

    I also started with a regular web site before I got a blog. A regular web site requires much effort to maintain, and interaction is limited, as you say. As Jordan describes, the interactive element can work wonders for creativity, for those who have the courage to create in public. I was lucky to be reading Jordan’s blog as he made his “paradigm shift”. Witnessing the transition toward self-expression in his writing was inspiring.

  3. Angela Ferreira Says:

    Karl Zipser great interview with one of my favourite reads, Dr Jordan Grumet, a big hearted man with a kind soul for his patients and a big imagination too… that is what keeps me reading.

  4. Karl Zipser Says:

    Thanks for the commment, Angela. Nice to see you back on-line. Hope you enjoyed your vacation.

  5. wolfbaby Says:

    nice interview;)

  6. The Tundra PA Says:

    Jordan–great interview! I love your comment that often when you start to write, you don’t know where the story or post is going. Isn’t that the most energizing feeling, to be in the middle of it and have to finish it to know how it ends? I love that feeling. I get so jazzed by the process of writing when it is flowing. Some writers say you must have the whole piece planned (beginning-middle-end) before you start. I so much more enjoy just jumping in and letting it come to me.

    I also enjoyed your comments on the medblogosphere as a community. I definitely agree–and a fairly tightly knit one at that.

    Your writing is quite good. Keep the stories coming!

  7. Cathy Says:

    loved your interview, Jordan. I think you have some secret powers or something. How else to explain some of these things that happen?

  8. Moof Says:

    That was a great interview! I agree with Cathy, by the way. You seem … psychic Jordan! *LOL*

    I’m just glad that we’ve found you! :o )

  9. Sid Schwab Says:

    I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon your blog. I’m pleased to see this interview with Jordan, whose writing I admire. And even more pleased to see you have a link to my blog; if an artist finds it worthy of reading, I’m honored. Looking at your other links, you have an interest in medical blogging. It’s not surprising, I guess: I’ve always thought that good surgery (which is my thing) is artful; and artful surgery is good. I said as much in my book, and deeply believe it.

  10. Karl Zipser Says:

    I learned about your site through Jordan’s, Sid. I’m fascinated to read how blogging is used by people in different professions.

  11. Dr. A Says:

    Great interview with Jordan. I’ve also read some of your other posts and I’ve enjoyed them. I’m going to add you to my links. Keep up the great work!

  12. Karl Zipser Says:

    I wonder if I am spending too many hours blogging. Another artist wrote about his online presence:

    “Yes. I know. My front page is boring. . . I’m too busy doing art to work on my site though.”