A Prescription for Writers in a Fast-Paced World

Writing a book is not for the faint of heart. Physician and author Beth Ricanati, MD, offers a prescription for a meaningful writing ritual that will help you achieve your goals.
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Writing a book is not for the faint of heart. Physician and author Beth Ricanati, MD, offers a prescription for a meaningful writing ritual that will help you achieve your goals.

I wear many different hats: physician, mother, wife, friend and daughter. Like many of us I know, my patients at work or my friends at home or those I read about or heard about, multitasking is a way of life.

Little did I know years ago that making a loaf of bread one Friday morning, a loaf of white bread at that (cue the gasp from the physician in me), would end up being the best medicine that I could prescribe for myself, and ultimately for others trying to live in this fast-paced world.

The two lopsided loaves of challah turned out so well that I made them again the following week. And again and again. Just like I encourage my patients to stick with something for a month in order to create a new habit, I stuck with making challah for more than a month of Fridays and it became a habit. I still make challah every Friday. I make it in my California kitchen, and I make it when we travel. I miss the ritual if I don’t.

This meaningful ritual doesn’t just apply to bread. It applied to me writing a book, and now has applied to me as I launch the book out into the world.

For several years, I had tried to write a book. How hard could it be, I thought. I had gone to college and had a liberal arts major, replete with many papers. I had gone to medical school…ok, well, not so many papers there. But I had published several peer-reviewed articles with my colleagues. I was always writing something, or so I thought.

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Writing a book is not for the faint of heart. Writing a book is hard work. It is lonely at times. And for those of us whose plates are already filled, it’s almost impossible to do. But I still thought I could do it. How hard could it be?

It’s hard. Maybe harder than learning anatomy of the brain. Maybe harder than taking call every third night while pregnant and sick. Maybe harder than learning how to braid a 6-braided challah.

I needed a prescription. Some advice or guidelines to help me reach my goal as I tried to do something that I had never done before:

  • The first prescription I found came from my writing coach. Writing a book is a job. Not like a job, but an actual job. And I should treat it as such. When I took writing the book seriously, then it became a serious endeavor.
  • Two, she recommended that I compartmentalize my days, setting aside time each day to write. In this way, I had a roadmap to completing the manuscript. Incidentally, I realized in hindsight that this is the exact advice that I always share with my patients when approaching a health issue.
  • The third prescription for writing came from making the bread itself: Just show up. Easier said than done, and this is where making bread or writing is an art not a science. I make bread every Friday. I make bread when I have all the time in the world, and when I have no time. I make bread when I have enough ingredients and when I have to be extra careful because I don’t have enough to make more if necessary. The power of just showing up weekly has ingrained the routine in me. And the bread always gets made. Similarly, I showed up every morning at my desk while writing and editing Braided, even when I didn’t think I had anything to say that day or no time to say it. By repeatedly showing up, I wrote the book. And I am so excited to share it with you. So put away your writing for a moment, grab a bowl, open up your cupboards, get out the ingredients and make that challah. And don’t forget to let me know how it turns out!

Adapted from Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs by Beth Ricanati, MD. © 2018 by Beth Ricanati, MD. She Writes Press, a division of SparkPoint Studio, LLC.

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BETH RICANATI, MD, has built her career around bringing wellness into women’s everyday lives, especially busy moms juggling life and children. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her MD from Case Western Reserve University; she completed her internal medicine residency at Columbia Presbyterian in NYC. She spent ten years in practice at the Columbia Presbyterian’s Women’s Health Center, the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Women’s Health, and the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. In addition to the frequent online writing that she does now, Ricanati has been a guest contributor for television, print, and online media, and has published medical articles in peer-reviewed journals. Ricanati lives in the Los Angeles area with her family and one challah-loving dog.

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