National Writing Project

Why I Write: Catherine Mohr on Writing to Organize Thoughts

Date: October 20, 2011

Summary: Dr. Catherine Mohr, the director of Medical Research at Intuitive Surgical, is an expert in the field of robotic surgery, but writing is anything but robotic for her. She shares why she writes—to organize her thoughts and ideas, to understand, and to communicate.


As a physician and a scientist, I write to organize my thoughts and ideas—to make them better, to be able to pick them up, turn them over, set them aside and come back to them later.

When I think about something new, it never comes fully formed into my mind—it takes time, and play, to make it right. Writing down my half-finished ideas gives me a way of discussing these ideas with my future self.

I write to understand—sometimes I think I know something, but when I try to explain it—to take what seems to me to be a complete thought, and to transfer it to another, I realize that my understanding is riddled with holes. I write to find the holes in my understanding—and then I have fun filling them.

And finally, I write to communicate—for ideas and understanding are best when shared.

About the Author Dr. Catherine Mohr is currently the Director of Medical Research at Intuitive Surgical, where she develops new surgical procedures and evaluates new technologies for improving surgical outcomes. An expert in the fields of robotic surgery and sustainable technologies, Dr. Mohr is passionate about realizing the potential benefit that appropriately applied technologies can have in our society.

Watch Catherine Mohr's TED Talk

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