Monday, July 28, 2014

HOW I WRITE, WHY I WRITE - THE BLOG TOUR CONTINUES

Thanks, so very much, Beth Gainer for this invitation to participate in what is being called a Blog Tour or by some a Blog Chain.  Words matter and that whole chain thing has a negative connotation.  I’m choosing to look at this in the spirit with which it began:  To introduce blog readers to other blogs they may not know about.  It’s a way of sharing and I’m all in on that.

The premise?  Each blog author is asked to respond to the same four questions.   The second part is asking others to participate the following Monday with a post of their own.  Hopefully, they too will have others who’d like to share their thoughts.  Many of my favorite bloggers have already joined the fun.

And now, those questions……….

What Am I Working On Now?

I’m still in the early stages of my Share Those Moments project.  I have compiled the stories of many women and some of their partners to put into a book about cancer and sexuality.  Since I’m not an author, I’m just someone who likes to write, a book project is a bit daunting.  It's moving along, albeit a bit slower than I might have hoped.  Life happens and sometimes, things throw us off course for a bit.  

On the other side of the spectrum, I’m tossing some ideas in my head about finding ways to translate research papers into something that is more easily understood by the rest of us.  The science journals and the published research can be difficult to decipher.  I’m not a scientist but somewhere along the line, I turned into a bit of a science geek.  That gig just flew into my head during the course of a very recent conversation.  Right now, it’s a very small blip on my radar.  Being passionate about research, I suspect that blip is going to grow quickly.

The most pressing, and the most exciting thing I’m working on has little to do with writing but everything to do with advocacy and bringing the patient voice to the table so that we can truly step into the era of patient-centered medicine.  I’m going to do a presentation at the e-Patient Connections 2014 conference in Philadelphia.  It’s in September so I have to get moving.  In a twist of something wonderful, after going back and forth with the organizers to email my presentation ideas, the bullet points, a bio and whatever else they needed from me, I was invited to co-chair the event which is quite an honor for someone who tossed this blog into cyberspace as a big joke.

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

My writing started out quite differently from other cancer blogs.  I’ve written about how and why I attempted to launch my blog.  It was at the suggestion of a dear friend, “You should write a blog.”  I recall biting her head off, fully exasperated at what I perceived as badgering.  We still laugh about it.  I remember my response, complete with the eye roll, “About WHAT? Breast cancer? I’ll guarantee there are about a million blogs about breast cancer.  I have nothing to add to the conversation.”  After doing this dance for about a week, she finally blurted out, “Chemobrain.”  She stopped me in my tracks and I began to do a little digging.  I couldn’t find too many blogs devoted to chemobrain, just posts within blogs about the frustration of life with chemobrain.

In the beginning, I was only writing about my adventures inside my head.  Now my writing has morphed to include all aspects of breast cancer, other cancers, self-advocacy, sharing research, a bit of outrage over things I know are wrong and plenty of other things that my brain is blocking me from recalling.  Recently, I stepped into the world of mental illness which isn’t much of a stretch from where I began.  My brain was damaged by cancer treatment.  People with mental illnesses have things happening within their brains over which they have no control.  I empathize.  Thus, my blog is a bit like my brain.  All over the place.

Besides all of that, I think my work differs because I tend to write like I speak.  I want readers to feel like they are sitting with me as I share whatever it is I’m writing about.  Sometimes, I lose the grammar in favor of writing for effect or maximum impact to create a vivid visual.  I know how to use proper grammar but there are times I deliberately choose incomplete sentences.  I still can’t bring myself to end a sentence with a preposition although after reading this blog, I think this is something I may change.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I haven’t a clue.  It could be a headline or something that happened to me or something that hit social media when I feel the absolute need to throw my voice into the conversation.  I try to keep my writing personal without dragging my loved ones into the mix.  Their privacy is a big concern.  Just because I will blab about anything as evidenced in my post about how much I love sex which was written in the space where I’m collecting information for the project I mentioned, doesn’t mean my family members are quite so casual about baring everything.  (Yes, semi-pun)

Mostly, I write for me and my hope was to validate the feeling of just one single person who was experiencing the frustration I live with over my inability to perform in my pre-cancer mode.  When it opens up a conversation in the comments, I always participate although in recent months, I haven’t had the time to reply to comments.  I think that’s a bit rude and it bothers me.  If someone takes the time to comment and I DO read every comment, I want them to know, “Hey, I hear ya,” and more importantly, "Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know my words resonated."  I’ve developed many personal relationships which has been an unexpected and wonderful aspect of this.  I cherish those relationships.  This blog was never about me, it was about having conversations with anyone who may be reading.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

The mechanics?  Once upon a time, I could block out the world and write anything in the midst of utter chaos.  Complex business letters outlining all sorts of technical info, no problem; with phones ringing and cross talking and a few interruptions thrown in for good measure.  No more.  Now, I need complete silence or I’m totally incapable of stringing together a coherent thought.  It’s as if chemobrain throws me out of my own head.  I downloaded white noise apps and toss in the earbuds if I’m on a roll and getting distracted or when I can’t concentrate.  Finding words is still a challenge.

Generally, something will pop into my head and I’ll just start typing.  The words seem to pour out of my head and those have been some of my best posts, or more accurately, they are some of my most favorite posts.  When I was blogging on a strict schedule, I had a list of things that I wanted to write about and I would select the one that fit my mood and mindset in that moment.  It’s a bit like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Women, “I’m more of a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl…..” when it comes to any sort of process.

I am a stickler for spelling and grammar which is a challenge.  I do proof read my work, have a love/hate relationship with autocorrect because I need it for certain words that have simply vanished from my brain but when autocorrect thinks I want to write your rather that you’re or there instead of their or they're, I cringe.  Without another set of eyes to read my stuff, I often pick up these things after I’ve already posted the material.  Sometimes, I simply don't see the mistakes until much later.

I really do know how to use the write form of any word.   Ya see what I mean?!



Now, to pass the baton to the next bloggers.

I’ve selected two people that I admire tremendously.  They are completely different in so many ways but interestingly enough, both of them love to knit.  I’ll have to do an analysis of that commonality.  I don’t believe in coincidences.  It’s the science geek in me.  There has to be a reason for every damn thing!

First, I give you Scorchy Barrington, her stage name.  She blogs at Sarcastic Boob and she tells it like it is.  Everything about the Scorchster screams New York.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer after she already metastasized and I’m thrilled to share that she is presently residing in the land of NED.  She’s in your face and she’s not afraid to take on the world.  Hell, she stood up toFacebook about their ban on mastectomy photos and won that battle in about 18 seconds.  She’s great at picking up the baton, any baton and running with it.  That whole Facebook gig is proof positive.  I’m glad she agreed to do this.  Truth be told, I want to see inside that head of hers!

And equally impressive at picking up the ball and running with it is Brandie whose blog can be found at Journey of 1000 Stitches.  She not only runs figuratively, Brandie has participated in the last four (she can correct me if I'm wrong, but I do think it's now FOUR) Avon Walks in Chicago where she lives.  Brandie also tells it like it is.  She writes about her family, she does quilting and takes on all of these other creative projects.  When I look at everything she does, I’m a bit awestruck.  There aren’t enough hours in the day for this stuff when you have three young kids but somehow, Brandie does it all.  Plus, she’s not afraid to open her mouth when something isn’t right.  This post, written after her most recent Avon Walk, is filled with such emotion without being emotional.  That makes no sense, but trust me, read the post and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I leave you in their capable hands.  I’m anxious to see what they have to say and who they may decide (or not) to seek to continue this Blog Tour.  I'd hoped to have Lori who blogs at Regrounding to round out this relay but I know she is up to her eyeballs in commitments.  (To say nothing of the fact that she's been interrupting her life over these past few weeks to talk me off more than one ledge) I'm going to try to convince her to make this a coast to coast baton pass.  NY-Chicago-LA.  It's got a nice ring but she may not have a second to put anything together.  She is a prolific writer and one of my closest friends.  And if not for our blogs, Lori and I would never have met.

I am, as you might see, really someone who flies by the seat of my pants or more accurately seems to like walking a tightrope without a safety net.

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