A friend of mine tagged me in a post about her writing process last week. Flattered to be in that circle. As per her request, I am now answering the four questions, and asking T, R, and M (in my circle) (you know who you are) to become the next three to write about their writing process. You’re welcome, girls.
1. What am I working on?
What am I working on right now? Aside from navigating my recovery, re-establishing my connection with the woods and creating a connection with my new body, I am working at my blog, at creating a unique voice to share what’s been a unique experience with a common disease. I’ve just given up the column I used to write for the local paper, because I felt it was time to move a little bit out of the local public eye. I also found I wasn’t a fan of the ‘Write about your most intimate vulnerabilities, – and could you do it by noon on Wednesday please ‘ aspect of column-writing, especially when said intimate vulnerabilities were particularly painful. That’s not at all to say it wasn’t worth it and I wouldn’t do it again. But it was time to go inward a bit. I would like to continue to write on my blog, but I look forward to the day when I can write about something other than the C word. I’m also considering writing a 30 minute talk on mortality, which scares the hell out of me but I feel like it might be important and so I may do it. Stay tuned.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
As it turns out, there are a lot of cancer blogs out there. And they’re all a little bit different, and all a little bit similar. They’re all by people who have been driven to write because of a force they didn’t see coming. We all find that we’re suddenly overcome by something that feels heavier than us and we need to let something out. We all realize we have something big going on that merits sharing. We also, on some level, fear that we may have limited time to say something important. To let people in. We have faced something that only those given diagnoses of potentially terminal conditions have faced. Mortality. For me, having this knowledge put in my hands – this recognition of the fact that my time here is limited, (as all of our time is), made me want to reach out. I know I have the ability to be very forthright and I keep very few things close to my (insert bad joke here) chest. I know that I can share things in a particular way that allows people who don’t find the expression of difficult emotion, of complicated fears, of vulnerability like hope, to read a line that I have written and know they’re not alone. I have been told that I say in my writing things that some hesitate to admit that they think.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write for several reasons. The first is rather primal in nature. I find that every time I am facing a new hurdle, or have been through a rough patch, anxiety starts to build. It builds until I feel it physically, and most of the time, I instinctively try to find the silver lining in whatever it is I’m facing. I try to find a way to make it make sense. I look for some way to pull myself away from the dark place. I look for connections – little things of significance that bring meaning to what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s a lesson; sometimes it’s growth on some emotional level. I write when I’m struck with the ‘there it is’ moment. Sometimes it hits when I’m walking down the street – like the other day when I was walking to a friend’s place, feeling pretty crappy and watching the cars go by and trying to find rhythm in my steps and the right song on my playlist to bring me out of my funk. At one, perfect moment, I looked up from my iPhone and a woman coming from the opposite direction on the sidewalk looked me straight in the eye and grinned at me. Like the big toothy grin kind, not the ‘I’m acknowledging your presence’ variety. That smile, in an instant, became my hook on that day. The hook out of the dark place. And right away I wanted to teleport to my computer because the compulsion to write was so strong that I couldn’t think of anything else. I contented myself with a ‘note’ to serve as a reminder of what I needed to do when I got home. The smile blog. Haven’t written it yet. It’s coming.
(I kind of love that I remembered to put that thing about the auto correct in. I had remembered about the smile. Not the trees. My phone obviously agrees with me about the urban walk vs. forest walk thing.)
I often say writing is my therapy. It is. When I sit down and write it’s fast, because it’s been building for days. I write because I need to.
I also write, now, because I know that people get something out of it. That there are many out there, quietly going through what I am, and not talking about it. Needing to and not knowing how. I write what I write because I have the opportunity and the ability to share in a way that many can’t, and that because in this instance, my ability to share makes some others who are suffering feel relief, feel connected, and feel like what they’re feeling makes sense. And that means something to me.
4. How does my writing process work?
My writing ‘process’ is kind of like having the flu. You feel a little ill, then a lot ill, then you vomit and you feel better. I’m not really trying to liken writing to illness, but for me the need to write is really something that comes out of a need to work something out of my body. Or at least that’s how it feels. By the time I sit down to write, my shoulders are up around my ears, I’m shaky, I’ve paced the floor a zillion times, I may have cried (most of the time that comes during the writing). By the time I sit down whatever I have to write is essentially already written in my head. The ideas are there, the form has taken shape, the hook has been identified. I write because it’s time. I have to. I always laugh when people express shock at how quickly I write – and my answer is usually the same – writing for me is almost like vomiting on the keyboard, but it’s words, and with them a whole lot of emotional pressure released. It sorts me out. While I’m writing the rest of the world is blocked out. If my kids are around they get the hand block and the ‘I’m writing.’ They know now that that means to back away slowly and refrain from talking to me until I’m done. And when I am done, I have, at times, typed the last period and pressed ‘publish’ without even glancing back at what I’ve written. When I stand up and walk away from the computer I generally feel about 100 lbs lighter, and like I can breathe again. I am working at being more mindful and I am trying to do more editing. Trying to see if there is a better way to craft a phrase here and there. But if I’m honest, I edit very little – because who wants to examine vomitus, really?