Posted by Angelica R. Jackson
I've posted before about my cancer experience, but a recent post got me thinking about it in a different way. Brigid Kemmerer posted last Friday in response to a reader's question: How do you get back into writing after a long absence or life event? She has some great insights and interpretations on how life events shape both you and your writing. Go read it here--I'll wait.
For me, writing over the last few years has been intertwined with a cancer diagnosis and the treatments. I had my 2nd biopsy the same week I got a serious R&R on my first book, and then crammed a rewrite in before my surgery. It still wasn't where I wanted it, so I did another one after the surgery and before my radiation started. Then was so out of it for a few months that I have huge gaps in my memory for that period. Wouldn't be surprised if I someday come across a file with stuff I'd written during those months, with no idea I'd done so!
But once it seemed like I was out of the woods, the book idea I'd had rattling around became my "hope" book. A sign that I was making plans again, that I had ambitions beyond my recliner. A book where I could lose myself in a world in my head, since I didn't have the energy to do much physically. Crow's Rest became the book where I threw my voice--quite literally, since I had vocal cord paralysis on one side for about 5 weeks after the surgery.
And after several stops and starts, when I had a finished book and polished it up again, it helped me feel like I was more than cancer. (Or even more than post-cancer, since I had a clean scan last January.) I was still, and once again, a writer. And as Brigid said, I'd also learned to take risks. I didn't feel like I was working on the same timeline as I'd had before--"I have time to develop as a writer" didn't feel so safe anymore.
So if nothing else came from this experience, it cured me from the tendency to pants a book without an outline, and as a result has made my writing much tighter. I also worry less about being taken seriously, or being a Great Writer of High Falutin Literature, and whether people think writing for children is training wheels for eventually writing for adults.
Because I'm writing exactly what I'm supposed to be writing, for here and now, for who I am now.