Wednesday, December 7, 2011

PFAM: Why Do We Write?

Welcome to a whopping big edition of the Patients for a Moment (PFAM) blog carnival! I'm blown away by the response to the topic I proposed: "This is why I write."

In fact, I received so many responses to my call for contributions that I barely had time to write my own post, which could pretty much be the topic of my post: How much I don't write! Instead, in my post (which I just slammed together a couple of hours ago -- enabled by the fact that about half of it is me quoting another blogger!), This Is Why I Write -- For Now, I discuss two responses to my writing that were deeply meaningful for me, and helped me to understand that my writing is still worthwhile, even if I'm not even close to meeting the writing goals I would set for myself, if I could.

In addition to thoughts about my own writing -- which I didn't get much time to express! -- I was inspired to choose this theme by a blog post by Peggy Munson. Her post, When Words Fail, for Her Circle Zine, is the best essay I've read on writing with the kind of disabilities and cognitive impairments she and I both have. It's an excellent piece of writing in its own right, but also, when I read it, I thought, "Yes! This! This is how it is for me!" Here is an excerpt to tantalize you:
I have been losing my cognitive acuity with alarming speed the past couple of years due to my worsening health. It’s the last in a long line of robberies by an illness that makes brains look on SPECT scans like those of AIDS dementia patients. I have written no real creative work since almost dying a couple of years ago (this short piece will take a lot out of me)—as I have been too brain-impaired to rub together words in the magical way that used to happen spontaneously. I’m trying to prevent more dissolution.
I hope you delight in it as much as I did.

Okay, on to the fifteen additional posts I got for this carnival!I loved being introduced to new bloggers I hadn't yet discovered, learning more deeply about the lives of those I knew, and the deep authenticity and desire to meet the challenge head-on in each and ever post.

A word about organization: Usually when I host a blog carnival, I put a lot of time and energy into finding shared themes, grouping them into categories, and other lovely administrativa to make your reading experience smooth and easy to navigate. While there are clearly several themes that arise in almost every post, I just did not have the spoons to be as "detail-oriented" (anal and perfectionistic) as I normally am. There are so many delicious posts, I'm going to be more minimalist and casual today, and let you unravel the threads of shared themes yourself.

So, get out your tray, plate, and forks, and get ready to sample a bit of everything in this all-you-can-read smorgasbord of blogging gals writing about writing!

I'll start with my favorite submission, which ironically is entitled, I stopped writing because. NTE's post at Never that Easy is gorgeous in its honesty, its poetic rhythm, and its personal, universal appeal. She carries this compelling complexity throughout the piece, hurtling toward a conclusion that continues to embrace the contradictions of writing (and life) with chronic illness. It was hard to choose which section to quote, but I chose this one: "I stopped writing because the dark didn't make sense to me, and the light was too bright. Because there was nothing to share when you are both inundated and empty."

I really related to Megan's beautiful post, Why I Write, at Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear. The detailed description of all the things her hands used to do really painted an intimate portrait. She starts out saying, "I have a Flannery O'Connor quote in my profile that reads 'I write to discover what I know,'" which led me to think she was writing for herself. But no, she is writing for someone else, which I found very touching. (I'll let you discover who that is.)

Wendy of Picnic With Ants  takes us on a journey through multiple blogs and diagnoses, each of which affected her relationship to writing. "With this blog, I have thrived. I started writing this blog to tell my story, living with chronic illnesses. To get it all out before I exploded. Then I found others who understood what I was going through." I love the honesty of Why Do I Write? PFAM carnival and its deeply felt sentiment. However, my favorite part is the very last sentence! You'll have to read it to find out.

It was a real pleasure to read Selena's post at Oh My Aches and Pains! A Friend Asks: So, Why Do You Write? is visually appealing, fluid and easy to read, and goes into depth on several aspects of why and how she writes, without ever losing the reader. Due to a pain syndrome, Selena uses Dragon NaturallySpeaking to type, which I would never have known, as her post is free of "speakos" (or Dragonisms, as I call them). And I'm tickled by the idea that she started writing as a competition with a friend: "Hence was born the "'Blog a Day in the Month of May' challenge in May of 2009. And the rest, as they say, is history."

For Laurie Edwards of A Chronic Dose, blogging is just one aspect of many in her writer's life. In On Why I Write, she also reveals that writing was a necessary part of coping with life as a sick child and now, as a blogger, she keeps writing about chronic illness as a way to connect with others: "I keep writing this blog because as my own journey has evolved . . . I continue to learn and be inspired by those I find on similar paths, facing similar challenges. . . . I wrote Life Disrupted for similar reasons: I wanted to capture the experience of living with chronic illness as young adults." A clear, compelling, and uncluttered read, this post resonated for me on multiple levels.

Leslie of Getting Closer To Myself shares her path of becoming a blogger after having been a writer of many other forms throughout her life. I really enjoyed being with her through these transitions. She started blogging the week after she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus: "I started writing to the cosmos.  It wasn’t quite an abyss because I imagined that there was at least one person out there reading what I was saying." As with many in our carnival today, blogging soon morphed into something with much greater meaning. Found out what in Why I Write (A Chronic Illness Blog)?

Kathy, The Fibrochondriac, writes of a home-coming of sorts -- to herself and what she feels now is the real reason for her blog, even if not everyone wishes to take this trip with her: "I’m losing subscribers by the dozen. I’m okay with that. I’ve found my passion, my purpose. I’m not going to force anyone to read my blog." Kathy reveals how she arrived here in  Why I write...yes fibromyalgia and Occupy in the same post.

Aviva of Sick Momma and I have something in common: We sometimes use our writing as a way to satisfy our nosiness our curiosity about the details of others' lives. In This Is Why I Write, Aviva describes a now-familiar journey -- from writing as a passion or a job to writing as a way to find community: "But something funny happened along the way, and blogging became more about community than I'd ever imagined." Tight, clean, and well-written, this post's journalistic roots make a complex subject an easy read.

Kelly at Fly With Hope is another of our contributors who has found community through blogging. Writing for my Spirit focuses in on what makes blogging special -- the gift it gives her that other writing does not: "I want to challenge myself and others to think of life with chronic illness in a different way. . . . I write because I want others to know that they are not alone and they do not need to be afraid to speak out about what they are going through or how they feel about it." And yet, even if nobody read her blog, Kelly would continue it! Find out why.

I just love the name of this blog: Lisa Loves to Write. Given this, the conclusion Lisa Tomey draws in her post, Why I Write, is unsurprising. I'll just leave it at that; a short and snappy post should have a concise introduction!

Jamie, the Chronic Migraine Warrior, gives a host of reasons for "Why I write," divided neatly into sections for those of us who find categorization soothing for our scattered brains. I particularly loved this section on writing and disability, because I went through this, too, and I know so many others who have said the same: "I (foolishly) thought that being unable to work would give me the opportunity to read and write more... while that's great in theory, it simply isn't the case. Sure, I have the time to read and write, but I don't have the energy (or cognitive ability)." Say it, sister!

Displaced of Gonna Eat Worms describes her awakening to the fact that she is a writer and that writing is a gift she doesn't want to squander: "I take praise of my writing with grace but also with rebuttal as I really think it is a gift and I have only made a minuscule effort to refine it. I'm just lucky." In Why I write, Displaced goes from there to what she writes (quite a list!) and the many needs writing fulfills.

Elisabeth of Redefining "Good" started writing for the same reason many of us do -- as an extension of her love of reading. Then life's twists and turns brought her from one form to another, but still stumbled with inconsistency until she discovered LiveJournal, which came to serve a very useful purpose indeed: "[LiveJournal] got me in the habit of writing regularly again, even if my only audience was myself. It helped me feel connected and coherent. And, eventually, it helped my doctor identify the beginnings of my illness and diagnose me." The continuation to blogging was not a simple, linear path, and I reveled in Elisabeth's honesty and the conclusions she ultimately draws in  Why Do I Write?  [Access note: There is snow falling on this blog. I found it only mildly distracting because the blog's background is also white, but if you have difficulty with moving graphics on the screen, it's something to be aware of.]

Kat of Join the Club! titled her post, What me a writer?!?! That gives a pretty strong hint that she has mixed feelings about (non-technical) writing. She blogs because there are times she feels "barely human," and "Sometimes I just need to scream at the world."

Last, but far from least, Phylor, of Phylor's Blog: chronic pain, life, and all that,sent me an email with her submission apologizing that her post was late, that maybe it wasn't really on topic, that her title wasn't imaginative enough, reassuring me I didn't have to use her post, etc. Well, I do not accept Phylor's apology. Why should I, when I was pleased to  include her post? In fact, she described the topic as "most appropriate, heart-wrenching, and necessary." I am trying to learn to cut myself some slack in my own life, and I think this would be a good idea for most (all?) of us with chronic illness. So, here is some slack, for Phylor, or any of the other bloggers who may need it: _____________________________________________. Use this space whenever you feel like you need more spaciousness. Moving on. In why i write: pfam blog carnival, Phylor, like so many of the bloggers today, has so many answers to why she writes, but I picked this one: "I guess because I can’t keep all the words, the feelings, the observations, the ponderings, the what ifs, the private inside."

Whew! There it is, folks. Please check out these fabulous posts and give the bloggers some love in their comments sections. I plan to do that, myself, this evening, after a nap! Love, love, love to you all for opening your hearts and sharing your precious words.

P.S. If you enjoyed this, and if you like the topics I pick and my hosting style, you're in luck! I'm hosting the December Disability Blog Carnival at After Gadget! Yes, I seem to be caught in a vortex of endless blog carnivals this autumn. Please pop by After Gadget in the next few days to learn the theme and deadline!


  1. WOW! You did a simply fantastic job at putting this together. Thank you so much. I must make one little/big correction. I don't have professional writing credits. I am not sure what I said to make you think this. Please let me know so I can change it!

  2. Oh shoot! I think I mixed you up with someone else (someone who wrote a book). I was doing most of this in the middle of the night when I was so tired. I will make some edits. Ack! Thanks for pointing it out!

  3. I just stopped the weather from affecting how folks see my blog. If I did it right, there should be no snow! My apologies to anyone who has difficulties with moving objects on their screens.Also, too, let me know if white on black is particularly hard to read. I'm in the redesign process and would like to make my blog as access as possible to folks with a variety of chronic health issues.
    Thanks, Sharon, for putting together another great PFAM blog carnival!!!!!

  4. Hi Sharon - great job mate! What a terrific topic you chose in view of the massive response!

    cheers and thanks

  5. Awesome job, Sharon! I'm so delighted to be a part of an edition of PFAM that garnered so many contributions! Wow! I really hope you've signed up with Leslie to host PFAM again next year because you clearly are good at coming up with topics that inspire bloggers to participate!

    Thanks so much for hosting this!

  6. Sharon - what a great PFAM post: thank you for including my contribution (and your kind words). I am sorry about the Captcha code on my blog - I had turned it off previously, but somehow when I switched to the new version of Blogger, it is back. I'm working on shutting it off, though, as I know it can be more than an inconvenience to some readers. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Hey Displaced, Aviva, and NTE, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed being a part of this.

    I haven't signed up to host another PFAM because I'm feeling a bit carnival-ed out right now. But maybe in a few months. I do have the call for subs for the disability blog carnival up at After Gadget right now. :-)

    NTE, yes, I found this out after I'd posted comments on a few blogs -- about the "new Blogger" wrinkle. Grr. I posted about how to disengage it with this added complication, and I hope this is of use:

    I do really appreciate everyone's efforts to make their blogs more accessible!