Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.*
Anytime one writes something, I think it is so important to consider the audience. This blog started out a year and a half ago mostly as a practical matter. With so many wonderful, caring friends and family, I wanted a quick and easy way to be able to update anyone who was interested after my initial breast cancer diagnosis. It started out simply, details of the diagnosis, important dates, and treatment details. I knew that people would be glad to read the updates, but really, the writing was as much for me as it was for them. The morning I started chemo, I think I had at least 40 or 50 emails, facebook messages, and texts. There is no way that I could have responded to each of those. It would have taken hours. Yet with a quick blog post or picture to Facebook, I could let everyone know how much I appreciated the messages, and more importantly, I could let them know I was fine.
Days and months passed, treatments and surgeries came to an end, and the number of people who had passed my blog along to someone they knew going through breast cancer grew. With fewer updates to give, I continued to write. Sometimes my posts were more informative– things I’d learned, things I’d wish I’d known sooner. I began to emerge from the emotional shutdown that accompanied my diagnosis, and my writing became more emotional, too. As a reader, I always appreciate honest emotion with a little humor thrown in. And so I began to craft my words with a different audience in mind. I’m thrilled that I have friends and family who continue to read, but now I think about what someone going through breast cancer would want to read, the reassurances that she needs to hear.
I never sat down to “journal” my cancer as coping mechanism. Of course, many people will say that journaling is so important, but I wouldn’t have been one of those people. Yet, there are so many things that I discovered about myself as I struggled to compose a blog post. Putting my feelings into words meant that I had to understand what I was feeling, and often it only became clear as I re-wrote a post for the third or fourth time. It turns out, while I thought I was writing for family, friends, or the unknown woman googling to make sense of her new breast cancer diagnosis, I was really writing for myself. And so I will continue to write. If you want to read, I’m honored. And if not, that’s ok, too. Because I need to write more than I need an audience.
*I stumbled across this quote when reading the post of Dr. Don Dizon, an oncologist who believes in the power of medical narratives and social media.