Sharon at Bed, Body & Beyond is hosting the next Patients For a Moment blog carnival and asks us to consider why we write.
I’ve posted about writing often here, and how the questions of
public lives versus private lives and storytelling get more complicated the longer we write.
But since it is such a fundamental part of my life, as well as a fundamental part of my experience as a patient, it’s a question worth exploring further.
First, there’s the obvious. I write because as an author, editor, and an academic who teaches writing, it is my job.
I started writing this blog because I knew there must be other people like me out there, young adults living with chronic illness, and I wanted to find them. I’d always been the sick kid, the sick teenager, the sick twenty-something, and while I knew I might never meet someone with my rare set of diseases in real life, I knew wasn’t alone. And I knew that whether we’d been sick our whole lives or were recently diagnosed, whether our illnesses were life-threatening or life-altering, our individual symptom differences paled in comparison to the universals we struggled with: acceptance, denial, balance, guilt, etc.
I keep writing this blog because as my own journey has evolved from being a single graduate student to becoming a married person, an author, and a mother, I continue to learn and be inspired by those I find on similar paths, facing similar challenges. Careers, infertility, chronic illness, parenthood, patient-hood—the perspectives I encounter on all of this from readers and from other blogs are often invaluable.
I wrote Life Disrupted for similar reasons: I wanted to capture the experience of living with chronic illness as young adults. I am writing my second book because I started asking lots of questions about the evolution of chronic illness in American society that I didn’t know the answers to, and I realized I had to keep digging. (Still digging, but getting close to the end!)
But more simply, I write because it is what I have always done, for as long as I have memories. I write to process, I write to clarify, I write to learn.
As a sick child, I wrote because it was something I could do no matter how bad I felt or how many nights I was in the hospital. I wrote because I loved to read, and books kept me both distracted from illness and connected to something beyond myself. I wrote because I couldn’t always run or play, and I wrote because the voice I discovered in writing gave me an identity beyond that of the sick one. It gave me self-esteem and confidence when my body betrayed me over and over. I don’t know that I’d have gone to Georgetown, or interned at Washingtonpost.com, or done a lot of the things being a teenage and college-aged writer allowed me to do had writing not already been such an integral part of my self-concept.
I have no doubt I’d still be a writer even I hadn’t spent my whole life as a patient. It’s the way I make sense of my world, it is my instinct at every turn. But I wouldn’t have needed writing the way I did so often through the years, and I don’t know that I would appreciate its ability to build community and connect people the way I do. Writing is an extricable part of my personal life, but I’m fortunate that having a career based on writing isn’t just good for my spirit. Writing allows me to have a successful professional life despite my health issues, and though I didn’t consciously set out on this path for those reasons all those years ago, I am grateful to be here.