The great American writer Flannery O'Connor once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
I can relate to those words, particularly when I'm writing my journal which has helped me to make sense of the world, and myself, for over 40 years.
Writing for me has always been a balm for the soul, an outlet for the imagination, as normal and natural as breathing (whether it be deep or shallow, fast or slow, or yawning), and definitely a way for me to figure out exactly what I am thinking, why stuff happens, and where I am going.
Often this type of writing is private, jotted down in my journal, but sometimes I share it, as I did with my book 'Welcome to the Amazon Club' where I made public my first experience with breast cancer in 2001.
I knew Amazon Club would never be a best seller, but hey, we did OK. The intent of producing a book about something so intensely personal as a nitty-gritty description of what it's like to have cancer, goes way back to the days when I was still at high school and had a writing mentor, Mrs M.
Mrs. M was my best friend's Mom, and she took me under her wing and taught me some writing skills and truths about 'being a writer' that have stood me well over the years. Once or twice a month on a Saturday afternoon, rain or shine, I'd trudge down the hill and up another to her house where we'd sit at the dining table and go through the writing she had set me to do. A slice of cold apple, a glass of cordial and some Super Wine biscuits were waiting to help me cope with the slashings of red pen.
Mrs. M told me many things. She said that we write because it helps us understand ourselves and our world, and in so doing, we can help others do the same. By writing about a life challenge, we can help those who may be going through something similar. Our words resonate with them, bring comfort, solace, a way forward at a time when there is such darkness that we can't see our hand before our face.
I've been diagnosed with breast cancer again, but I won't be writing another book. However, I will write about it because it helps me get through the challenges that life throws up at us. It helps me to accept the why, the what is this all about, the why has this happened to me again, and the how will this affect my life now.
It's a comfort, that pen and paper.
Oh yes and for yet another reason to write, I quote Alex Miller who says, "... if you’re a writer you don’t have to retire but can keep on doing the thing you love till you drop off the chair.”