Blogging about blogging

Apparently there’s some taboo about writing a blog post about blogging. I imagine it’s the same sort of thing as when novelists started experimenting with the novel form: being self-conscious or self-referential does the opposite of breaking down barriers with your readers, so they can’t forget what they are reading and lose themselves in the written universe you have created.

Nevertheless, I want to write about why I write, in this medium. As I said last time, this was one of the things that came out of my coaching session with Amanda Alexander this week. Good life coaches have a cunning way of getting you to articulate things in a way you haven’t before, to yourself or anyone else, so there are often real Eureka moments in a coaching session. Here were mine:

1. Writing this blog is my therapy. I don’t really like therapy or counselling, whether one-to-one or in groups. I’ve always preferred more positive, action-based, forward-looking approaches such as coaching, which helps to shift your thinking from ‘where you are now’ to ‘where you want to be’ without spending too much time in the past, which can lead to amazing results, extremely quickly (I’m a trained life coach myself, though I’m not practising at the moment, so I have to declare some bias here!). Nevertheless, there is stuff to get off my chest and reflect on, and this is my mechanism for doing that. I now recognise that this blog has been a critical element of my ‘treatment path’, in terms of something that is contributing to returning me to full physical and emotional health. My gut instinct in the shocked days after diagnosis was to ‘write it out’, and it has proved extraordinarily helpful.  

2. It’s helped partly because writing is absolutely my life-blood, as my friend B astutely said this morning. I’ve always found writing comes naturally, and feel very lucky to have built a career on something I am good at and enjoy. I communicate far, far better in writing than in person or on the phone. It might not seem it, even to people who know me well, but I have never found socialising easy. I can act as if I’m comfortable and we’re having a nice chat and everyone’s smiling, but I often feel self-conscious in the presence of anyone but my immediate family and very closest friends. I worry about having nothing interesting to say, about striking the wrong note, about being misunderstood, of offending, of not being funny. And most of all, I fear being dull [shudder]. When I am writing, I have none of those concerns, partly because I can pause, think, and edit my words, but also because it feels so natural I can relax and be myself, here and in emails and even texts. The written Pinchy is more articulate, clever, funny and sparkly than the flesh and blood Pinchy, I think, so ironically feels more like the ‘real me’.

3. I’m a professional journalist and copywriter, and I can’t help but bring the discipline of crafting a coherent piece of writing to every blog post. It may sometimes look like I’ve just gone ‘blahhhh’ and emptied my head, but I have always given a great deal of thought to headlines, how to begin, how to structure the post, how to make it better, and how to conclude it. And then when I’m finished, I edit my copy. In this act of ensuring I am explaining things clearly, I am also framing some quite difficult or complex ideas to myself. Often, the blog post is the first time I’ve gone into detail about something that has happened, so writing it is actually part of me ‘processing’ my treatment and my feelings about it. As I seek to find where I can inject humour, or see the positive side to what’s happening, I am not only, hopefully, making the post more readable, but also making myself feel more cheerful and putting things into perspective for me. Blogging is a place to put down (in every sense) worrisome thoughts, to package them up, and let them go. It gives me greater clarity and understanding of what I and the people I love are going through.

4. As I’ve said a million times before, the incredibly supportive and loving response to this blog in the form of comments, tweets and Facebook posts from friends, family and complete strangers has been overwhelming, and very lovely. It’s really kept my spirits up and kept me going, and I appreciate enormously that people take the time to read and respond.

5. It’s an efficient way of keeping people updated. It also means I can say ‘I’m fine, all the latest stuff is on the blog, how are you doing?, if I’m too tired or too busy to talk through what’s been going on for the umpteenth time, or want to hear other people’s news instead of talking about sodding cancer.

All of which makes me wonder why I thought it was a good idea to stop blogging. First, I was having the mother of all bad weeks, emotionally. I didn’t make a good decision all week, frankly. Second, I was genuinely worried about turning into that woman who only writes about having breast cancer, yawn yawn. My solution to this one is to get back to the original purpose of this blog, which was to write about all aspects of motherhood as I experience it. So you can expect to see more posts about parenting stuff here from now on, some of which will be inevitably related to cancer because it’s affected us as a family in so many ways. This also feels like another way to get back on the path to ‘normal’.

Third, I became conscious that so many people have very kindly said they found this blog inspiring, that it felt like a huge responsibility at a time when I was lacking in any sort of inspiration, and my silver lining detector was experiencing a bit of a malfunction. But I had so many lovely comments about not needing to feel the need to ‘be inspiring’, and understanding that this journey was always going to be, well, hilly, so that concern has been laid to rest too. So it looks like you’re going to have to put up with me for a long while yet. Thank you all for reading, and thence assisting me on my quest to f&ck caaancer! Now, to work…

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10 comments

  1. Blogging is therapeutic, very much so. It’s one of the things I love about doing it. Meeting people around the world, albeit through a computer screen, is an added bonus. It doesn’t matter what you write about, if it makes you feel good about yourself or helps to improve your quality of life, then you should feel free to write. There is far too much back-biting and rule-making in the blogging world; as I said in my post yesterday, it’s an individual hobby (unless we are being paid of course) and it’s something we should do because we enjoy it. When the day arrives that we don’t enjoy blogging, we need to stop.

    CJ xx

    • I’m lucky enough not to have experienced any bitchiness at all since I’ve been blogging, although I have experienced this when sharing my thoughts on certain mums’ forums and it’s not nice at all. It would really put me off, in fact – I don’t ever go out to court controversy and find it astonishing that people in the virtual world are capable of being so aggressive – would they really say those things to your face? It’s a question of respect, really, and good manners!

  2. A thought-provoking blog. I wonder if that is why all writers write? To hide behind their computer and present a more polished, vital and popular version of themselves to the world (not that you need to, by the way). I ask because I am a writer myself and the person you describe in point 2 could just as easily be me.

    I know I live inside my head more than is good for me. In fact, years ago, in Hong Kong, a Chinese fortune-teller told me that I needed to make small plans in order to be happy. She was so right but I find it hard to heed her advice.

    I fear that people do not want to hear from me or that I don’t have anything interesting to say, so, consequently, do not ring or contact them as much as I should.

    • Perhaps more of us feel like that than we let on, and writers are lucky enough to have an alternative way to communicate in a way that does enable them to show themselves, when they are more at ease? Loving the fortune teller’s advice, too, that makes perfect sense! And re your final sentence, I was once told to think very carefully about whether you really want or need to do anything involving a ‘should’…xxx

  3. This all makes total sense to me. (And I can assure you that you are never dull in person or in writing!!!!!)

    The caaaaancer posts over these last months have been scary, thought-provoking and touching in equal measure and your writing is such that I can relate to them even though I haven’t experienced the same. Yes, your attitude HAS been truly inspirational but that isn’t why I read your blog – the way that you write – with honestly, warmth & humour – makes your posts readable whatever the topic (e.g. choosing a school for DD, or….. a wig!)

    So pleased that you are on the mend, dealing with the emotional aftermath must be very confronting – I’m really glad that you have this outlet and am sure that it’ll result in a quicker, more full recovery for you.

    Much love,
    S

    xxxxxx

  4. The written Pinchy and the ‘flesh and blood’ Pinchy may be different but they are not separate. It is the very combination of both that makes you the person we love.

    XX

  5. I am also delighted that you are back – I echo so many of your thoughts about blogging, and like you have found it a very positive experience. I am not sure how I would deal with highly critical responses, but again like you, I tend not to be controversial. Just very open! I have written some similar thoughts to yours on my latest blog too.

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