My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Three Announcements (Book Recs (and Secs)/Guest Blog/Cancer Meta)

There are three major announcements today. 

First of all, please don't forget to throw in a nomination (or a second) in our Best Y.A. Book (or Series) book recommendation conversation. I haven't been able to do as many reposts on social media, so we're a little thin on nominations. I don't think I'm going to be able to run another one of these until I'm fully back from at least surgery, and possibly whatever further therapy cancer demands of me, so this might be it for at least a couple of weeks, but maybe longer.

Second, I'm about to go through this monster list of folks who want to get in on some guest blogging, and I want to remind a few of you who sent me proposals—some of which sounded incredibly interesting—that there was a way I knew if you had read those submission guidelines VERY CAREFULLY…….and a few of you didn't. If you'd like to re-submit properly, I'll take those submissions, but I'm looking at about 100+, so naturally the first ones I'm going to reject are the folks who didn't manage to follow the first set of instructions. Take it as a lesson in the harsh world of publishing—always follow the submission guidelines. No matter how good your writing is, you're still fundamentally seeking to establish a working, professional relationship with your collaborators, so they are going to want to know you can/will follow their directions.

Lastly, let me just make you aware of how things are likely to look heading into my surgery. I'm still going to keep writing, but the amount of doctor's appointments and news is impacting my writing schedule. A lot. This week alone I did a CT scan, got news that I have a dominant trait genetic disorder, and did a procedure with a multi-day recovery time. Even the good news kind of flattens me. I've been holding my breath for so long that when someone tells me I don't have any metastatic cancer, it's hours of emotional relief. I'm going to run the results of our book rec conversation (above) tomorrow, and call it a week—a very difficult week. 

Next week is the pre-op, an anesthesiologist consult, and a blood draw for hematology, and that is if absolutely nothing gets added last minute and I hear absolutely no news at all. I will probably be able to do a regular writing post or two if I only have the three appointments. Many of my posts might not be "about writing" so much as kind of cancer updates and status reports until I'm kind of back from surgery. I imagine they're going to send me home with some of the good drugs and when I've healed a bit, I'm going to have a lot of time in bed to do some writing. That's when to expect me to get back into the swing of the blog. But I want you to know I'm thinking of all of you and let those of you thinking about me know where I am.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Tuesday Report (It's About to Get Funky)

Due to a temporal anomaly in the Writing About Writing compound, this post has been brought to you from yesterday. It is possible that tomorrow's post will be brought to you from next week, and until we can clear this up, it might be best to expect the unexpected.

Reminder: I just found out that I have cancer.  And Tuesday reports are kind of going to be Cancer Update™ for a while. Treatment is about to start, so my life is about to get…funky. 

Quick Personal Update-

I got back from vacation and jumped straight back into medical crap. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that medical crap jumped ME. My GI specialist (the one that colonoscopied me) called me late on Sunday night to talk about something called Lynch syndrome, which it's likely that I have. It's a genetic condition that raises the likelihood of certain kinds of cancers—including the one I have. I don't have kids, so some of the urgency was deferred, but I'll have to do genetic counseling once I'm done with surgery.

Yesterday I had a CT scan with contrast.

Tomorrow I have a procedure that will knock me out for a couple of days.

Today was just therapy, which I restarted when I got my diagnosis, just so I can have some help dealing with everything that's coming up for me.

Surgery is scheduled for Dec 16 (so I'm probably going to be out of it until at least Monday).

I'm writing a little every day, but I'm hanging on to blogging by a thread right now. One of the things I'm dealing with is just how overwhelming this has been. It's not like I come home after an appointment or the minute I get off the phone from some bad news and just hop right back into writing. Sometimes even the good news takes a few hours of being emotional to process. Today I found out I had no lung and liver involvement (which means it's not stage four, and I don't need to START with chemo) and even though that was great news, I was out of it for most of the rest of the day—just so relieved from the breath I had been holding for weeks.

Weekly Schedule Adjustments-

Tomorrow isn't going to happen because of my procedure, but after that I won't have a lot to do BUT sit around, so the plan is to get some writing done during recovery. (Incidentally, next week has "only" three appointments, but they're all on Wednesday, so I might be able to get in one more half week before the surgery.)

I'm trying hard not to just shut everything down until post surgery. I should at least have a few good days until then and next week doesn't look two bad.

Tomorrow and Thursday are probably going to involve wrapping up our latest book recommendation conversation. I badly need an admin day to go through about a billion emails. I'm hoping I can write something significant for Friday while I convalesce, but it might be touch and go.

Novel Progress-

Old Crusty 1.0 Draft: 34, 398

I'm still not getting much fiction written. What little writing time I have is going towards the blog right now.

Behind the Scenes-

I need an admin day in the worst way. I have a stack of emails to reply to that is taller than me. I would normally take a day off, but I think that just running the book recommendation, I can at least get a quick post up and then tab over to my Gmail and roll up my sleeves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Tuesday Report

It's going to be a light fare here at Writing About Writing this week. Before my diagnosis, I'd planned and paid for a small out-of-town vacation over Thanksgiving, and my original plan was to have some articles ready to go, do some writing while I was there, and still post a full week.

Despite the gravity of the news, my partner and I decided to go forth with the vacation just to get our mind off of things for a few days. I made sure I had a week off from CT scans and consults and procedures. If I'm going to spend the next two or three months (or more) trying not to die, I'm going to spend this one week trying to live. 

However, I've also decided NOT to try to post a full week of articles, and just take the week (MOSTLY) off. With everything going on, including stress, a totally scattered brain periodically contemplating things like what a burden I'm going to be to my loved ones, and doctors' appointments, I didn't have any pre-written articles, and I don't want to spend the better part of a couple of days in the Air B&B trying to hit deadlines. So the only thing I'm really going to post is just last call and wrap up of our current book recommendation conversation. Otherwise I'm going to enjoy my time. It's going to be a LOT when I get back, and it's going to happen FAST. 

So one last hurrah….

Friday, November 19, 2021

Guest Bloggers Wanted

So for obvious reasons, I'm going to need some help with the heavy lifting in the month or two to come (and possibly longer, depending on my post-surgery prognosis). I don't want to put Writing About Writing on hiatus or take a health leave of absence as a crowd funded content creator. Thus, I'm going to try to curate some guest articles and mix those in with my own. Now is your chance to dip a toe in the water of blogging to see what it's like, help me out even though you don't have a spare dime in your budget, maybe even make a couple of dollars, promote yourself, or just get your voice out there.

I have a warning though. This time, I cannot be your kind and clement gatekeeper who holds your hand and reminds you gently that you I need you to go back and do X, Y, or Z if you want your submission to be a blog post for Writing About Writing. I have done this before, and I simply do not have the time and energy to do it this time. I'm doing this because I'm overwhelmed already. 

I've taken a lot of time and energy to make sure the submission guidelines are very clear. Please meet me halfway and take the time to understand them if you want to write for us.

Got something to say about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading...or possibly cheese?

Got something that writers or book lovers REALLY need to see?

Want to respond to something I've written, even if it's to completely disagree with me and tell me I smell like soup? (And the good soup that reminds you of snug childhood winters, but something with weird goat cheese and seasonings that smells a little off.)

Want to take advantage of my (currently) 40,00-60,000+ page views per month and advertise your own online endeavors in a thinly veiled self-promote-a-thon wrapped in the "sheep's clothing" of an article? (For which I will only demand a shoutout in return.)

Want to put an article or three out in the world, be read by lots of readers, but without having to start your own blog and do all that self promotion? Or just want to try blogging on for size a few times before you start one of your own?

Want to even make a couple of bucks? (Oh yes. I said it. No just "exposure" here!)

Then I want you!

Hey, I gotta get a book written. I need a day a week where someone else can do some of the heavy lifting.

Bring it!  

Read this whole page––I'll know if you didn't

Then drop me an e-mail. (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) As long as what you want to write is mostly coherent, at least obliquely about writing, no more than 82% horribly offensive to cishet white males, non-abusive to demographics typically pushed to the margins of our society, doesn't make me cry (except in the good way), contains at least one vulgarity, innuendo, or salvo of F-Bombs to maintain the steadfast and unswerving lack of decorum I maintain around here, I will consider your article.

Now paying people and having the traffic I do, does mean that I usually get about two hundred or so replies to a post like this, and I get to be a little picky, so please put on your Sunday best and read this entire post very, VERY carefully.

I'm obviously not going to host anything that is utterly shitty to me or some kind of elitist skidmark about who deserves the label of "writer" and who is a "total poseur." Miss me with that shit. More importantly, miss my readers.

I also can't promise that if you write an article on why I'm totes wrong in my Wrongface about something like writing every day or reading a lot that I won't write some kind of rebuttal, but all opinions on writing are welcome--even ones antithetical to mine. (I do reserve the right to refuse a post for any reason, but I promise that reason won't be because I disagree with you about daily writing or you think NaNo is unambiguously awesome or whatever.)

And...if you're one of my regular guest bloggers, I'll even give you your own link on The Reliquary (unless you'd rather I didn't) and let you post links to your own fiction. The magic number is FIVE regular articles to open up those privileges. (And then we'll talk ratios.)

Here are some guidelines so we don't waste each other's time. If you don't at least get through them, this isn't going to go well (and like I said above, I have a way of knowing):

  • If you send me offers to do web content, I mark your mail as spam. 
  • Personalize your email. If you're flinging out a lot of these, that's fine, but if you've got a form letter with a link, be aware that it looks EXACTLY like the spam I get four or five times a day. I don't always know when I'm looking at a legitimate offer for a guest blog.
  • If you are a robot I will mark you as spam. Unless you can do dishes. Robots that do dishes are welcome.
  • If you can't figure out what this blog is about, and offer to do articles about steam roofing or tantric sex techniques or something, I'll mark your mail as spam (although I might have some follow up questions about the tantric sex techniques). I'm not just web content here; this blog has a theme and everything.
  • Please read the paragraph below the bullet points very, very, very carefully.
  • Your writing is yours. I'm going to ask that you let the post run on my page for a while before you cross post it, but ultimately I respect that as the generator of the creative effort, your writing is yours. If you ask me to remove it, I will. If you repost it somewhere else, that's okay. IT IS YOURS! IT WILL STAY YOURS!
  • There are no author passwords to Writing About Writing–you'll submit your articles to me. I will post them if they are good enough to post.
  • The more formatting your post needs (italics, bold, underlining, bullet points, pull quotes, double tab paragraphs) the more likely it is I'm just going to copy and paste it and it will come out looking STRANGE on blogger. I honestly don't know why this happens, but the font ends up being small no matter how many times I try to fix it. It's much better if you need only a few formatting changes and I can start with fresh text and do the formatting myself. 
  • If you skipped all that dull text up above, this blog is about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading, and maybe cheese. Don't skip the paragraph below though.
  • Right now I'm not publishing fiction other than my own. I would be willing to publish fiction of any of our regular guest bloggers but getting that distinction takes some doing. (Five regular articles.) If you have something more creative (like someone mentioned poems about writing) run it past me. I might be up for something like that. Maybe.
  • I'm not a hardass gatekeeper—especially not about grammar—but you do have to be able to write a little and there will be competition. I am going to get a lot of responses to this post. I'd love to publish them all, but I will (at most) be picking one a week. An incoherent rant about the tyranny of grammar or something you slapped together in ten minutes probably won't be make it. Write your best shit (you should never submit less anyway), meticulously follow all the submission guidelines (you should always do this), and let loose. But don't get too nervous about whether it means you're a good writer or not. It just means there's competition and maybe some other topic fit better or you'll nail it in a year with practice. 
  • You don't have to agree with me, particularly about writing stuff, but I'm not going to post wildly divergent social positions, humor that punches down, or deeply problematic phrasing. Anything I post here isn't an "I agree with this 100%!" endorsement, but if I hit publish on it, I'm going to be the one to answer for it when I get pissed off readers in my comments. If you want to write about how the PC police are agents of "the libs," and they won't let you even use the word "XXXX" anymore, go start your own fucking blog, so I can never read it.
  • I won't make any content changes to your writing, but I may make some copy edits. If a proofreading change might change your meaning, I will run it by you.
  • Please fucking read the paragraph below.
  • When I say "I will make some edits" I want you to understand that I'm not a copy editor and wouldn't be good at it even if I wanted to be. I'm not here to fix up a post from scratch that you didn't have time to proofread. Clean it up. 
  • You may link out as much as you want (even self-promotional links) within reason, but I'm going to check them all--if they go to spammy shit, I won't publish your article. I don't have a rubric for "within reason."  If your post is more links than articles, no. If it has two dozen solid citations for the point you're making, we're still totally golden. If you have linked to six separate self-published books on your Amazon page about sex with dinosaurs..........well, it better be one great fucking article. 
  • Please, for the love of all that is holy, and in the name of Poseidon's left nipple, read the goddamned fucking paragraph below.
  • If your post is a giant ass commercial for some product, then you need to be paying me for advertising space. (I offer very reasonable rates.) And if your product isn't awesome and something I totally believe in, that's not going to happen anyway since WAW is generally ad free. Thinly veiled self promotion under the auspices of something that at least resembles an article is totally okay though–just know that it might not get a lot of hits. I only get about 200 views on articles that aren't liked or reshared through some social media. If my readers don't like something, it does NOT do very well. If they do, well they know where the like and share buttons are and it quickly goes viral.
  • Be aware of, and at least passingly comfortable with my politics and social justice posts. I absolutely do not require guest bloggers to agree with me–certainly not about every issue. However, there is nothing more desperately unprofessional than writers so happy to be published anywhere that they turn around and are shocked to see their own platform throw out a social position they can't abide by. Also, include the word sparklefuzz in your email's subject line if you want any sort of reply from me at all. This shows me how you've actually taken the time to read the guidelines, and gives me an easy way to search for them when I get buried in emails which is all the time.
  • Seriously, read the paragraph below.

The very important paragraph:

W.A.W. isn't making very much money article per article. I can't offer more than a couple of dollars (currently $10 for an article that does on average as well as the ones I write and more if it does better). Most guest bloggers ask to fold their payment back into W.A.W. as a donation, but that's never expected, and I'm happy to pay you for your writing. If your article brings in heavy traffic, we will figure something extra out so I'm not taking the hard work of a writer with nothing but the promise of "exposure." Plus of course if someone sends me a donation earmarked for a guest blogger, I will pass the money onto them and even cover the Paypal fee–that's for them, not me. It may not add up to much (unless you get millions of hits or write for me a lot) but if it came from your work, I'll make sure I'm not taking advantage of you.

Less important paragraphs, but you probably should keep paying attention if you don't want to be frustrated:

THIS PROCESS WILL TAKE TIME BECAUSE I AM A WRITER (with a second job who just got diagnosed with cancer), NOT A MANAGING EDITOR. When you email me in the appropriate way, I star the email as "important," and it may take me a week to ten days (or more) to get to it. I then send back a "form" reply to everyone who didn't spam me or pitch steam roofing articles with the next step (which involves either a sample or the article you'd like considered if it's already written). I usually never get a response to the second email. This process can take a month or more so if you're in a terrible hurry, you may need to throw down a rope and swear on the soul of your father, Domingo Montoya, that I will clear out my email cache alive. Honestly, most people just ghost me after not getting a reply immediately. If you aren't ready to be patient…..well really you shouldn't be doing submissions anyway––just go self-publish.

Of those who send me something they want published, about 10% actually make it to the blog. Now, just so you know, while I do get submissions that aren't ready for publication yet, it's actually far less common than just submissions where folks don't follow the directions. I'm not even talking about anal retentive directions that you get from most publishers like single spaced or page numbers. I mean they don't reply to the first email. Or they link me something and never tell me if that's their sample or if that's what they want me to publish. Or I ask about a biography and a pic and never hear back. Or they send me six emails in a row wondering if they can write ten to fifteen articles a day because they gotta make rent.

I know it seems like hoops and an assembly line and believe me on this end it's ten times worse, but trust me that once we're done with the hoopla, the rapport will be very informal and friendly and unless your posts get really off topic or weird, I'll give them a lot more latitude than the first one–it will be a much less stressful process once you're "in."

Also.....most of the writers who do get all the way to the publication point send me between two and four articles and then lose enthusiasm. Maybe it's just not the insta-fame they were hoping for or it turns out it's harder work than they thought to keep cranking out posts every week. So if you're serious about this, the best thing you can do is read everything carefully (like this post and the e-mails I send you), and stick with it.

Just like writing itself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Best Y.A. Horror (Last Chance for "Recs" and "Secs")

What is the best young adult horror genre book (or series)?

There's a lot happening in my life, of course, so I forgot to give this all the shout outs that most of our prior conversations get, but we still have our ongoing book recommendation post for young adult horror.

Just don't forget to pop over to the ORIGINAL PAGE to drop that recommendation or check out the rules if you're unsure of them. If you put it here or on the social media pages where I'm sharing this link, it won't get tabulated and put on our list.

Also please keep in mind that we this is about books, not their A/V media adaptations. Coraline the book and Coraline the movie are….well they're pretty close actually, but there are some differences.

I'll be tabulating results in the next couple of days.

Thank you all for joining in our Book Rec Conversation. I've really love reading all your comments about the books you treasure and why.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

If You Need Anything… (The C Word)

I'm going to do at least one more of these health and status updates instead of the regular Tuesday report. I haven't done a lot of writing beyond what I've posted here. (No fiction or Patreon stuff behind the scenes.) I've spent about 30 hours since last Tuesday in various doctors' offices for either consults or procedures, and the writing just didn't get done. But I can tell you what IS going on.

I have cancer.

The news hit Friday (after waiting for a promised call that never came on Thursday). The gastroenterologist found a mass during a colonoscopy on Wednesday (which I was undergoing to try and find the answer to why I'd suddenly become anemic). They found something during the colonoscopy. They took a biopsy and sent it to pathology. The rest is what it is.

Colon cancer. Very treatable. They're going to resect part of my colon. Bigity bam! We won't know for sure until after surgery (when the pathology comes back from the lymph nodes) what stage it is, but there are a lot of signs that we caught it early and a really good chance I won't even need chemo. The news was jarring—even frightening—at first, but like most bad news, once it settled in and put its feet up, I realized that even Everything In My Power™ was not that much, so I take those steps, and otherwise live my life around it. 

The outpouring of support from my friends, community, and extended reader base community has been absolutely breathtaking (sometimes in a gasping, literal way). I love how many people have reached out to tell me they believe in me or that they've been through something similar.

I suspect (because I've been the same way for the last forty-seven twenty-nine years of my life) that when most people say, "If you need anything—anything at all—just ask," they are probably imagining me tearfully unspooling my emotions over the phone at four in the morning about how vulnerable I feel facing my mortality.  (And don't get me wrong. There is probably going to be some of that, but I do already have people that I would lean on that hard.) But what they probably don't expect is for me to say something like, "Yeah, do you have any inside information on where I could get a PS5*?"

*Seriously, I'm going to be laid out for at least a week and MOSTLY laid out for three. I want to play Miles Morales Spiderman and Horizon Forbidden West.

So if you're honestly wishing you could help, and you just don't know how, here's a no nonsense list of what I'm really really actually going to need.

1- Money

I hate to be crass, and like many Gen Xers raised in a largely WASP culture, I've got a lot of baggage around making this request (even as an already crowdfunded artist/entertainer), but the most useful thing to me is going to be money. The medical bills started a month ago, are already stacking up, and the surgery hasn't even happened. Just getting an answer about what is going on has cost me nearly four figures out of pocket.

I never got sick (beyond "bed rest and fluids") before this and until this year, I kind of thought even my silver plan was sort of unnecessary. But now I'm facing out of network costs, some drugs that don't have generics (Suprep is over $100 even WITH insurance—you have to pay to have some of the worst two hours of your life), a non-trivial deductible, coinsurance; even just the damn copayments are adding up SO fast. I'm going to be in the hospital for at least two nights after going under the knife of a surgeon who probably makes my annual salary in a month. I'm switching to a gold plan next year so I have some extra help with all the follow-ups and stuff, but that won't kick in until Jan 1st, and it doesn't help me now.

This is all to say nothing of non-medical expenses that run the gamut from the cost of running all around town every day to appointments to grabbing takeout after a procedure because I don't feel like cooking. Not to mention the losses from Patreon folks who aren't as chill as most of my readers about how I'm not writing as much these days and my partner's lost wages from days taken off to be with me.

I don't want to sound like a mercenary here. Money is FAR from the only thing I need to get me through this situation, but money IS the Swiss Army Knife of problem solving in our society. If everyone here threw me a few bucks, I'd be able to get through this without stressing about how I'm going to pay all the medical bills without blowing through my retirement money, but also without stressing if the folks helping me while I convalesce are going to keep the house clean or if I can afford Panera some night I am in too much pain to cook.

If you're looking to help long term (or perhaps a bit each month until I'm through this), the best way is to become a Patron through Patreon. I wouldn't mind knowing if the patreon is going to be temporary, just so I can know what to expect from my budget when I'm fully recovered. (If that's the case, feel free to include a note or drop me an email: chris.brecheen@gmail.com, but I won't be upset or anything if you aren't able to).

If one-time financial support is more your speed, you can drop a set amount at Writing About Writing's paypal, at my Venmo (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) or even message me for Zelle information or a mailing address if you'd like to send a check.

2- Think DISTRACTION, not lachrymose

I'll admit that I felt seen the first few people who sent me a message that they were so sorry. And yet…as kind and sincere and genuine as the place is from which those sorts of sentiments come, after a while they kind of keep me quagmired in those sad and sorry feelings where I'm getting dragged back to this perspective of my diagnosis as a big tragedy that defines my life and who I am, and isn't just something I'm going through (and will probably be fully recovered in a couple of months). 

It's not that I'm not going to have moments where it all hits me and I lose it. (I've already had more than a few.) It's just that what I really want is to laugh and love and be a shitposting memelord and watch good movies and bang cute people and…. I don't want this diagnosis to be everything I am, everything people see about me, and I sure don't want it to be every conversation I have.

If you want to reach out—and I think that's great— throw me a meme. Tell me a joke. Tell me about your family member who beat the odds and that you're rooting for me, but then don't just leave it in awkward silence where I am like, "Okay….well, thank you. I ALSO hope I don't die."  Maybe add in a terrible pun. Maybe flirt shamelessly. Maybe tell me about your D&D game last Thursday. Maybe…I don't even know. Let's just talk about something—anything—else. Maybe I'm not going to call you at 3 in the morning and tell you about how vulnerable confronting my mortality makes me feel, buuuuuuut if we have the rapport from a relationship that is built on something more than just you feeling bad for me, I might feel like I can trust you when I say, "Hey, can I share something about this whole thing that is kind of hard…?"

3- Meal Train

This might be more for folks at least on my public Facebook profile* (and less everyone following the Writing About Writing page) but surgery is going to lay me up for a couple of weeks. I don't do all the cooking, but I do a lot of it, and the person who does the rest is going to be taking care of me, so a break from having to worry about what's for dinner would be wonderful. I don't know who lives around me and might be able to cook the kind of low-dairy vegetarian fare that we usually eat, and who might want to just make sure we have a Grubhub drop-off of some falafels or something, but taking on a meal would be really super helpful.

*This is the space I will post the Meal Train when it gets set up.

4- Get Creative

I'm getting a lot of folks asking me if there's anything they can do.

There's lots you can do, but that question is really open-ended, and it kind of leaves it on me to not only figure out what you might be good at, but also STILL feels like I'm imposing to ask (even though the offer is there). Folks who say something like, "Would you like a 'Fuck Cancer' cross stitch in your favorite color?" are MUCH easier to reply to. 

It would be rude of me to answer the question "What can I do?" with "I don't know. What CAN you do?" Or "What are you WILLING to do?" So it might be more useful to put a couple of things on the table that you are up for, and I'll let you know if they might help. Do you know medical insurance loopholes for Blue Shield? Are you a licenced massage therapist? Would you be up for a couple of volunteered house-cleaning hours? Are you willing to help someone navigate medical bureaucracy? Can you do patient advocacy? Do you have some form of art you like to share with people (that would be a lovely distraction)? Obviously some of these require you to live pretty close, but you get the idea. 

I'm sure there is something you can do, but if you want anything more than me to acknowledge that you are sweet for offering, and then we both move on, I might need some options.

5- Be patient with me

I'm getting a LOT of correspondence and, frankly, it's kind of a lot to spend an hour or two a day answering all the texts and messages and returning calls and answering questions and telling people that I'm okay. I sort have begun to feel like I'm comforting everyone else. If I take a while to return a call or get back to an email, please don't think less of me. And if I REALLY forget, it's not that I don't want to talk to you. I just lost track. Give me another nudge in a few days (please) because I want to keep up with all this—I'm just not doing a very good job right now.

6- GIF Party in the comments!

I'm going to post this one more time for my Facebook page, and I'll just mention that if you have no cash but still want to help, you can totally throw a GIF into the comment section. That'll cause the FB algorithm show it to more people than simply reacting with the like button.

I'm sorry if I've violated the social contract here by legitimately answering the question of "Is there anything I can do?/If you need anything…" If you're in the old school where I should just appreciate the offer and we both move on, consider it done, and I know your heart is in a wonderful place. But some of you seem so authentic and sincere and if you want to help, there really ARE ways…

Friday, November 12, 2021

Illness and Writing (Updates on Health and Writerly Musing)

Once upon a time, Chris went to the dentist having not really done a good job flossing for something like the last three weeks. Some shit had come up in their life, and they fell out of good habits and they walked into that appointment with their tail tucked between their legs.

"Looks great," they told Chris.

"What?" they said. "I flossed like eight times in the last three weeks. Scold me immediately!"

"It's about how you've been doing for the whole time, not during a small period."

What does this have to do with writing? My health issues? Cancer?

Writing is a lot like flossing. Life happens. Things come up. New love blooms. Suddenly you're embroiled in medical stuff, and being spit roasted (but by tubes with cameras and not in the fun way). You aren't as good about sitting down and writing (at the designated time and for a few hours) for days or a week or even a month. 

But you have good habits. You learned to look for ways to make your writing time WORK instead of looking for excuses for why you couldn't. You do it a little instead of not at all during the troubled time, and when the stress passes, you're right back there doing it like you ever were. So you're maybe just a little rusty at putting in a full day instead of completely out of writing shape.

I will probably write this post over the course of a weekish (most posts take a couple of sessions—I rarely sit down and write a draft from beginning to end), but at this exact moment I'm writing this sentence from the chair in the infusion lab where I am having iron put directly into me intravenously. I'm looking at half a dozen folks here for what I'm almost certain is chemotherapy, and trying not to let my thoughts spiral too far along the path of "extremely rare reactions" . Maybe it'll be something easy.

(Narrator's voice: It wasn't.)

The doctors appointments tend to stack pretty hard when you've got something going on. You see your primary care physician. They want you to see a couple of specialists. You consult with a specialist; they schedule a procedure. You consult with another specialist. They schedule two procedures, labs, and a follow up. Your primary care physician wants another appointment. One of the specialists finds something. You get moved from consult to procedures faster than you've ever seen the medical bureaucracy move. Suddenly every week is two or three or more appointments with a mountain of paperwork for each one, and you're losing days here and there to recovery times and weird appointments that don't fit well into your workday but were all they had.

Two days later…

I had a colonoscopy yesterday and they found something. Something big. At the moment I'm writing this paragraph, I'm waiting on the results of a biopsy—which basically means I'm waiting for someone to tell me if it's cancer*. I don't know when I'll find out, but it won't be tonight. Either way, it's big enough that I'm going to need surgery, so that consult has already been scheduled for tomorrow. 

(Edit to add: I have since been told I do have cancer.)

That makes four appointments this week (along with another stack of intake paperwork)—to say nothing of the existential angst and difficulty being productive when one is grappling with the kind of news. I keep thinking I'm okay until I try to do something, and then I just sort of stare at it for ten or fifteen minutes and either break down crying before giving up to try again later, or finally manage to accomplish one thing every ten minutes or so. 

I had hoped beyond hope that I would just need some iron, and they would send me on my merry way to get back into my writing schedule by next week. Now it seems I'm in this for a longer haul and as fast as they want to move, it could be pretty impactful in the coming weeks.

I don't know how to be anything other than a writer. I don't know how to get through the shitty moments of my life other than by writing through them. When the going gets tough, the Chris gets writing about it. It's my hobby, my therapy, my passion, my drug of choice, and my release valve all in one. I'll keep writing unless I can't. 

It's just who I am.

It's just WHAT I am.

So…let's get ready. For a while this blog might have a bunch of entries that are more like Writing About  Cancer. I may miss posts. I may not always be able to tie a day of being sick or miserably in pain from treatment into some kind of writer wisdom—or worse, I'll do it into the same old lesson of, "At least do SOMETHING." I may need to be in a painkiller haze for a few days after my operation and miss a few days or a week without so much as an apologetic peep. There are for sure going to be a couple more appeals posts than you might be used to, trying to help me put together the medical expenses that insurance couldn't cover. 

(Feel free to hit that tip jar or become a patron if you want to start helping early)

But I'll keep writing. That's my commitment to you. No hiatus. No weeks off. No "I can't do this." I'll keep writing. In a drug-addled haze. From the infusion lab trying to calm rising anxiety. From waiting rooms and from my bed during recovery. Because I don't know how else to do. 

And hopefully (since I've been "flossing" regularly), it'll still look pretty good in the end.

See that was a joke because it's in my colon…the "end"…nevermind.