"As a writer it’s not surprising that I started writing about my illness and everything I was feeling as soon as I found out that I had cancer. Initially, I didn’t share my writing. Writing was solely a way for me to reflect on, expressing and exploring my thoughts and feelings. Sharing my story didn’t even occur to me until I was nearing the end of my treatment but whether you are considering sharing your story or not, you should never underestimate the therapeutic power that writing can have.
Journaling is widely considered a fantastic way to relax and unwind as it can allow you to expel any negative thoughts and worries by getting them out of your brain and on a page. It can also be a good way to come to terms with what is happening, allowing you to clarifying your thoughts and feelings. I was able to notice patterns in my emotions when I started writing them down. Identifying these patterns helped me to stop feeling quite so overwhelmed by my emotions as I could see it was a pattern and I knew that in time they would pass.
Writing can also allow you to open and evolve the creative side of your brain, rather than forever staying in the worrying part – which is obviously common during and after cancer.
So, you want to write, but where do you start?
Getting Over Blank Page Syndrome
You know the feeling; you are standing in the shower your head swilling with thoughts you want to get out. You sit down, open your laptop or put pen to paper and then… every word you have ever known vanishes from your mind and you are staring at a blank page. The more you try and think about what you write, the more the words escape you. Do not fear, I know just the trick to get past this.
It is so simple. You set the timer on your phone for five minutes, then write down the first thing that pops into your head. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling, don’t censor yourself, don’t worry about it making sense, don’t worry about what you want to write, just write. The sole purpose is to write as quickly as you can, no matter how random or incoherent your writings are. You may write about what you are having for dinner tonight, about a conversation you had earlier, or your shopping list. It does not matter! All that matters is that you are writing.
This might feel slightly strange or uncomfortable at first but what you are doing is pushing past the judgemental part of your brain. If you are judging and analysing every sentence as you write it, you are never going to get anywhere but this way, you are writing quicker then your judgements can react to your writing and getting those writing juices flowing.
Free writing has an accumulative effect so the more you do it, the easier you will slip into the writing when you sit down and it will serve really well to give you clarity during all your writing. Even now, I often start with five minutes of free writing to get any random thoughts that are bubbling around my brain out of my head so I can free up my mind and concentrate on what I am writing or doing.
Writing a Narrative
Writing in the form of a story or narrative can work very well as it offers a level of detachment to the emotions you are writing about, allowing you to be a little more reflective.
You may write a story about a small girl who has just been diagnosed with cancer, how she tells her friends at school and how they react. This will be relatively different to your situation but in reality, you will be exploring your own situation and feelings without confronting them head on. You may find yourself giving the girl in the story advice that you can then implement yourself.
Sharing Your Story
It seems to be coming increasing popular for people to blog through their cancer experience. The great thing about blogging publicly is that you can keep all of your friends and family updated about what is going on whilst working through your emotions. You may also help others as they read about your experience. It truly is a very special feeling when someone says that something you have written has helped them.
On the other hand, I know my writing is more considered when I am writing for my blog or book than I am when I am writing privately in my journal, so I have certainly found that a combination of private and public writing works for me.
If you would like to start a blog, there are free blogs sites that are pretty easy to use such as Wordpress and Blogspot and you don’t just have to write about cancer. You could write about recipes you are trying to combat sickness, exercise you are enjoying whilst you can’t leave the house or your favourite hat.
Remember the important thing is to keep writing! Writing is like a muscle, the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the better you become at it. So no matter whether you are blogging, journaling or scribbling on the back of napkins – keep writing."
Many thanks to Nicola for writing this guest post for us. You can find out more about her by visiting her website
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