Reflections on Blogging

Posted on: January 9th, 2015 by
23

For years, I’ve aired my dirty breast cancer laundry with the world. I’ve chosen this path — to publicly document my authentic narratives and points of view on this blog — for many reasons: to achieve catharsis by lending my voice to the breast cancer experience, to help others by assuring them they are not alone, to be a part of a community of writers, and to exert some level of balance and control over my life, just to name a few.

Now about that last point. People diagnosed with a serious illness often feel their lives spiraling out of control. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt the bottom of my world drop. And to make matters worse, my doctors and nurses were running my life by telling me when and where I had to have treatments. It didn’t matter that my radiation appointment conflicted with a work obligation; I had to show up for treatment.

I love my medical professionals for doing all they could to save my life. But nonetheless, going through a life-threatening experience where I had no control and its cancer aftermath left me feeling derailed, voiceless, and unheard.

So I found refuge in blogging and sharing my voice to gain more control. While I can’t determine all that happens to me in life, I can control what I say and don’t say on my blog.

This post addresses what I am and am not willing to say on my blog posts.

My Life’s an Open Book, Sort of

My family believes divulging personal information is taboo. I was always a private person who embraced this philosophy. Then came cancer. And I no longer wanted to be quiet.

As a blogger, I’ve organically departed from my family’s point of view and publicly share my heart and candor about my experiences and feelings. While I write about topics such as motherhood, my main focus is cancer and its repercussions.

I’ve been open about topics such as my time in ICU, my bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, and cancer’s emotional aftermath, just to name a few. Popular posts include those dealing with divorce after cancer and moving on after divorce. And I’m no stranger to addressing controversial topics or disagreeing with someone’s public stance. I’m also open about my body image issues as a result of all the surgery I’ve endured. I even have a post idea brewing about my belly button!

Stay tuned for that one.

Some people would be embarrassed to share such intimate information, but I feel the need to express what I’ve been through and my sloooow recovery; in doing so, I am able to help others going through similar trials and tribulations. I am able to lend voice to experiences a good number of people share.

I’ve developed a bond with my readers — ironically and unfortunately — through our common suffering and shared pain. I care deeply about my readers. It’s always wonderful to get comments on a post (even the ones from people who disagree with me), but some posts simply don’t attract comments. And that’s okay.

Overall, I’m not afraid to state who I am and what I stand for.

My Life Has Closed Chapters

While I tell my truths, I know when not to reveal parts of my life — past, present, and future. Let’s face it: like everyone, I have skeletons in my closet, but that doesn’t mean I have to spill its bare bones.

I can be authentic and still omit things.

Blogging involves risk vs. benefit decisions. I’m willing to take risks for some topics; others are too risky for me personally. For example, my internal censor won’t allow me to focus on non-cancer-related trauma.

We all have traumatic times, but I believe blogging should be therapeutic, not therapy.

I want my blog to serve as a source of meaningful content, not a dumping ground.

I won’t deliberately write hurtful things about people. That’s not how I roll anyway, but it’s really not a good idea to say something negative about others. Others’ ideas, yes, but not bad mouthing other people. I avoid the topics of politics and religion, although I wrote a rather benign piece on how cancer changed my faith.

Even though I’ve said a lot through my blogs, truth is, they cover only an iota of my life, and that is as it should be.

What’s to come in 2015? There is something I’ve wanted to blog about for a couple of years, but there is risk to that. I think it will resonate with others, but I have to be ready to accept my vulnerability yet again to write about a topic so near to my heart and mind and spirit. I’m not making any promises, but I’m hoping to gather the courage to write about this topic this year.

In the meantime, I will continue to love the writing process. And that is as it should be.

For a related piece on my writing process, click here.

Keyboard

Are you considering writing that long-awaited post or starting a blog? Feel free to share your thoughts.

If you are already a blogger, why do you write? I would enjoy hearing about your motivation(s) for writing, or even your challenges.


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23 Responses to Reflections on Blogging

  1. Sharon Greene had this to say about that:

    It was great to read about your blogging practices, what to share and what to leave out. As a new blogger, I am still figuring out my boundaries, what is fair game and what is off limits. I struggled with telling the world about my PTSD and in the first post where the subject was mentioned, I danced around the topic of whether I personally suffered from this condition. After some reflection, I did acknowledge this in a later post but felt extremely vulnerable pushing the publish button. It worked out okay but it was still a tough call.

    I acknowledge being married and divorced during breast cancer but I doubt there will ever be a discussion of why we divorced. There I’d one possible exception here. He has just self-published a “fictional book” which I am now reading that is extremely autobiographical. If I find myself or our kids in the book, all bets are off.

    Thanks so much for sharing your guidelines for what to post and what to keep buried. It is a great service to new bloggers like me who are still trying to decide what lines shouldn’t be crossed.

    I’m really looking forward to the belly button post!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Sharon,

      You write so very well, I couldn’t believe you were a new blogger! Your posts are really excellent. When I first read one of your posts, I kept wondering why I didn’t discover your blog sooner. Now I know.

      In fact, your PTSD post was so brave, so incredibly brave, that post is what is encouraging me to write about a topic so very difficult to me. You’ve done me a great service. I admire your courage and candor.

      Some things are left to be private. That’s just the way it’s meant to be. What’s too personal for some is not for others. The fact that your husband wrote an autobiographical “fictional book” is interesting to say the least.

      Yes, that belly button post! I don’t know what i’m going to say, but I know I have something to say. I’ll be posting that one in the near future.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Becky had this to say about that:

    Looking forward to your belly button post … I have a sense that when they moved mine it is no longer in the middle … it feels a little to the right of center … my husband thinks I’m crazy!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Becky,

      It sounds like you’ll be able to relate to my belly button post, although mine is centered. At least I think it is. Now you got me thinking…

  3. Brandie had this to say about that:

    I’ve said before the hardest part of blogging is the things I can’t say (and by can’t, I mean don’t feel comfortable sharing or putting out there for the world to see).

    Most of the time I can avoid these things all together, but sometimes I have to dance around them and other times I will just delete a post because too many gaps make it hard to understand.

    I also agree with not blogging about others in general. I’d never go on and write about the fight I just had with a friend. I might write about one that happened a while ago if I thought there was something to be gleamed from it though.

    Anyway, I’m glad you share so much with us, but totally understand holding some things back!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Brandie,

      Thank you for sharing your blogging process and how you know when to leave out a part of your life that you don’t feel comfortable sharing.

      Yes, sometimes if one leaves out too much information, it can result in a post with holes in it. And, yes, writing nasty things about people never gets us anywhere. It sounds like we are on the same page about that.

      Thank you for your readership, kind words, and commenting on this post!

  4. Lisa DeFerrari had this to say about that:

    Hi, Beth. I thought long and hard before I started my blog. I love to write but the whole idea of sharing any personal information about myself on the internet seemed vaguely risky and worrisome. But I eventually got comfortable with sharing many of the details of my breast cancer story because I really felt that sharing my experiences and perspectives could be helpful to others. After a year and a half of blogging, I’m very glad I decided to go ahead. The experience so far has exceeded my expectations, especially in terms of what I’ve learned and the wonderful bloggers like yourself that I’ve “met”. I’m looking forward to reading whatever you choose to write about in 2015!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Lisa,

      I’m so glad your blog exists! It was the right decision, I think, for you to share your story. I agree that sharing stories can help others. It’s really a powerful tool. Blogging has exceeded my expectations as well.

      I’m so glad to have “met” you as well. And I love your blog!

  5. ButDoctorIHatePink had this to say about that:

    The best writers share part of themselves with the world, and that means opening up and thinking deeply about the subjects that have affected you. It isn’t easy to do and there can be negative consequences (job-related and otherwise) but it is certainly rewarding. As a fellow blogger, I’ve heard from people all over the world who were touched by my words and that is something I treasure, and it is something I’m sure you, too, have experienced.

    You have me curious about your “secret” topic now and I hope you discover that it is worth it to share. I always find that whatever I say, somebody else relates to it and has thought it also. Glad you are one of my blogging sisters and I look forward to your belly-button post.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Ann,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging comment. Yes, it does feel good to have people from all over the world tell me how I’ve given them hope and/or touched them in some way. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? I treasure such comments and personal e-mails.

      Yes, I’m leaning more toward revealing the topic that I had been too afraid to write about. This is the year, I think, for the reveal. And the future belly button post has intrigued many people, to my surprise.

      I’m so happy to have you as a fellow blogger and so glad our paths crossed. I wish the best for you and your loved ones for 2015 and forward.

  6. Terri had this to say about that:

    Beth – Wonderful to finally have a chance to come back and read you. I always enjoy your posts and can relate to decided how much to share or not share. I’ve decided that 2015 is the year I get back to writing from the heart instead of writing for the foundation. But, I think it’s such a wonderful separation you speak of – to write is therapeutic not therapy. I, for one, can’t wait to read your new posts and I hope you decide to believe in this new writing…. When we share ourselves with a community, we help those in the community feel less alone. Terri xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Terri,

      I’m so glad you decided to write from the heart again. Your writing is beautiful, and I love your posts. I do know what it’s like to write for professional reasons, and that is very important writing, but writing from the heart is more rewarding, I think.

      I’m looking forward to reading your new posts, as well. So glad to have you in the blogosphere! The world needs your voice.

  7. Eileen@womaninthehat had this to say about that:

    I relate to all your parameters for blogging, especially being authentic, but not using the blog as a dumping ground but a source of meaningful content. This is how I blog and why I enjoy your posts as well.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Eileen,

      Thank you for your kind words. This is also the exact reason for why I so enjoy reading your posts. You keep it real, and your blog always has meaningful content.

      Here’s to a new year of blogging!

  8. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  9. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Thank you Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer for including my post in this week’s Round Up!

  10. Kathi had this to say about that:

    You’ve always been about keeping it real, Beth. The personal is universal. Thank you, always.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Kathi, for your kind words. You also have been about keeping it real. That’s the only way to go.

  11. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    Another terrific post. I struggle sometimes with my parameters, as I’m sure most of us do. I am an open book online to a point. There is so much more I would share about, but my family’s feelings do need to be considered. And dear hubby is a very private person. Actually, so am I. Sometimes I can’t believe what I have divulged online! Still, blogging in the breast cancer arena anyway, is about truth telling. Each of us has to share what and how much we are comfortable with. I look forward to all your posts, but I am pretty curious now about the two you mentioned. It’s funny, I also have one of those ‘risky’ posts brewing that I’ve been considering for a long time. I don’t know if I’ll go ahead with it or not, but others like you give me courage to do so if I should choose to. Thanks for this wonderful post.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Yes, it’s sometimes challenging to set our boundaries of what we will or what we won’t divulge. It’s a fine line sometimes.

      I also consider my family’s feelings when writing my posts.

      I am also a private person, ironically. But, like you, I have that need to write. And you are right that when blogging in the breast cancer community, one has to tell the truth. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?

      Now I’m curious about your “secret” post. Of course, it’s up to you whether you choose to write it.

      Thanks for your readership, Nancy, and for commenting.

  12. Cancer Curmudgeon had this to say about that:

    What a great post! I too struggle with what to share online and cannot believe the amount I have shared. I too have some skeletons, like anyone. But even harder for me is drawing the line between other aspects of my life that are so important and such a huge part of my life–my pet sitting business & clients–because their stories are not mine to tell. So I find myself keeping my topics limited.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Cancer Curmudgeon! I appreciate your kind words. I’m also amazed how much I’ve shared online, as well. I can understand, with your business, why you don’t share your clients’ stories; it makes sense.

      Thank you for your reading and comment on this post.

  13. Pingback: That Other “F” Word | Nancy's Point

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