Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Writing Out The Storm"

I bought the book, “Writing Out the Storm” by Barbara Abercrombie several months ago, but with the craziness of school and everything else, I only just finished it.

While the personal story of Abercrombie that is weaved throughout the book focuses on breast cancer, I would recommend this book to a general audience, specifically those dealing with chronic illness.

The book chronicles a writing group that Abercrombie created, but what I love about it is that she provides writing exercises about how to deal with, talk about, and cope with illness.

She suggests “writing as therapy” (xii), as “a tool for finding voice in a situation that leaves you feeling as if you have no control, no voice” (xii). She also suggests writing, in some ways, as an escape from the goings on of the present moment: “If I keep writing, I won’t have to think about why I’m here” (1).

For instance, one of the many writing exercises she suggests is, “Write about people’s reactions when you tell them the truth. Write about the consequences of reaching out – or not reaching out” (24). Disclosure. We can all relate to this.

I love the way Abercrombie conceptualizes of illness and the way in which she writes about her own ordeal. She says, “The hardest thing is to leave yourself, the innocent, healthy you that never before had to face her own mortality, at the border. That old relationship with your body, careless but friendly, taken for granted, suddenly ends. Your body becomes enemy territory” (39).

Of why it’s important to write your illness story, Abercrombie suggests having “Faith that there is meaning in each breath you take and in each small detail of your life and that this is worth writing about. Faith that others will find comfort and connection in your story” (145).

I realized through reading this book that blogging is truly a useful exercise for those of us who are chronically ill because it serves a dual purpose. It’s not just the people we meet along the way who offer comfort and support, but it is also our own abilities to tell our stories and put into words our deepest thoughts and feelings and being willing to share those with others – although writing and not sharing is fine, too!

This book has certainly helped me conceptualize of my illnesses in new and different ways, sometimes abstractly, sometimes concretely. And I have tried to find other books like this one, but I haven’t been able to. I’m also trying to sort through my own writing that has come from the suggestions in this book. Maybe I’ll post something when I get my thoughts together.
(Abercrombie, Barbara. Writing Out The Storm. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002.)

1 comment:

  1. Leslie,

    Thanks for letting us know about this book. I am part of a writing group, and I write outside of my blog, but this book sounds like a worthwhile investment because it deals with illness so specifically. Since it is such a big part of my life, it clearly affects not only WHAT I write,but shy as well. I am going to see if I can get my library to get a copy for me to check out. I usually do that first, then if I love something, I buy it when I can afford it.

    I appreciate knowing some of the exercises she offers and that she has them. I find that sort of thing helpful to me in my own writing.

    I am glad you were able to finish this with your school work load and I truly appreciate you sharing it on the blog so others can benefit from it.