Tuesday, June 11, 2013

9 Days to the Starting Line, One Day to Get Home

As in life, so in writing…

A writing project can be seen as a series of decisions.  Consciously or otherwise, the decisions are made.  The decisions represent an author’s level of control over his or her work.  The decisions will be made whether or not the writer is aware of making them.  The idea is to control the writing.
I ended the previous post by self-depreciating my polyp story to that of something not many people would be interested in reading.  Sometimes I self-depreciate faster than the U.S. Dollar.

Upon review, and as a lesson on writing (because sometimes this blog is about writing), I decided to take my 10-day hospital say and turn it into a creative non-fiction piece entitled:  “Nine Days to the Starting Line, One Day to Get Home.”  Because I am not writing a mystery, here’s the punch line.  I have been diagnosed with colon cancer.  Those of you who are the praying kind, I’d appreciate some of those.
Getting back to the writing decisions, there are many.  Because I’m just starting, I need to keep the decisions high-level.
For example, how long is this article going to be?  I need to decide that, or the decision will make itself.  When decisions make themselves the writing isn’t always as good as it could be.  I have the luxury of going on and on, and on about this episode.  And how uncomfortable is it to listen to someone go on and on, and on, about their health problems?  So, another decision I’ve made is to include humor.  Since humor runs on brevity, the word-count will need to support of this.  I’m thinking somewhere around the seven thousand word mark (six hundred words for each day in the hospital, plus an introduction and a conclusion).

And why humor, one might ask.  People get pretty tight about cancer.  It’s easy to imagine someone becoming huffy.  But it’s my essay, so deal.  As a pastor, and as a human being, I have seen all types of reactions to health problems.  These reactions tend to hover on the negative end of the scales:  hysteria, depression, suicide, resignation, why-me, woe-is-me, and all that.  I may get there.  But for now, I’m going to laugh at my cancer.  Please don’t think I’m unaware of the seriousness of the situation.  The five year survival clock started ticking on the fifth of June.  I know that – mmm-k??  I could use a laugh or two right about now.
Another decision is that of how to organize the essay.  I like the title:  “Nine Days to the Starting Line, One Day to Get Home,” and tying the organization of the ideas to the title is always goodness.   So, I’m going to organize this around the days spent in the hospital.  This sounds neat enough, but the approach poses challenges.  From previous attempts, I know I will want to emphasize a number of ideas along the way.  These ideas don’t all fall into neat little ice-cube shaped day-events.  So, I’ll have to untangle the ideas carefully.  I’m thinking each idea can be brought out in a day or so.

Finally, for this post anyway, I have decided to outline because when I write non-fiction outlining helps more than it gets in the way.  It also helps when writing fiction but something about outlining a creative piece chaps my still-tender derriere.  This is a shortcoming I need to get over.  Nevertheless, outlining presumes (and it is a correct presumption) brainstorming.  There are plenty of ideas on the board to choose from.  There are plenty of other ideas I don’t yet have the courage to put on the paper.  But all that will come later.
So, here’s where I’m at so far:

Title:  Done.
Event / Topic:  Nine days leading up to a colon-cancer diagnosis and the day I wait to go home.

Length:  Approximately 7,000 words.
Organized:  by day

Will use humor / will outline

Big writing moral:  if something is hard to read it usually means the writer did not take pains to make it accessible to the reader.  Again, the decisions are critical.

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