on writing and how i probably don’t get to have my liver hacked to pieces now.

this is more a question i ask myself. i’m often not sure what my motivation is for writing.


and i spose this is how i look at the moment.

the blog is easy. i started it because of a twitter-thing called Blog in June as a way to track what was going on after they found the liver tumours.  i was feeling a lot of feelings. i was thinking a lot of thoughts. i needed somewhere to place them, and blogging is a habit for me that i formed as a teenager. it’s a safe and easy place to be, to write, to think, to express ideas.  it is, however, not something i’m used to having a lot of people read. as a rule, i’ve kept blogs that almost no one has looked at. there’s an element of screaming into the void, and a sort of honesty to them – as badly written as the last few were – that i know i’ll never touch on here. that’s also because i’m too old for that now. i’m not in the headspace for that sort of venting, or that way of thinking, or, certainly, for that way of writing.

i had an ex who claimed my writing was excellent when he read my blog. that it was the moment where he thought i was more substantial than just a sort of oddly attractive 24 year old. i re-read that blog, and i wonder what he saw. maybe potential? there’s not much in it i would qualify as good. the writing i did, and the emails i sent then, feel clunky and awkward when i re-read them now. i overused stupid nicknames – i’d call my male correspondents – who most of them were, either mister or sir. it strikes me as affected and uncomfortable. i’m not sure when i stopped doing it – which people started to get a different side of how i write.

the most substantial and wordy things i do write now are emails. i’m not as much of a regular correspondent as i would like to be – i tend to be erratic to a degree – responding within hours with long, long, long expositions that are more intimate than anything i would post here – and then not replying for a week or two.  but it is in those emails where i think the most interesting of my writing lies.  there are no boundaries, and these are a way of marking my interactions with people. i lie, actually – now i do have boundaries that i never used to have, but that is for a lot of long, complicated reasons to do with how i write and my history of building relationships and friendships online.  i know now that every thing i ever feel and every thought that ever enters my head doesn’t need to be shared. i also fear that it is too much, or that there is a lack of reciprocation – and this is for all friendships – i don’t speak of ‘relationships’ here, apart from in the sense that all of our friendships are relationships – people relating to each other.  HOWEVER, my complicated feelings on this are for another day.

but then i think about writing for publications, and what that means. it is a strange thing for me, because i never thought my writing would ever be of a quality to be published. i always thought i’d do journalism when i was in my early teens, because writing is what i did. the problem is, my spelling is terrible, and my expression and grammar is erratic, and i thought that would mean my writing was worthless. it’s the same thing that made me always question being an academic, which is another thing i wanted to do – because how would i mark an essay when i can’t even work out how to spell basic words without checking first.

the being published thing was unexpected and thrilling.  and i wonder what it means for why i write.  why do i write to be published rather than just publishing things on my blog? how has started writing things for publication changed how i blog, or why i blog, or most of all, what i blog? a lot of what i write for publications would have been blog posts, and i wonder if that is more honest. i don’t think so, because the process of being edited is something i find thrilling – to see the scattered ideas that are often badly placed and messily constructed be pulled tighter and neater and … Better. to see my attempts to express things made clearer – it’s a remarkable thing.

but the question then shifts to where i would like to be published and why i prefer it to blogging.  i’ve had opportunities to write for places that i’ve ended up deferring or not managing to get my shit together for – one instance of this was me dropping the ball on a publication i love, and the rest were websites that do excellent writing that is not quite how i do Words.  i feel like i have several levels of formality and they shift from context to context. i don’t blog like i write for publications – i throw these things out in about half an hour at the most because they are just brain dumps. i don’t edit, and i don’t re-read them for clarity, and i can’t imagine playing around with paragraph structure. i feel like the writing i do for publication is something different in that sense, and is a way of working with words in a broader way, a sharper way, a more formal way. if i know what formal means?  but with the websites, they are Bigger places, and a part of me fears being exposed to that many people. the internet can be a really ugly place, and i like the security i have here at the moment. there’s a safety to the obscurity i have, to the small space i inhabit, that i fear i would lose if i wrote for a major big broadly read website about raw and personal things.

and i also feel insecure about how i write. i feel like i know my limitations pretty well, and i know how i write pretty well.

there’s an element of ego in getting published that i think is interesting. seeing my words in print is intense. it reads differently. it looks different. i just finished reading Kawabata’s Beauty and Sadness, and the protagonist, Oki – he talks about the difference that happens when you see your writing printed. this, of course, is mixed with the fact Oki handwrote his novels, so. take from that what you will. there is also the immortality – the false notion of immortality, that a publication gives me. this is, of course, in the context of incurable cancer.   at least some part of me will remain.  but i don’t know why that is the case for it to remain in print rather than online in my blog, that people do actually read.  what does that even mean anyway.

i was walking home yesterday from the city, and i cried the whole walk home. i got good news – my cancer is still responding to treatment, my largest tumour is down to a bit under 7cm, and there’s no evidence of any new tumours floating around. my lungs are stable, my liver tumours are responding. but it looks like surgery is out.  and that means time lost. a big fat grotesque chunk of it, gone.   i don’t even know how much. and my surgeon couldn’t even promise me that the drastic liver resection would give me any more time. but the idea of that being lost? the reality that i can’t have it? it breaks me a little bit.  the alternative treatment – from what i’ve read – can be exceptionally effective. in some people, it actually removes all of the tumours. it depends how much they respond to radiation, i guess.

but i keep getting mental images, flashes, of what the future holds. the reality of the fact that the person i am, the THING that i am, will be rendered lifeless.  there will come a time in the next few years where my arms will not move and my eyes will not blink and i can’t smile or frown because whatever it is that ‘i’ am, won’t be alive.  my heart won’t beat, my brain won’t process information.  my lungs won’t breathe, and whatever ‘i’ am will be, in a physical sense, gone. beyond the physical, there’s the reality of the bits of me that live on – the fact people will remember me, the writing i’ve done, the marks i’ve left behind. that is a sort of existence, just one i don’t share in.  a hole in the ground exists, as much as the rock that was in it does.

and i imagine what that will look like, my body lifeless, and i feel sick.

i’m thinking now about donating my body to science. i’m on a knife edge about it, almost ready to call the solicitor to alter my will from cremation to donation.  i will, in that sense, also live on. i will teach people, and when some med student or researcher pulls my horrifying tumour riddled organs out of my body, they’ll maybe smile at my tattoos, or they might think of what or who i might have been before i became a tool to help them be better doctors, or to contribute to understanding what it is that killed me to stop it killing other people.  i don’t know if people do that with cadavers, or if they remain detached from the reality of them as human beings.

and i don’t know how that relates to writing.

i have to see my surgeon in two weeks time, and he is going to probably say i am inoperable. i can imagine the look on his face, and i can imagine walking out of the clinic in tears, i can imagine the looks on his receptionist’s faces because they know who i am, and what i am there for, and they always speak and look at me with deep professional compassion.

i guess this is the context in which i write. and what it means to write in this context. which i don’t always know.  do i feel like i live longer somehow if people see what i write or find it useful? isn’t there more substance in growing that with people i know?

and then, there is the issue of distance. the reality of having so many people who are close to me so far away, which is why i write. and it hurts.  it is really, really hard, and i hate it. which feeds into things i don’t really want to talk about here.


and here’s iceland. that was a thing i did.


About elizabeth

various things.
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One Response to on writing and how i probably don’t get to have my liver hacked to pieces now.

  1. katiedavis says:

    I get this, about writing in different places and why it matters. Last year I co-edited a book, published a handful of journal articles, and got interviewed for an article on a parenting website about the benefits of social media for new mums. I was most excited about the interview for the parenting site. I’ve got a hit list of journals I want to publish in that won’t help my career. But they’re journals I love to read and they publish people I admire and I’d like to be part of that. Maybe it’s intellectual snobbery (but then, I also love the whole parenting site thing…). But whatever. It matters, for some reason.

    Whatever you write and wherever you put it, I’ll be reading. (And I’ve been reading… This reminds me of your inCite article on online study, which fired me up enough to write a response! That must have been at least five years ago now.)

    Anyway, your writing is something special and I’m grateful I get to read it x

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