Friday, March 29, 2019

Chemotherapy: Work-Life Balance (Rambling)

The first seven-to-nine days after a chemo dose I'm exhausted.  Brain fog swirls around each thought, and I nap daily.  Side effects cram themselves between gaps of consciousness.  I get nothing done.

 I struggle with my lack of progress, especially when my brain starts to clear but I'm still not able to work.  Everything I want done bombards my thoughts.  I tell myself I should get busy. Naps, so necessary, are taken as a sign I'm lazy.  I begin to hate myself for my lack of ambition.
There is a two-week span between my chemotherapy treatments.  During a rough dose, I might only have four truly "good" days to get things done before I receive another.  I must choose carefully or I lose even more time to indecision.

Three blogs, two Twitter accounts, one mentor program, four email accounts, submission deadlines, editing, social obligations, doctor appointments...

My husband and I don't have children.  I don't work outside the home.  I can't imagine what chemotherapy is like for other people.
The American Cancer Society runs commercials with smiling chemotherapy patients who do yoga, manage a full-time job, and go dancing.  They are nothing like me.  These portrayals make me feel like I'm not trying hard enough.  Why is it easier for them?

Maybe, like most advertisements, it's all an act.
I'm a huge believer in lists and prioritization.  Foolishly, I thought all my tasks could be managed with an up-to-date list in color-coded glory.  The list is barely a guideline.  A blog post that should take an hour will now take three.  An afternoon of submitting to literary magazines bleeds into a muddled week.

Near the end of every recovery period, I quickly sketch what I need to do for the next set of "good" days.  Only the barest of plans are laid.  Any promises I made go to the top.  My career takes a hit because the only one I will disappoint is myself.

I struggle and flail.  I tell myself any progress is victory.  I nap.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mentor Applications Close April 7th

Update:  Mentor applications will be accepted until April 7th.  Hopefully, this will help our potential mentors.

We have one returning mentor for poetry.  And... that's it.  Applications for mentors close in ten days!  (Click here for the application link.)  No one else has emailed us.  I'm hoping for a rush of excellent writers directly at the finish line.  But, I know I can't always turn dreams into reality.

I haven't promoted the program as hard this year... maybe.  Chemo is demanding and difficult.  Perhaps everyone thought it was more exciting last year because it was our inaugural year.

We want to make this an annual event!  To our knowledge, we're the only mentor program for disabled/neurodivergent writers.  We're the only program that keeps it directly in our community.  Always.

If we don't receive more applications, the program will go into hiatus this year.  We don't want that to happen.

Please, if you're an established disabled/neurodivergent writer who thinks they'd make a great mentor, consider applying.  It's a volunteer position but an important one.  You will help foster another writer's career or project for two months.  For a community that's often isolated from mainstream opportunity, this could make a huge difference to someone.  You could make the difference.

(For all the links about our program, click here.)

If you have questions or need the application in another format:  Comment on this post.  Or email us at:
We are also on Twitter:  @HandUnPen

Friday, March 1, 2019

Suffering Artists (Two Branches)

You do not have to suffer for your art.  You shouldn't be expected to bleed trauma onto the page or stage for the masses.  You have a right to find joy, peace, connection, or any number of facets in creation.

The mythology of the "suffering artist" is often used to make downtrodden, creative folks stay on a path of isolation and pain.  It's supposed to hurt, society tells us.  We're supposed to endure.  But, agony shouldn't be a constant state of being.

Following any passion requires sacrifice... true.  There will be arduous parts of your career.  Ultimately, art should nourish you more than wound.
Notions of suffering propelling art are so romanticized in certain circles that some artists bemoan not being targets of bigotry or oppression.  They crave the flavor it would add to their work.  A truly privileged position, to think of trauma as an accessory!

Instead of counting themselves lucky, they practically demand front-row access to torment they have no right to.  They soak it up vicariously and try to regurgitate it for their own audiences—losing nuance and depth for faux-gravitas.

An important fact the rhetoric ignores:  Art can heal.  It defines the knots of past wounds.  It can show others the shape of someone else's pain and help them understand.  Pain is not a currency.