Running on Stories: A Different Kind of Marathon

May 31, 2016

The Challenge of Blogging While Sick

Recognizing the Effort of Storytelling & Working With It


By Emma Rooney @blumencasey


Throughout my blogging history, I’ve started a lot of different blogs. I’ve written travel blogs, study blogs, project blogs, and even a personal blog to keep my family updated while living abroad. I’ve also helped a number of friends start their first blogs, and, as a youth worker, I’ve managed to get young people, who claim to hate writing, to contribute their stories to blogs. Despite being a longtime blogging promoter, I’ve never considered myself a blogger. My idea of what makes a blogger is someone who has a decent following and who’s dependable with their posts, sharing at regular intervals. It’s this dependability that helps attract and retain an audience. And I meet neither of these standards. Sure, over time I manage to put some words out there but never with any consistency. I have always found writing to be hard work, and blogging while sick an even bigger obstacle. As crazy as it sounds, when I’m down, I find it easier to locate the strength to go for a run than to churn out a post.

Writing in bed is far from the TV glamour of breakfast in bed. It’s more like running a marathon without moving a single muscle. I don’t feel peaceful when I’m sick, and typically my words don’t flow just because there isn’t anything better I can do. I have great admiration for bloggers with chronic health conditions who persist with posting even when their energy for day-to-day living is stretched thin. The ability to share our experiences through writing shouldn’t be seen as a given, an exercise anyone can do with nothing more than a little willpower. Recently this reality hit home for me when one of my writing mentors, Elaine Benton, a friend who shares the same rare disease, recently ended her five-year blogging journey. Elaine’s blog chronicles her daily life with the rare disease Gaucher and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s at 44. Despite being a writer and poet since childhood, Elaine needed to prioritize her increasingly limited energy, which meant making the difficult decision to cease her weekly posts.

I first connected with Elaine through a Google search while looking for articles during October’s Gaucher Awareness Month. Elaine’s 2013 Huffington Post article attracted my attention with her description of an inheritance I could well relate to: “I was born with Gaucher disease, a genetic disorder unknowingly passed on from my parents; a birthright I could have well done without.” It was her personal blog, however, that I kept returning to for updates. Elaine was so consistent that on occasion when she missed a scheduled post, I knew immediately that things must be extra challenging, a reminder that robots don’t write our intimate health stories while we lie in bed. Elaine’s posts made me feel like a part of the family and kept me updated in between our regular email correspondence. I’m sure that keeping up with messages from dedicated readers around the world was another challenging commitment, especially when typing grew next to impossible, but Elaine always found the words to return the support of followers.

Knowing Elaine’s dedication to storytelling makes me realize how important it is to recognize the incredible effort that goes into sharing stories. With this in mind, here are five things I’m trying out, to encourage my own blogging and promote my well-being while doing it:

  • Acknowledging that for some it’s hard work to write and not a leisurely activity. Rather than letting this scare me, I’m facing the challenge by scheduling regular writing workouts in my calendar, not just noting deadlines.
  • Joining the network of Chronic Illness Bloggers, to learn from others’ health experiences and gain tips for making the most of my blogging commitment.
  • No longer pretending that blogging is something I can knock off in my sleep and being embarrassed about all the unpaid hours I dedicate to writing. Instead, when people ask me what I’ve been up to, I’m going to tell them I’ve been spending my time blogging and be proud of it.
  • When those around me show interest in my storytelling, I’m going to try talking through some of my story ideas and ask for input when I feel stuck. I have lots of friends that would like to be more supportive, but I don’t always give them a way to help. I don’t always need chicken soup, but I can always use a sounding board.
  • Last but not least, taking the time to thank the bloggers I read and making a habit of leaving quick comments. Not only does this encourage fellow bloggers, but this simple act is an easy energizer that helps me feel connected to something bigger than my own writing and health.

What tips can you share for overcoming your barriers to blogging with chronic health? Join the discussion on Twitter with the #RunningOnStories hashtag.

About the Author: Read more on Emma here.

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