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Developing a Voice for Your Illness

A unique style and voice for your writings makes them more effective.

In 2012, I wrote a blog post titled, “Stories of illness and the capacity to empower, inspire and heal”. In it, I discussed the three main types of illness stories: the restitution narrative, which focuses on the return to health; the chaos narrative, which can’t imagine the return to health; and the quest narrative, whose narrator seeks to help others by sharing of his or her own experience.

In this article, I want to discuss ways to develop a style and voice you can use for your own writings.

Developing a “Voice” for Your Illness

In his book Intoxicated By My Illness, author Anatole Broyard writes: “I would advise every sick person to evolve a style or develop a voice for his or her illness. In my own case I make fun of my illness. I disparage it. This wasn’t a deliberate decision; the response simply came to me. Adopting a style for your illness is another way of meeting it on your own grounds, of making it a mere character in your narrative.”

Responding with a Style All Your Own

When my own sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in her early 20s, she danced. She had always danced, but then she danced to prove that her body was still hers, that she could still command it to dive and dip and twirl. She danced to prove to her body that it was still capable and beautiful.

Throughout chemotherapy and radiation, this was the style with which she greeted her illness. This was the way in which she made cancer a character in her narrative.

Have you given any thought to taking a unique approach to respond to your situation? Painting, singing, mastering your favorite computer game? Or adopting a style and voice all your own for your journal, blog, or other messaging?


In what ways have you or loved ones developed a style or a voice for illness or other health condition in order to meet it “on your own grounds”? We’d love to read your thoughts and comments – please share them here.


About the Author:

Darci Schummer, a Wisconsin girl, now lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Loft Literary Center offers writing classes to the public in Minneapolis.

Comments

  1. John Gregg •

    I’ve been journaling daily since early November ’12. I never considered a style. My primary goal was to process my thoughts and reflections, and secondarily to keep folks informed about my journey. This seems to fall within the “quest” narrative. For me, it has been an intellectual and emotional exploration of living with terminal cancer – a journey that requires me to change how I go through each day with much less energy, and to emotionally live each day with the ever present awareness that, for me and all of us, this life ends at some point. I don’t dance, but this journey is a fascinating exploration of who I really am, and how well I’m doing at loving myself and everyone I encounter.

  2. Dorothy •

    Throughout my cancer treatment when family and friends would ask me how I was, I would say I was feeling strong. And I did feel that my health would return even when I was feeling effects from my chemotherapy and radiation. I guess you could say that my faith carried me through it. Life “quest” narrative. I have a lot I would like to do.