Friday, August 9, 2013

Writing makes the World Go Round

Hello proser peoples! I’m Karen T. Smith, a newbie to the proser team, but a non-newbie to this great group of women and to the writing world in general. I’ve been friendly with most of the proser set for years, having first “met” online on, Orson Scott Card’s site for writers. Today is my first official post as a proser (I’ve guest posted once before.) I’m happy to join such a great group of writers, and friends.

I am a writer. I, apparently, come from a long line of writers. I have only recently discovered this fact. You see, my father is dying of cancer. I don’t say that to force your sympathy. Instead, I want the facts present in the story from the beginning so the other parts I tell will have adequate emotional weight. Even when writing a blog post, my writer brain is telling me which parts are important when.

My father has been sick for several months. It is awful, as awful as you can imagine. I am one of five children. I am not the one who “always knew she wanted to be a writer.” Frankly, if there is such a person in our family it’s my mother, whose gifts with words are a bit astonishing. And seriously, if ever you’re in need of a parody song for a special event or just for fun – my mom can rewrite the lyrics to just about anything. My whole journey to writing surprised even me and began 6 years ago when a book took me by the throat and wouldn't let me go until I decided I had to find out how to work such magic. I've been writing for years now, but it's still a new feeling to me, writing. The joy of creating words and putting them together into stories.

When my father was first diagnosed in Feb of 2013, one of my sisters helped my mom start a blog. It helped my mom communicate the same information to many people all at once, like this early example. And, a surprising benefit, it gave her an outlet for some of the, shall we say “Cancer Crazies?” The really annoying crap you have to deal with when deeply involved in any kind of health care crisis. The strange things that happen. The frustrations. The good days. It gave her a place to talk about all of it. And as one of four children (three surviving) herself, it gave her siblings a place to check in with her, as well as their children (my cousins. Loads of us…) and even my siblings and I, too. We could all take the written temperature of things by checking the blog several times a week.

As my father’s illness has worsened, my siblings and I have taken over guest posting on Mom’s blog as her available time has decreased and she’s choosing to spend it with Dad instead of writing.

And I’ve discovered the most amazing thing. We are ALL writers. Every last one of us. Five kids, five very very different paths through the US (and some abroad) educational system. Some of us have college degrees. Some of us have multiple degrees. Some, not so much. College isn’t for everyone, after all. But all of us, to a one, are truly excellent writers.

Could this be because we’re writing about a subject as dear to us as our own father? Sure, that's part of it. However, after thinking about this quite a lot, I have come to a slightly more evolved point of view.

How often as a writer do you find yourself questioning your word choice? Wondering if you conveyed an idea correctly? Dithering over whether this or that way would be better for expressing this or that idea?

I suggest to you that every person does this all the time, because with email (and it’s red-headed stepchildren, texting and facebook statuses and twitter and the ilk) we humans find ourselves communicating in writing much more than ever before. And it’s hard.

It used to be that writers were a rare breed. Kind of like an emu. An animal maybe you’ve heard of. Possibly you’ve seen it in a zoo once or twice. But regular everyday familiarity with emus was something only zookeepers and wildlife photographers had.

But now? We are all writers. Every one. And it can be hard, painfully hard to write about the realities of life. These painful realities my family is living right now. It is so very very hard. See? I had to resort to the old writerly trick of repeating the same word to make my point, it’s that hard.

But while it is so very hard, there is beauty in the writing. In the process of writing. And in the words themselves. Even for people who don’t self-identify as writers (none of my siblings do. I stand alone in my new profession.) There is self-realization here. There is understanding. There is connection. There is truth.

Here in words on the page (be it virtual or tactile, it doesn’t matter,) is where truth lives. And as my siblings have written, and we have shared with each other these tender moments, these true stories, these meaningful bits, we are together, even while living in Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago, and Orlando (it’s almost like we were TRYING to get as far away from one another in adulthood as possible, one might think.)

And as we each have opened up a window to our souls by writing, something really amazing is happening. People all over, people who know my parents but maybe don’t know us kids very well at all., people are listening. People are reading. People are responding. People are CONNECTING.

Writing. This simple act of typing words on a screen is solidifying bonds across miles and years as my parent’s friends both past and present are finding ways to connect with our family. We are reaching people.

And all we’re doing is writing.

My family, circa 1980. I'm the one in the front in her first communion dress. Dad's mustache needs a caption of its own.


  1. Welcome to the Prosers, Karen! I'm so excited to have you here, and I love this post! I started writing right around the same time my mom first got diagnosed with leukemia, and sometimes it saved my sanity. I've been following your father's journey a little bit on facebook, and I have been struck by how amazing your family is. Writing truly is what brings us together. What an awesome first post.

  2. I know you aren't looking for sympathy, but my heart does go out to you and your family. I know these are very hard times.

    I love this post. I never thought about how the internet has actually made us all writers. We communicate so much now through the internet, but I never thought about all the writing that entails. Sometimes I think the internet can be divisive, but it is the most powerful when it connects us, and I'm glad that you and your family have found such a great way to connect with others during this painful time.

    Excellent first post, and welcome aboard. :)

  3. Welcome Karen!
    I, too, am sorry for what you're going through. You are so blessed to have so much strength of family behind you. And yes, you really struck a chord with this post. I think of family letters from long ago when they would hear news months after the fact. Today there is this ability to reach out and connect with each other in ways that we never have before.
    Wonderful first post.

  4. Karen, I'm so glad to have you aboard. Love to you and your extended family.


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