Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Creative Writing Workshop Recap

The creative writing workshop, which I led at the John Theurer Cancer Center, went well. One of the "ground rules" for the group setting was that we keep the session confidential. This helps participants to feel safe and secure while sharing their work and emotions. So I won't be sharing my take on the session, but I was very pleased to find out that two of the participants gave the cancer center permission to post on its blog essays they wrote during the evening.

For the first experience, we taped print-outs of road signs on the walls and asked the group to free-write about their cancer journey as it relates to one or more of the signs. Two of the survivors' resulting work can be read at the links below:

Road Signs on My Journey Through Cancer


For the exercise, I chose to write about a falling rocks caution sign. My 10-minute free-write is below:

The mesh netting holds back the rock, jutting from the face of the cliffs, from falling onto the cars driving through the narrow passageway. In the dim light of the headlights, I can just make out the snow, capping the rock outcroppings of this mountain near Vail, Colorado. I'm afraid these boulders will fall, crushing our car. The sign warns it can happen, despite the metal latticework barriers. The mountainside will crumble, just as our car passes by it. Bad luck. That's all it will be. I should never have gotten leukemia. I should have given birth to a sweet girl named Lily Elizabeth on August 14, 2011. Her skin would have been soft, and pale. Thick dark hair, brushing my cheek as we snuggle. New baby smell. Instead, the chemical smell of the disinfectant soap in the bathroom of my solitary room at the hospital lingers in my nose. How can I trust that the rocks won't fall when they've already fallen once? If they hit our car, I will feel the crushing bone pain all over again, as bad as it had been after the Neupogen shots. Pain like my bones are breaking, like someone has shattered my knee caps. The probability of latent side effects from the treatments can't be that different from the chances of those rocks falling. But I cringe as we pass through the gap bored through the mountain, trying to make out the the mesh netting in the darkness. I'm so busy watching the rock walls that I'm not looking ahead, toward our family vacation. Nor am I listening to what my daughter is trying to tell me from her car seat in the back.

The last two lines of this free-write were a surprise revelation, and serve as a point I need to keep reminding myself of any time I get into one of my downward anxiety spirals. I went into the session viewing it as a way to help other survivors, and left the event surprised by how much I'd gotten out of it as well.

If you're going through a tough time in your life, trying searching on the web for road sign images, and spend ten minutes writing about one or more. You may also be surprised by the result.