If you didn’t already know, Ted Talks rule. It’s easy to get lost in a viewing void that can take away hours from your day. But those hours can spawn welcome ideas and inspiration.
Before launching this blog, I spent a lot of time watching Ted Talks. I needed validation, inspiration, and encouragement. I found all these in one special talk called, “The Power of Personal Narrative” from Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, J. Christian Jensen. Here, Jensen shares his three building blocks for discovering your personal narrative.
1) Find your marks and own them. 2) Tell personal and family stories. 3) Find your mentors.
Jensen’s talk was pertinent before I created my blog. Now, after four months of sharing my personal life online, it inspires me even more.
Find Your Marks And Own Them
“Just like the tension in a movie propels us forward with the desire to see what will happen next. A desire to resolve the tension in our own lives will propel us to do really remarkable things.”
To find your marks, he suggests you’ll have to dig deep and think of the times you were moved to great emotions. To look at past traumas and tensions in your life as these are important clues. He says, “Tensions are important and powerful because as humans we’re hardwired to resolve them."
Well, I don’t have to dig too deep to find my mark. Living with cancer is a huge one. It’s a permanent stain. My life is shadowed by it. Cancer is my relentless muse.
Blogging has become a perfect outlet to provide insight into my world. It also releases those darker emotions that I’m constantly clouded with. It provides a sense of purpose to my days and gives me something to strive to complete each week. I want to be a better writer and so I need to work at that, by doing it more often. It’s a discipline. Move over PR career, because writing, exercising, and napping are my new jobs.
I always knew I wanted to write about more than my side-effects or treatments. I also want to tackle bigger issues or darker topics related to living with a disease. I've barely scratched this surface yet. I’ve got mad motivation though and I channel everything about Frances McDormand's powerful Oscar win speech - “If I fall over pick me up - because I’ve got some things to say."
Tell Personal And Family Stories
“The stories we tell about ourselves and our families will keep us centered. And they’re going to help us mitigate the stresses of our lives…”
In the last ten months, I’ve gone from sharing with only close friends and family to opening up on Facebook and my business website, and finally, fully exposed on this blog. I’ve shared personal stories - my side-effects, fears, hopes, and small wins. I try to do so with humour, which definitely makes it easier to talk about the heavier stuff.
Most important, blogging does mitigate the ongoing stress I experience.
Find Your Mentors
“You are the hero of your personal narrative. And like any good hero you’ve been helped along your way, along this hero’s journey by mentors.”
I think about the memoirs I’ve read from people who when diagnosed with cancer were driven to create, write, and share their personal, harrowing narratives - When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi; In-Between Days by Teva Harrison; and The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs.
There’s also Comedians whose specials have light me up inside. In Tig Notaro’s Boyish Girl Interrupted she actually takes off her shirt to show her mastectomy scars and then continues on with her bit. Quincy Jones’ Burning The Light is also hilarious.
Two bloggers who inspired me are Anna Craig and Beth Caldwell. Both of these women have recently passed away, but they leave behind amazing legacies and avocation work for the Stage 4 Breast Cancer communities.
These are a few of my mentors. People who have shared their stories and have provided insight, grace, humour, clarity, and courage to share my own.
Jensen ends his talk by asking the audience, “How are you going to use the power of personal narrative to accomplish things that no one else can?”
I reply with: I wish my personal narrative didn’t involve having cancer. But it does. So, thanks for the reminder that I need to own it. I’ll continue to do my best to write about and share my experiences. And to be conscious of the legacy I’ll be leaving behind. Thanks, man.