Sunday, 13 April 2014

Words tempted by a page

The Blog Tour!

Words tempted by a page

Of space to be free

A story to be created

Bursting to reveal themselves

Words shaping and

Forming as the unfolding

Truth emerges

Surprising and unburdening.

Thanks to Marie  for this blogging baton handover. It's been an  interesting process, never having thought about how and why I write before. I have valued reflecting on authentic writing and what that means for me. Here are my thoughts and insights on what writing means to me. To check out earlier parts of the blog tour look at these by Marie, Philippa and Catherine. Hard acts to follow. This time the baton has arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland.

What am I working on?

When Marie handed over the baton I was thrilled to be described as a writer;I am honoured to be described as that and also I still  don't quite believe it. I've come late to writing although all my life wanted to write a book. I trusted it would happen at some point and staring my blog in response to events in my life enabled my joy of writing to re-emerge.

This year I decided to write a book. I wanted it to be in a similar style to my blog, pursuing understanding and wisdom through a personal and professional lens. It was that combination that brought me to blogging, both working in and experiencing breast cancer.
Cara in her favourite spot
Koshka's come to bed pose!

So I am writing my story, what I have learned from it and how love is central to it.( ps do click on the love link-its wonderful). Its my middle name you see.

I write too in my work, especially around leadership and person centredness. I also blog regularly  on everything from lived experience of breast cancer to politics in Scotland and anything else in between really-including the cat Koshka and dog Cara. Never short of an opinion!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My lived experience blog is similar to others but maybe with a professional slant too as that's how it started. Perhaps I have an unusual  range of topics I blog on and that means some of my blogs are very different. I notice my most popular ones are when I connect to my heart most, either through honesty about loss and transitions or if I'm passionate about change in a campaigning sense. So it's when I'm at my most authentic, I'm at my best. 

Why do I write what I do?

I come to this blogging challenge fresh from a weekend studying the work of Shulz on FIROB. Essentially we were exploring where we personally sit with Inclusion, Control and Openness. It intrigued me and made me think about how this insight relates to blogging and writing as well as more generally in my work as a coach and consultant.

There was a line Marie used in her blog about blogging connecting her to the wider community and also to herself.Its so very true.

Social media can have bad press, how real are the connections or friends as Facebook would have it? Is the connection of a blogging community a true connection or is it merely a self publicity for the attention seeking, selfie generation? Twitter can enable ghastly forces who use the distance of the medium to spew bile towards others who have done nothing to invite it, other than to be in the public eye. That distance de-personalises to a degree that leaves people scarily dis-inhibited and less mindful of their impact.

BUT I have also felt the power of its connection, felt the realness of the contact that can reach across continents, generations, cultures and help build relationship in such a expected ways. I have learned from people I will never meet in person, I have laughed with them, I have grieved for them. We travel a road together which creates a bond, which especially recognisable when its broken by advanced illness or death. 

In this way blogging also exposes taboos, brings issues in to the open that society shuns. Becomes a safe way to share things you don't even tell your best friend, in that strange and compelling combination of intimacy and distance.

When I started my blog I had just been diagnosed again with breast cancer while I was director of a breast cancer charity. My reasons for the blog initially were to enable a deeper understanding of the issues of breast cancer from a professional and individual perspective. And it was that but also became so much more. It allowed me to make sense of this tangled mess for myself too. It tracked my feelings as it evolved, it was a repository for my feelings too. But all the time I was aware it was a also a professional blog- my professional window to the outside world. How much was too much, my constant dilemma. I have a commitment to authenticity, so it is always real and honest but what about the darkest places do I really want to reveal them? Will I be judged, excluded, rejected even if I am "too" open?

Perhaps whats interesting is what I have hesitated to reveal. Sometimes it's issues that are private to others which I won't share and that's only right I think. But what I also notice is that I have been less willing to share when I have struggled with my emotional well-being. How much of that is me and how much does this reflect societies stigma? 
Last year at the very time I was setting up a new business and needing to be at my most robust, I think I was probably at my lowest. It's perhaps obvious through my writing that my spark was diminished but I wasn't entirely open about how I was feeling. I finally realised that I felt stuck,  got help, told friends and family and emerged stronger- in time.

In reality I had had too much change and loss and needed to recover from it. Having twice had cancer now I do believe
haunted by the black dog
depression is a natural part of the recovery and it impacts at different times for people. the time has come for us all to challenge the sanitised version of breast cancer that the pink ribbon has become and be honest about that. I feel an element of guilt that I wasn't open earlier but I also understand how difficult that was, especially as I also wanted people to see beyond that to the value I brought as a coach and consultant. I know I'm not lesser because of illness physical or emotional. In reality it has added richly to the work I do as a leader of organisations, in writing and campaigning work  as well as in my coaching and consultancy. Like many others,I'm a wounded healer in a way and its made me who I am. Work in progress. And writing has helped me recognise and accept that.

 How does my writing process work?

I like to write in the morning mostly, on trains is a creative place for me too, and any time when my head is full of things to write but free of other clutter. I find myself itching to write at times but not having an opportunity to do it. When I'm in the middle of a writing project I can lose myself to it and risk neglecting everything else so I need to discipline myself both to create space and to free space too. We go to a small village in Bulgaria a couple of times a year. It has an undisturbed view of the Rila mountains.   I love writing there, I set up the laptop under the canopy, breath deeply in the mountain air and write with joy. If I'm very lucky the shepherds dog comes to join me and snores loudly at my side.

So writing has become my friend through good times...and bad. I'm delighted to have discovered a friend like that.

I would now like to hand on the blogging baton to Jan Baird Hasak @jhasak who I met through blogging and of course through the Journey Through Breast Cancer blog.
She lives in California and I love the honesty and compassion in her writing. When we first met on line she was in remission from breast cancer and it grieves me deeply to say that now she isn't. She tells a truth about metastatic breast cancer that needs to be heard. I'm just so so sorry she needs to tell it.

And EllenArnison @ellen27 whose book on blogging I read early on, Blogging forHappiness, in which she advises on how to blog and how blogging helped her through depression. Like me Ellen lives in Scotland. 
Ellen's writing is warm, honest, funny and full of the joy of family life and much more. I know you will enjoy it as much as I do. We met for the first time just this week. It's such a pleasure when online friends connect in reality.

Thank you both.

Audrey Birt April 2014


  1. I love this Audrey. It was so wonderful to read more about what motivates and inspires your writing..and to read that you have a book in the works - how exciting. I also love your description of blogging as a "strange and compelling combination of intimacy and distance." Beautiful description and so true. Thanks for taking up the baton and running it so marvellously

    1. I really enjoyed writing it. Thanks for stimulating me to do it. I'm intrigued to see the next blogs...x

  2. Thank you so much for the baton. I will strive to do it justice.

    1. I know you will and its great to have wider links in this tour. Its a great idea.

  3. This is beautifully written, Audrey. This blog tour really has taken on new dimensions. Mine is now finished at and thanks for passing the baton to me.

    1. Thanks Jan, it's a beautiful post. What a moving journey this is. Audrey xxx


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