The Washington Post carried a significant article on me on Easter Sunday and its web homepage. Since then this blog has received well over 50,000 page views (compared with a daily average of 80 before that.) I'm overwhelmed. The blog is still getting over 2,000 page views a day and 420 people have signed up to receive each post in their email. For now, the blog is "successful." As I result, I notice myself worrying about how to keep the “readership.”
But trying to make the blog “successful” carries an unacceptable risk.
As I wrote last month, "The concern that I have is that all the editing [I do] will result in my censoring in order to prioritize 'interesting' and 'well-written' material over the raw experience from inside the world of Alzheimer’s." In the face of 50,000 page views, I can feel that temptation very strongly to write more carefully to make it "worth it" to those of you who read it. I’m a writer, and this temptation is powerful.
I’ll do my best to resist. I thought briefly I could partially solve the problem by just typing spontaneously in my journal and then, when I write the post, go back and show you what I've changed. (As you can see from the following paragraph in which I’ve tried, that doesn’t work. It’s not only unreadable, of course; but doesn’t show much of anything about Alzheimer’s: Strikethroughs are deletions and I've capitalized typos within the strikethroughs.)
I will do my best to resist that temptation
that temptation at least in my hjournal from which this post my
these posts are written. Already
this morning I've noticed this morning Even now I'm carful as I
compose this journal myself going back and correcting as I type. THIS IS A PARA The problem is that I've
always ediGted my work. and as you can
see from this paragraph in which i've stricknI'm TYP Part of this is just
correcting typos and grammar (before this disease, I was a good typist) but
part of it is W making sure it sounds right to you. Aand i'm ging going to continue correcting
the typos a and the problem is that my paragraphs The One solution would be to show you
each time I correct a tptypo, fix, edit the grammar, or go back
and write things nbetter. As you
can see from this para pgraph in which I' cve tried to do that, the
post would be utterly unreadable.
I've always edited my work as I go. I’ve always corrected typos and grammar, editing for content and style as well as developing my thoughts as I write. Again, this is what all writers do.
It turns out that as I was in the middle of writing this post, David L Smith left a very thoughtful comment on my “State of Consciousness" post. He points out that the purpose of this blog is to show what this disease is like from inside my own mind, but any editing I might do creates
"a coherence of thought and elegance of prose of someone who doesn't have [Alzheimer’s], and that will mislead your readers into thinking the disease is more benign than it really is."
It's an important issue, but the consequences for me at this point in the disease are pretty benign. I have Alzheimer’s and I still have a “coherence of thought and eloquence of prose” (such as it is). I’m not giving that up; it will be taken from me soon enough.
My task in this blog is to show how Alzheimer’s appears from inside my head. The shame and embarrassment that keep Alzheimer’s in the closet do great harm. Since the image too many people have of Alzheimer’s is a person wandering around, getting lost and speaking nonsense or lying mute in a nursing home bed, it's important to show that in the early stages of the disease, symptoms are quite mild and there are often years of incremental, almost unnoticeable decline in functioning that the public rarely recognizes because the diagnosis is so rarely public. (See the previous post “What Happened to My Fears?”)
If I were consciously to dumb myself down (which I won’t), it wouldn’t really show you anything except a good writer dumbing himself down.
The much more difficult question is the unconscious censoring that is inevitable. To retain your trust, I will do my best to show you who I am through my uncensored writing, warts and all? I will be as rigorously careful as I can not to aim for success.
Ultimately, as I said in that earlier post, the issue is integrity.