I published my first Cancer is Not a Gift post on February 2, 2013. I had been keeping an informal blog, which my friends and family could check in with to see the progress of my treatment.
Truth is, I wrote those posts as much for myself as I did for anyone else. Writing about cancer helped me in a hundred ways. I was able to better understand my disease, treatment and prognosis by putting what I knew into words. In addition, I spent most of my waking moments for six or seven months after diagnosis reading research about bladder cancer, and it helped to have a place to write up what I learned.
After much prodding from my husband, I pitched my blog to ChicagoNow. My informal blogging for friends and family became something different. To be sure, my readers are largely still family and friends, but I am not the same writer I was in February 2013.
ChicagoNow is an umbrella that gathers together several hundred blogs. We have been lucky enough to have a Community Manager, Jimmy Greenfield, who has created a ChicagoNow community out of a disparate group of bloggers of all races, creeds, genders, and ages.
Our blogs cover everything from organization tips to sports to cooking to music reviews and politics. We are not a group who would have organically formed a community. Still, we are a community. And, it’s because of Jimmy.
Behind the scenes, we have office hours several times a year where we can meet with Jimmy in a variety of different coffee shops in the burbs and in the city. He also organizes a Facebook group that somehow never goes off the rails. We post questions, link to articles, discuss issues, and get to know each other. He also organizes parties a few times a year and hosts a blogapalooz-hour once a month.
Jimmy Greenfield is leaving us in a few weeks to become digital sports editor for the Chicago Tribune. I told him in our Facebook group that I’ll congratulate him once my heart stops hurting, but that’s not happening any time soon.
People say that no one is indispensable, but I think we all know that isn’t true. Sure, some people are dispensable, but a few people fill up a space in such a fundamental way that the space will always ache in their absence.
ChicagoNow is a space that will always ache in Jimmy’s absence.
Don’t think I’m sentimental, just know that Jimmy is special. He is a teacher and a mentor. I have learned more about writing and about teaching writing from him than I have from anyone else in my life. And my life has been devoted to writing and teaching writing.
Sometimes people don’t know or understand the impact they have on people’s lives, so I want Jimmy to know that he has helped me get back on my feet after the rug was pulled out from underneath me with a cancer diagnosis.
Jimmy has, quite literally, helped me find an audience. Through his leadership I have learned about the process of building a readership, nurturing a Facebook page, and writing honestly. Clearly, I have not always been the best student, but my headlines are better (I hope) than when I started, my posts are shorter, and I have a clearer sense of what I’m about.
Finding an audience has meant finding a voice. Being read is one of the greatest privileges of my life as a writer. And knowing that my words are being read has given me a courage to speak that I didn’t have before ChicagoNow.
Writers always have new things to learn, and I’m looking forward to learning from our new Community Manager. But, Jimmy, if this blog has been worthwhile or achieved anything good, it’s because you have taken the time to help me believe in myself. You have made me a different writer, a better writer, and I am grateful to have known you.
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