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My Writing Comes into Focus

Thursday, September 08, 2011

By Alissa Butterfass

This is my seventh posting for the ACHA blog. For the first time outside a class setting, I have committed to and actually followed through on writing regularly. As it says right in my bio below, I’m a wannabe author. The only problem was that I wasn’t writing. Sure, I was great with a rehearsal dinner toast or a 40th birthday roast. I had taken a few fiction and memoir writing classes, loving the short in-class assignments but struggling with larger homework pieces. And, I never really sat down and wrote just to write. I hadn’t even kept a journal since studying abroad my junior year of college.

I was starting to think that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer. Maybe being an avid reader and a lover of the written word just wasn’t enough to actually make me a writer. Maybe it wasn’t going to happen.

Certainly of all the things I had imagined writing about, I never imagined that my writing would focus so directly on my heart condition. Yes, in any memoir it would certainly make an appearance, a recurring guest star perhaps, but I didn’t see it as the starring role.

Yes, I did use my heart condition as a starting point for my college and business school personal essays. But I think that was more of just a “hook” to make those admissions officers think that the meager accomplishments listed on my applications were much more impressive than they were in actuality.

Instead, I imagined writing the next great American novel. Or a page-turner of a romance. Or an inspirational memoir about going through surrogacy. Or even just a personal blog about the ups and downs of being a working mom. But CHD? Um, no.

So, I am both surprised and delighted at how writing for the ACHA Blog not only has provided me with a platform and audience for writing, but also how it has provided me with a new lens through which to look at life. I am definitely thinking about my own heart condition more than I did before. And I am thinking about it in new ways – how does it impact my relationship with my husband, my kids, my parents, my friends, my work?

I post roughly every two weeks and during that time I think, what has happened to me this week that in obvious or subtle ways is connected to my heart condition? Rather than finding this subject restrictive, everyday things happen that make me think, “This could make a great post.”

Instead of wondering what to write about, I find myself considering whether a particular idea will still be relevant and timely if it is not posted for a few weeks. This blog has given me a focus in writing – not one I expected, but one that I lacked in prior attempts to “be a writer.” And, as much as I’d never want to only be “the woman with the heart defect,” as a writer I am grateful for this newfound point of view and motivation (yes, deadlines do work!).

So thank you to ACHA for allowing me the pleasure and privilege of contributing to your blog – and for giving me that swift kick in the pants I needed to get writing regularly.

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One of the things I most enjoy about various blogs is when posts lead to great online conversations. Often the comments and feedback are as interesting and thought-provoking as the original posts. In July, I ended my “What’s Your Excuse?” post with a question that sparked discussion, so going forward I’ll try to end with my posts with a question in the hopes of hearing from all of you. In that spirit, I ask you all:

For those with a heart condition: Do you feel that is the lens through which you look at life? Why or why not?

For friends and family: When you look at those in your life with CHD, how does that influence they way you see them?


Add yours below.


The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.