Writing as an Outsider

At this point of the project, there are several things that I am sure about: 1) that I am interested in exploring the complexities of end-of-life care and 2) that taking care of a loved one at end of their lives can be a sorrowful, confusing, and lonely process. I am going to write a guidebook for supporters of the dying. However, instead of bullet points of advice, the guide consists of the stories from others who have been in similar positions. From these stories, I hope that readers can get comfort in knowing that they are not alone. For some, the stories could provide some indirect guidance for making some tough decisions regarding their loved one.

The form of these stories would be creative non-fiction. I have written in this genre before in English 325 and 425. This past semester, I wrote an essay about my mother and how she unknowingly taught me how precious the memories of our loved ones are. Throughout the essay, I incorporate both my mom’s and my narratives to talk about various people in our family. The distinction between this essay and my capstone is that I will be writing down the stories of strangers. When I wrote the 425 essay, I consulted my mother numerous times to make sure that I got her story right. From having known her all my life, I also already had an idea of what tones to use when writing her stories.

I can’t say the same for the people I’ll be interviewing for the capstone. For now, I look to models to form my voice. For example, I am nearly done reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Dr. Gawande has a vibrant and respectful voice. There are still some models I would like to add to my reading list. If you do know a good example of a writer sharing someone else’s difficult story, feel free to tell me in the comments below.

As someone who has not taken care of someone at the end of their life, I am an outsider. With the help of the Minor in Writing community, I’ve reconciled with this position. Now, it is only a matter of figuring out how to write and form the guide. I hope that people can trust me to do their stories justice.

Katrina Soyangco

Katrina is a BCN and writing minor student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She hopes to someday become a physician, although not quite sure what kind yet. She’s not as cool as her older brother but strives to be.

2 thoughts to “Writing as an Outsider”

  1. Hey Katrina,
    I love your statement “I am going to write a guidebook for supporters of the dying. From these stories, I hope that readers can get comfort in knowing that they are not alone. A short, succinct two-sentence summary of my project, it’s intended audience, and it’s purpose is something that I should strive for. That directedness will help you going forward! Also, I think those essays you wrote about your family will be a valuable resource. I’m assuming many of your thoughts and emotions were spilled on the page during that time, and recapturing that for this project will be a great help. I wouldn’t try to fix those essays, or edit them in any way, but rather just try to learn from them and create something new — for your new audience. When writing, using models is great but ultimately models will not form what is YOUR voice. Your voice is unique, and I think you should write the way you feel, and not rely too much on the work of others (though as you said you don’t have first hand experience, and research is essential). That being said, I will look around and if I see any stories that I feel will help you I’ll recomment below! I think our projects have some overlapping elements so I’ll definitely let you know if I find something. Good luck Katrina!

  2. Hi Katrina!

    Sounds like tone will play a huge role in your final output. Although I can’t relate particularly closely with the relatively serious matters you are working with, such as death and ends of a loved ones life, I can totally relate to the stresses of feeling like you are pushing a narrative onto someone unintentionally. Maybe “umbrella statements” is a more traditional way to describe it. In America, today, it is especially relevant to be so careful with language. To get through that, my project has had to be insanely research heavy in order to be really specific with the data I’ve gathered. I’m curious to see how you might work through your own. Best of luck and I look forward to future check ins!


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