Writing Lessons from Cancer

In Remembrance of a Friend too Soon Gone

All of us here at BRMCWC are saddened by the recent passing of Bruce Brady. There are very few of you who have NOT been touched by him. His encouragement was without end. And his wisdom and insight were always delivered with love and compassion. Below is a post he wrote for The Write Conversation in 2016. In remembrance of him, we wanted to share it with you. 

Writing Lessons from Cancer

by Bruce Brady @BDBrady007

Cancer has its ups and downs.

Fortunately, my dependence on God has made the downs less deep and short in duration.

Wait! I’m glad God is keeping you out of the pits. But seriously? Cancer has ups?

I know it’s hard to believe, but…yes.

Recently I’ve expressed what I believe to be God’s cry for us to write without including profanity, graphic violence, and explicit sex. He’s made it clear to me that their use is a quick fix to avoid investing more time and thought into ways of expressing frustration, anger, and physical intimacy. There are better ways that allow our readers to engage their imaginations. And honor God with our writing.

This thought process arose from my daily conversations with the Lord—conversations that opened my eyes to the benefits of many life experiences we classify as negatives.

What does this have to do with cancer?

I’m glad you asked.

Seventeen months ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IV, aggressive, incurable cancer, and told it would kill me in two years or less. Big down.

There are times in our writing process when we get the wind knocked out of us. We work and rework our manuscripts until we’re sure they’re perfect only to have an agent, editor, or trusted critic tell us it’s not ready, or worse—hopeless. Also a big down.

While the cancer news was a huge bummer, it forced me to reassess my life. My purpose. I cried out to God and He focused my thoughts on the important rather than the urgent. I needed to ensure my wife and family weren’t left with unfinished business that should have been handled before my departure. My short life expectancy compelled me to look long and hard at the influence I have on others. For better or worse, we all influence others. And the Holy Spirit had long conversations with me about honoring the Lord.

This unpleasant process was sobering but needed. Many good things resulted. A big up.

Being rejected by respected critics can be just as painful as the news I received. And just as good. If we take those rejections as calls to action—and we should—good will come from them. Rejections aren’t personal. What we do doesn’t define us. So when those we trust say our writing isn’t what it should or could be, go to God. Yes, we’ll probably spend a little time in the well of despair, but the Lord will pull us out and give us the direction we need. In the end, things will be better. No matter how bad they seem.

Eight months after my initial diagnosis, my cancer had gone from extremely aggressive to nearly gone. I was on an emotional high—death wasn’t eminent. I would live at least another decade. And I kept my focus on the important, and have received innumerable blessings. More ups.

Having done the hard work of rewriting—again and again if necessary—we can present our revised masterpieces for acceptance. Sometimes we’ll succeed. Sometimes we’ll be advised to seek other ideas or avenues. Either way, the process will make us better writers. And we can turn the noes turn to yeses.

Nine months of riding my near complete remission high, Big C’s aggression returned with a vengeance. It dealt a crushing blow that plunged me into the deepest depression I’ve known. The enemy pointed out every ache and pain, assured me I’d be lucky to live a few more weeks—at best. He relentlessly encouraged me to give up writing. Reminding me it takes a couple of years to get published and I wouldn’t live long enough to see that happen. Visions of my family mourning over my remains filled my head.

My self-pity only lasted a few hours before God, as He always does, broke through and pulled me out of my pit, restoring my joy, despite my declining medical condition.

The enemy will reach out to all of us with reasons we should give up. Either directly or through others, he’ll try to convince us we’re not talented enough, or don’t have the necessary education. He’ll tell us we’re too old, too young, too sick, or too busy to write. He’ll present myriad reasons why we should just give up. These are the times when we need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and reach out to the Lord. And when we do, He will restore our hope.

Like cancer, our enemy respects all people. No matter our color or race. Regardless of our political or spiritual beliefs. He does not reserve his lies for some and shun others. He lurks in the darkness, looking for a chance to move into our lives.

When he visits you, turn to the Creator who will shine the light of truth in that darkness. Let Him express His love for you. Let Him bathe you in peace and joy. Let Him turn your downs into ups.

Bruce Brady is an author, writer and playwright. His work has appeared in Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, www.ChristianDevotions.us, and on stage. Currently, Bruce is working on a Young Adult Novel about a boy who must deal with the death of his dad, being bullied, and helping his mom through her grief. His first five pages took third place in the ACFW South Carolina Chapter’s “First Five Pages” contest.When he’s not writing, Bruce spends time learning from and helping other writers. He serves as Mentor of Word Weavers International’s Online Chapter, and as a member of Cross ‘N’ Pens, The Writer’s Plot, ACFW’s National and South Carolina Chapters.

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6 thoughts on “Writing Lessons from Cancer

  1. It’s just like Bruce to give Edie a blog post to share only after his death. I had to start reading this post five times to get through to the end. Each time I began, I heard his voice, telling me some of the same words he shared here. It was hard to concentrate when tears clouded my eyes.

    Bruce understood much more than the principles of writing. I think because of the time he spent reaching for his Savior, God blessed him with the understanding of the “purpose of Purpose”. I will forever be changed because of our conversations. He talked about many of his loves with me; his love for his wife, his love for the art of writing, but most of all, his love for God.

    My hope is that who read this post had the opportunity to meet this mild, yet powerful warrior in God’s army. May we all take Bruce’s words to heart. I know I have.

  2. Thanks for reposting this, Edie. I was touched by Bruce’s words the first time around and many times over this time. Such a humble and influential man. I only wish my feet had brought me to SC while his were still here. Lord, thank you for causing my life to intersect with Bruce’s as much as it did. He’s one of Your gems and I expect the face-to-face fellowship between you two is delightful.

  3. I needed to hear this again. Even now, Bruce as you glory in your new body your words still encourage. Say hello to Diann Hunt when you walk the streets of gold.