Today, I have a guest post from Haidee Merrit, author and illustrator of One Lump or Two?, a cartoon book about having diabetes. Haidee and I became virtually acquainted a few months ago, and I’m delighted to count her as one of my DOC friends. I love that she’s found a creative way to express her experience with diabetes, and she’s put it in a book to share with everyone. Both the diabetic in me and the fellow creative spirit in me want to support her efforts, so here’s Haidee!
In my naiveté, I really thought the hard work was done. I’m the artist and the patient: someone who leaves the marketing to the pros. I haven’t written in years and I really didn’t anticipate picking up the old pen (i.e. keyboard) and doing the dirty work.
I mean, didn’t I create this comic book to communicate without words? I’m tired of hearing myself talk about my health and I’m no fan of listening to others talk about theirs. In fact, I have moments of complete clarity while I make eye contact and nod to longwinded, animated and punctuated stories of other diabetics. I think, I must sound just like this. Admittedly, I am much more interested and entertained by my own stories than anyone else. I have a slight phobia of developing Munchausen’s or hypochondria, it’s true.
I started at what I thought was the top, the American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Association, Boston’s Joslin, and all their many publications. People liked it, said they laughed, wanted one for their diabetic friend, but it was nothing that could be endorsed or sold by the professional medical community. And that’s when it became clear to me: I was trying to sell the book to the wrong audience. I was spinning my wheels marketing to the people who I thought could pass it on to the people who would most appreciate it. I was adding one additional step that was doing nothing more than crushing my ego and enthusiasm. It was so empowering to turn the table around and judge them. Do I even want their approval or their endorsements? To me, a very attractive thing about the book is that it’s deviant and secretive. Do I really want to cut and shape it to fit into the box? Answering ‘no’ of course, I’ve had to think about the book from an entirely different perspective. I’ve had to define for myself the purpose of the book and the desired outcome of my work. This is more thinking than I’ve done in years. (As an aside, anything stressful makes me crave sugar and I’ve gained 15 pounds.)
When it comes to communicating with others about diabetes, I wholeheartedly believe in the need for opening up new approaches and energies to dealing with the disease. I find that illustration works best for me. I believe cartoons can really reach people who are reluctant to embrace traditional supports and therapies. The art-therapy aspect of it is really amazing for me; it’s quite soothing to squirrel myself away and gnaw on these bitter nuts I’d been storing my whole life. So, not only are the cartoons a way for me to confront and accept things, but they have given me a way to tell other people about it. People ask questions after they read the book; it starts dialog. My book has a sense of honesty that is rare. Rare, approachable and necessary.
Motivation is not a bottomless well.
Thanks so much, Haidee!
Please support Haidee by adding her book to your collection of D books – or to give as a gift to a diabetic you know and love! Get One Lump Or Two: Things That Suck About Being Diabetic from Haidee’s website: www.HaideeMerritt.com