FINDING MY WHY — WHY I’M A WRITER AND WHY I ALWAYS WILL BE

If you follow me on Twitter (and no, this isn’t a self-promo), then you may have seen this thread that I posted recently:

I just wrote what I intended to be a blog post, but wound up more like a journal entry. It could still be a blog post, but rather than focusing on publishing and posting and traffic and being productive, I think I’ll keep this piece for myself.

Maybe I’ve spent so much time and energy into what will sell, what will bring people to my blog and what content will gain me a place in the #WritingCommunity, that I’ve lost my “why” for the writing altogether. Maybe keeping some of it just for me, for my soul, is the cure.

After all, don’t I write for myself first and everyone else second? So what happens to my writing if I lose myself and I’m not writing with my voice or from my experience and truth?

Maybe I need to learn to write for myself again, and maybe that’s the way back to myself, back to why I started writing in the first place. And maybe then, I can move forward with my goals and ambition, once I realize that even if I don’t achieve them, I didn’t fail.

All right… existential writer crisis over, at least on Twitter. I’m going to reread the blog post that I’ll keep just for me, go eat something, and start to find my “why” again.

That existential writer crisis continued to plague me after I closed my laptop. The question of “why do I write?” had my mind relentlessly spinning. I thought the answer was simple, but was it really?

Turns out it was simpler than I thought, but the journey there was anything but.

I’ve been writing since I was a child. It started with stories about a trickster deer, giraffes on a rescue mission, and Emperor penguins who befriend Orca whales. A little older, and I turned my attention from animal stories to poetry. It was poetry about my first love, first heartbreak, finding out who I was and maybe more importantly, who I wasn’t. (and that’s why those poems will never see the light of day—can you say CRINGE?)

I kept writing. And I was in my mid-twenties when I decided to start blogging. I hadn’t given up on stories or poetry, but my priorities were shifting.

I needed to start using my voice, and I needed a new way to do it. I’d spent long enough wrestling with saying what I thought I was supposed to, particularly about my disabled body, and letting myself get pinned. It was my therapist who, over countless sessions, helped me realize that yes, I had a voice, and then asked me the ultimate question: what would I do with it?

Growing up, all throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was an unhappy disabled person. When I was eighteen, I met a friend who had walked a similar path of blindness and faith, and upon sharing it with me, made a way for me to walk my own with a little less bitterness and a lot more gratitude. But that was only the beginning of my journey to embracing myself, and in particular, my disabled self. But as life journeys often go, it got worse before it got better. That in itself is an entirely different story and today is not the day for it. But all that to say that it was a good five years before that path had lead me to a place where I recognized who I was, embraced it, and wanted to share it.

Enter Not Your Blind Writer. And just like the evening beside the hotel pool, sharing stories with a new lifelong friend at eighteen, this blog isn’t a destination, but a beginning. It’s been wonderful, freeing, empowering, and beyond terrifying.

I began the blog to share myself—my authentic self, and most importantly, my disabled self. Important, because my disability had been the one part of me that I kept the most hidden, yet, it impacted my life in the most obvious ways. To keep it hidden was a disservice to myself and my journey, and to everyone around me. So each time I published a post, the words that it contained were borne from the raw, authentic me.

However, as the weeks and months passed, more posts published and more people followed on social media, the path ahead of me has become a little more gray. Questions of publishing, social media, marketing and more, plagued me, and what I found was that those thoughts choked my creativity.

My writing became less and less of a craft that I loved and wanted to grow, but a climb up the ladder of success. I thought about everything other than putting pen to paper, or, keys to laptop? I created detailed writing calendars and post outlines. I wondered how many followers I could get and felt defeated when no one subscribed to my blog or followed me on social media. I started to see these other things, like Twitter followers, likes and comments as a statement on my value as a writer. But why?

Why was I doing all this?

And that question lead me to a deeper question: Why was I writing at all?

I was getting caught up in the glamour of the writing industry, but I’d forgotten what makes it in the first place—the written word itself. What did any of this matter if my pages were blank? What does thinking of royalties and book deals and book #6 if I haven’t started book #1 yet?

Why did I care about what others thought about my writing if I didn’t write?

I’d lost my why.

And I needed to find it. To do that, I needed to find the seven-year-old me that wrote about a deer that, in her quest for fame, performed shameful acts of trickery. The eight-year-old me who wrote about a giraffe that, in spite of being teased by the other animals, saved them from the pit of quicksand by using her neck as a lifeline. The high schooler crying after gym class over her first break up, even though they hadn’t officially dated.

That girl didn’t write for fame. She didn’t write to be published, or to earn a salary. She wasn’t concerned with formulating interesting tweets (which aren’t all that interesting, by the way) or how best to market her books for the most sales.

She wrote because she loved writing.

It filled her up. It made her smile. Her characters were her friends, and the words were her imagination come alive.

She wrote because she loved writing.

And that’s why I’m still a writer.

I live for the feeling of seeing words spill across the page, the way words can process and wrestle and grow me in ways nothing else can. I cherish the moments when I can fully express a part of myself and know that if nothing else, at least the page understands me. I smile for the moments when I sit in a coffee shop and suddenly, clap my hands like an excited kid and say, “Book idea! Book idea! Book idea!” a little too loudly (Cause… that didn’t happen… last week… at 25 years old).

I write to express myself and to let God do with that what He will. I can’t help but hope that if He’s given me a talent for the written word, then He has a plan for it. And as much as I’ve fretted about what that plan is, that’s not my job. I just need to write the words, and He can handle what happens after.

It’s good to think about publishing, to dream about seeing your name on a book in your favourite bookstore. It’s good to have drive and ambition and reach for the literary stars. But don’t let that steal the reason you started writing in the first place.

And you know what? Rediscovering my why makes me want to write more.

So please, friends: Whether you have dreams of making the bestseller list, writing a blog simply to share your daily life, or whether the only one who reads your writing is your diary, don’t lose your why.

Why do you do this? Why do you love it? Why will you keep going?

I love the written word, and I want to use the gift God has given me. That’s why I write.

Why do you write? Let me know in the comments.

THE UNHOLY CROSS — A SHORT STORY, PART TWO

Read The Unholy Cross, Part One here.

TRIAL

Pilate sits on an adorned chair, the pride of a Roman etched in his every feature. But in his eyes, there is a veiled glint of kindness, the glitter of hope that perhaps he will judge not as a Roman, but as a man. Attendants surround him, awaiting his command. With a sweeping gesture, he dismisses their attention and they scatter to their places about the room.
“State the case,” Pilate commands, his voice loud and abrupt.
The centurion who had gone in ahead of Katriel steps forward and speaks. “This man is convicted of murdering a Roman spy at just before dawn this very morning. There are witnesses who are willing to testify.” Katriel blinks with surprise. A witness? Was he not alone? Did he not examine his surroundings before he stabbed his brother dead? He glances about himself, scanning the Praetorium for the witness to come forward. He hopes with fading optimism that it is not who he suspects.
But it is. Eshkol emerges from the back of the company of soldiers and with confident strides, approaches the governor. As he opens his mouth to begin, he shoots one final glance toward Katriel, the smile of betrayal displayed unashamedly on his face.
“Governor Pilate, this man is indeed guilty of murder. I witnessed it with my own eyes, only an hour or two ago.” He clears his throat and continues. “I was on my way to my father’s house, having just returned from a long journey when I heard the blood-curdling shrieks of a man. I didn’t think anything of it at first I admit, but when it persisted and became ever more despairing, I made up my mind to investigate. I followed the sound to the edge of the city, just on the border of where I happen to know the victim’s home lies—”
“How do you know this?”
“I was brought up in the same neighbourhood, governor. The victim, his murderer and I were friends as children.”
“I see. Go on.”
“Here, I witnessed this man deliver the fatal blow.”
“How did he perform the murder?” Pilate’s voice is stable as he makes his inquiries, but Katriel is not so fortunate. His knees tremble, his vision blurs, and it is only the sharp grasp of a soldier that keeps him from collapsing.
“It was a knife. He stabbed the man numerous times in the heart and the side. Once he made certain his work was completed, he drew the knife up into his cloak and left, leaving the body behind a wall to decay.”
“What happened then?”
Eshkol’s eyes are fixed on the Prefect, his zeal evident in his gaze. His tale continues. “As quietly as I could, I followed him. When I realized he was heading toward the gates that lead out of the city, I left and went directly and gathered this company of men. They joined me in my pursuit and we did manage to overtake him. We captured him and brought him here to you for his just punishment.”
The room is quiet, not an exhalation to be heard. Even the murmur of the crowd in the courtyard dissipates against the explosive silence within. Within the room yes, but in Katriel’s heart, it is deeper, more despairing.
Was this the friend who had suffered imprisonment at his side? The man who aided him in his escape? Who time and time again, tried to turn him back to the god of his childhood? The one he professed to believe in, but stands and sentences his friend to death? Katriel’s mind begins to spin, a whirlwind that captures his thoughts and ruffles them beyond recognition. He is betrayed.
“If you have further need of evidence, governor Pilate, you may merely ask this man for the knife.” Katriel’s whole being goes still. He can feel the knife’s cool blade against his forearm. If Eshkol’s account is not enough to secure the him, this would be.
“Prisoner, remove your cloak. Let me see what is beneath.” Impatient for the trial to end, a soldier rips Katriel’s cloak from his shoulders and it lands on the floor in a heap. The knife clatters to the floor, loud and condemning. The entire room gravitates to it as a collective gasp is inhaled.
“It is final.” Pilate now stands and his attendants draw near. “Katriel Ben Rachamin, you are sentenced to death by crucifixion for the murder of your brother, Omer Ben Rachamin. Within the hour! You are dismissed.”

GOLGOTHA

With his hands tied, Katriel weaves between the remnants of the crowd that had called so fervently for the execution of the blasphemer. The man himself is nowhere to be seen—Katriel assumes now that the sentence was passed and he is on his way to the cross. Amidst the reality of his own peril, Katriel cannot help but marvel at the other prisoner’s integrity, silent in the face of his crimes and such willingness to take the beating his guards deemed necessary. What kind of a man is this?
Rising beneath the golden sun of blooming day, Katriel’s eyes find his destiny—Golgotha. At the top of this hill he knows, he will die.
The patibulum he carries on his shoulders teeters, the effect wobbling Katriel’s legs. Blood from his scourging runs from his shoulders, down his thighs and calves and leaves soggy imprints in the dirt beneath him. Lightheaded and dizzy, he is nearly completely unaware of life beyond his pain.
They reach the peak of the hill and the cross bar on Katriel’s shoulders is lifted and tacked to the stipe. In his delirium, Katriel does not notice a third cross being mounted in line with his and the blasphemer’s. At each, a company of Roman soldiers meticulously perform their duty.
“Murder a Roman, will you? Then feel the wrath of Rome! May it follow you to hell and torment you there for all eternity!” The centurion draws out two nails and with not a care nor concern, pounds them through Katriel’s wrists. He cries out in anguish. “That is just the beginning of what you will suffer for your crime.” The centurion spits in his face and laughs mockingly.
Nails are driven into his feet, pinning him to the upright beam of the cross. He is overcome with pain; he can no longer discern where it stems from, only that it is consuming him like a raging fire. His weight hangs solely from his wrists, his breaths shallow and quick. How long will it take?
The other prisoners are hung on their crosses, their shrieks and screams melding with Katriel’s. The criminal on the third cross is muttering between gasps. Katriel tries to focus on it, on anything to distract him from the excruciating pain.
“Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us! Where’s your power now, oh mighty King?” The criminal’s taunts are hardly audible above the blood in Katriel’s ears, the pain screaming up at him from every fibre of his being. But as he hangs there, the fingertips of Death grazing his skin, his mind flashes to a memory.
A father bends over his son, the six year old’s fingers cold and fragile in his. Looking straight into his son’s eyes—the same gentle, earnest eyes of his mother—Rachamin begins to speak. “Katriel, listen to me. I do not take pleasure in punishing you, but it needed to be done. You were wrong to say those things to Omer. Your words hurt him very deeply. You know I still love you, don’t you?” The tiny head nodded. “But do you know who will love you even when it’s hard for me to love you well?”
“Who?”
“God. He will always love you. Even if you have nobody left to turn to, even when you’re scared he doesn’t want you anymore. He will love you. I want you to remember that. Will you do that for me?”
“Yes, Father. I’ll remember.” The man leans down and ruffles the child’s hair, a smile spreading across his face.
The memory fades and Katriel’s focus is drawn once more to the victim on the third cross. Still hurling insults, but the silent sufferer on the center cross does not reply.
Defend him. It overwhelms Katriel, even stronger than the pain emanating from his wrists and feet. He shouts with all his strength: “Quiet! That man has done nothing wrong, unlike you and I. Don’t you fear God? We’re all suffering the same sentence, but ours is fair. Now quiet. Leave him to die in peace.” Lowering his voice so only the man next to him can hear, Katriel whispers, “If you are the son of God, if you are the Christ, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
When he speaks, it is like Katriel’s heart is both broken and restored in one breath. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
Katriel stops fighting. He breathes his last and the pain ends.

FOREVER

“Come in, my son. Be welcomed in my name.” The voice envelops the new arrival. Comfort, joy and awe fill his being, the reality of his new life abounding in his soul.
He gazes down at his hands in disbelief. No nails, no wounds. No remnant of the pain that was the passageway to paradise. He strokes his palm with a gentle finger—soft, like silk, tender.
New. Everything is new. He is new.
He looks up to the sky, yet somehow, he cannot define the border between earth and sky. Does it go on forever?
As though reading his thoughts, the voice wraps itself around him and whispers, “It does, my son. As do you. And I. Here, together, we shall go on forever.”