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.

TIME CAN NOT HEAL ALL WOUNDS, BUT THERAPY WILL

Talking to My Therapist and God

I talk to my therapist and God
at the intersections of my subconscious;
intermittent conversations penetrating
my awareness of childhood
trauma and childlike
faith,
where the cancer scar fades but
my skin is still stitched with threads of
chemo and vomit
and echoed laments to healer God for a
chocolate cake with six candles
and no flowers.
Where water is thicker than blood
but neither can quench my soul.

adrift in flashback
cast out in communion

My therapist and God talk to me
about healing.

© Rhianna McGregor

I wish I had a porch swing tonight. As a teenager, I found God’s comfort as I gently swung myself back and forth on the porch swing, staring at the stars and letting myself just feel. I sat on that swing, telling God about my first broken heart, my emerging struggles with traditional, evangelical Christianity, the friendship I ended over Skype… everything.

I wish I had a porch swing tonight.

Or at least, I wish I could talk with my therapist.

But therapy costs money. So does planning a wedding. And moving to a new city. Caring for my guide dog costs money, and trying to feed myself food that isn’t processed in plastic costs money.

And I don’t have much money. That is the simple truth of the matter and I see no point in sugar coating reality. After all, it is a reality lived day after day by many more people than just myself, and there is no shame in it or in seeking help.

But this isn’t a post about the doom and gloom of my financial stress, nor a plea for pity.

It’s merely to sit down with you on my porch swing and talk to you about my life. Will you sit with me for a while?

I have very exciting changes coming in my life. In a matter of weeks, I will become a wife and begin a new adventure with the love of my life. Alongside marriage, I will be moving to a new city with my husband, and will no longer have to travel back and forth and live long-distance. Many of the challenges we face today will be resolved once we say “I do.”

But what will not be resolved are the deeper issues that I pretend I don’t wrestle with, but which plague me on a daily basis.

They say that time heals all wounds. And while I can’t definitively say there is no truth to that, my experiences lead me to believe that time does not heal at all. It merely offers a cozy bed in which to huddle beneath blankets and indulge in a bucket of negativity.

I don’t want to be someone who holds grudges. After all, I’d like to be a person who follows 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” But taking the high road and being that person, not simply spouting the good intention, are two different matters entirely.

I’ve touched on a couple of friendships of mine that have completely evaporated in the last several months. But as time goes on, I find myself falling deeper and deeper into the pit of bitterness and resentment, and farther from healing. Time has made a comfortable place for me to nurture my hurt, anger and deep sadness. There is no room for healing here.

You might think, but Rhianna, give it another try. Reach out. There’s no harm. Since I will not divulge the details of these relationships’ struggles, I can’t expect anyone to understand my position. But I will not, and cannot, rebuild these friendships. As my fiancé said, it’s like pouring water into a cup that leans on an angle—the water can only go one direction. I’ve tried again and again, and all we’ve done is spill more water.

But what’s it going to take to actually begin to heal from these hurts that not only happened in my past, but actively impact my present? A day doesn’t go by where I don’t feel a ball of bitterness sitting in the bottom of my belly, or rising up to my throat as hot, angry tears and screams that I can’t let out. It rears its head in everything I do—my writing and publishing endeavours, my fear, but deep desire, to make new friends, even the physical items around my home that remind me of what happened.

I want to heal. I don’t want to live like this anymore. But what can I do when old wounds continue to bleed, and new wounds puncture my heart, and make moving on next to impossible?

I don’t believe time is the answer.

But I do believe I have the answer. God and my therapist. I wouldn’t be who I am today without their love, support and guidance, and I won’t be the person I want to become without them now.

My therapist may cost money, and I do work to make seeing her a priority. But while I work and save, I’m just thankful that talking to God doesn’t cost anything.

Hey God, you got a minute [or two?]