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Friday, March 21, 2014

What Does it Mean to be "Called?"

I'm about to attend my first writer's conference. And I won't lie to you, people. I'm freaking excited.

I love all things related to the glorious written word (writing, reading, editing, etc.) and it seems like it's always been that way with me. Though never completely entwined, most of my career has involved writing in some form or another, too. . .freelance editing, writing professional articles, preparing written collateral for companies, etc. It was enough to keep my insatiable literary appetite mildly appeased, but, honestly, I never felt fully satisfied.

For some miraculous reason, however, doors have recently opened up for me to head down the path of 'real' writing. . .MY kind of writing. . .the kind I've always longed to pursue. I feel giddy with excitement and hope and possibility.

So getting to attend this conference is a big deal for me. It marks, in a rather soppy symbolic sense, the tangible beginning of a commitment to writing in a serious and deliberate way. I am sobered and thrilled at the thought.

But as I prepare for this conference, I'm feeling troubled, too.

We're an interesting crowd, us writers.

The more I immerse myself in the world of writing and publishing (and, admittedly, I have barely dipped my toes in, thus far!), the more I see some interesting camps develop.  I suppose this happens amongst all professions, but it seems to be particularly obvious in this one. Here's what I'm observing:
  • There are those who feel 'called' to write and, therefore, are expecting to be published
  • There are those who are enormously gifted, but don't feel worthy of being published
  • There are those who like the THOUGHT of being published, but aren't necessarily interested in producing publish-worthy work (fame and attention seems to be the goal!)
  • And there are those (few though they seem to be!) who have the balance right
I find this puzzling. But it's interesting, too. . .and seems to demonstrate how our culture mixes up the wrong things, often with uncomfortable results.

Being "called" to do something (write, play a sport, learn to cook, take up guitar, etc.) doesn't mean you are, by default, going to be a Pulitzer Prize winning author, or a starter for the 49ers, or a Michelin Star chef, or a world famous virtuoso, etc. So why do we automatically equate being called to do something as meaning inevitable success and accolades will follow? And why do we dismiss our effort as a mistake if fame and riches never come?

I submit the following:  Sometimes, just sometimes, the doing/learning/trying something is of value just for the journey itself. Sometimes the public will be a part of that value. Sometimes the journey is just for you.

Take me and writing. . .would I like to be published by a large, established publishing house?  Sure.  Someday. And would I like to have my books win awards and be best sellers? Sure. Who wouldn't?

But if you took those possibilities away and asked "do you still want to write?," the answer would be a resounding "YES!" I don't write for fame or money or praise. I write because I want to. Because I have to. It's a hugely important part of who I am.

I am called to write. Without question. But will I ever have culturally measurable success as an author?  Who knows?

And, frankly, who cares?

(photo courtesy of www.publicdomainpictures.net and can be found here)

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