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Thoughts on Calling – Three

call·ing (kô’lÄ­ng) n.

1.)An inner urge or a strong impulse, especially one believed to be divinely inspired.

2.) An occupation, profession, or career.

Most writers would confess feeling an “inner urge” or “strong impulse” to write — some would even say it’s “divinely inspired.” I don’t doubt the “inner urge” part; it’s the “divinely inspired” part I’ve been questioning.

I think this term, “called,” is used too recklessly nowadays. People usually feel called to great things — to preach the Gospel to packed houses, to play shortstop for the Yankees, to win American Idol. How come people don’t feel called to “lesser” endeavors? Have you ever met someone called to be a custodian, a lettuce picker or a mechanic? Probably not. People in those professions are usually looking for an exit strategy. So why is it that people only feel divinely inspired when it comes to great, grandiose destinies? Where would we be if God didn’t call someone to take our trash to the dump, change the oil in our car and disinfect the bedpans in the nursing home?

Of course, all those folks are dreaming of becoming writers.

For one reason or another, people see the “call to write” as a glamorous thing. Just the mention of “writer” conjures images of someone in a bathrobe and slippers till noon, sipping their favorite beverage on a seaside balcony, oblivious to deadlines and time constraints, imagining exotic locations with quirky characters, a stack of uncashed royalty checks tottering at their elbow. No wonder people feel “called to write”! And herein, lies part of the problem.

As I see it, the reason many people feel “called to write” is because they have a misconception about the office. In other words, because they see writing as a fashionable, lucrative, carefree existence, they feel an “inner urge” more readily. And who wouldn’t?

The fact is, writing — good writing, professional writing — is a tedious, trying endeavor. At the outset, a person may feel called to write; but what happens when the critiques come and the rejections roll in? What happens when editors yawn and agents snicker? Then we’ll see how divinely inspired the author feels.

So here’s what I’m coming to believe: Calling is tested by adversity and proven by persistence. How do you know you’re called to be a writer? First, you keep writing.


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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Janet Rubin April 13, 2006, 4:29 AM

    I still have my little writing fantasy. I imagine myself in a cabin in the woods– no tv, no phone. I awaken and take a mountain hike before settling down at the computer, where I sip coffee and pump out novels like batches of cookies. I think calling has something to do with a desire that doesn’t go away. I’ve had ideas that begged to be written all my life. Even during years when I didn’t write at all, the longing was there.
    However I also feel “called” to motherhood which is kind of like being a custodian.

  • siouxsiepoet April 13, 2006, 9:20 AM

    mike, even bad writing is a tedious trying endeavor. but you are right. as usual.

    i better get out of my robe now.

    ha! i’m actually dressed at the library, they stopped letting me show up au naturale.


  • Jeanne Damoff April 13, 2006, 11:13 AM

    My husband is a megadrilologist (a biologist who studies earthworms). He is fond of saying, “I’m called to study earthworms to the glory of God.”

    I don’t feel particularly “called” to write. I just realized at some point along the way that I already was a writer and that the stories and characters living in my head were clamoring to get out and scamper about on the page. My calling is to obedience. I’m not leading in this divine waltz, so I try to follow. (It’s better than getting your toes squashed.)

  • Gina Holmes April 13, 2006, 1:56 PM

    Calling is tested by adversity and proven by persistence. Great quote. You should be a writer.

    I really like that. I’m going to write it down and read it when I’m going through the adversity part.

    I think that’s very true of a lot of things. Faith comes to mind. Faith is tested by adversity, so is love, and friendship and most things worth having.

    Some people feel called who can’t write. What about me? Uh. I mean THEM. hah. Great post.

  • Yours Truly April 13, 2006, 6:51 PM

    “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

    -Helen Keller

    Writing is too often approached as the wide road to glory, rather than a narrow Alpine trail. At the top, the world doesn’t see you. You see the world.


  • Dave Wallace April 13, 2006, 8:06 PM

    O.K. gang, here is the deal. Mike is playing us like a cheap radio. I’ve heard him preach on this very subject and can tell you all right now, that he already has this thing nailed. I believe the mental gymnastics over the subject of a calling is just Mike’s way of affirming everything that he ever instilled in all of the people’s lives that he ever pastored. This afformation is a slow re hashing of the truths that inhabit his mind and is maybe even sub consiously a way of touching on each point that he once taught to all of us pilgrims looking for our “calling”.

    Mike…I remember a longish haired preacher say that “a calling could be better called a “doing” rather than a calling.”
    Man…you became a husband by doing and steped up to the challenge, married one of the hottest gilrs in my graduating class and assumed your calling.
    You became a parent by getting a squaling self centered human placed into your care, thus assuming your calling.
    You daily provide a living for youself, Lisa and the kids. A noble calling that puts El Pollo Loco on the table.
    Do man Do. Or assume your calling.
    Your calling has not changed.
    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations….
    Some “nations” read you kind of stuff (almost said crap) more than other “nations”, but ultimately your calling is the same as it has always been. You have just spent the last few years getting better at assuming the position, I mean assuming the calling.

  • Mike Duran April 14, 2006, 6:21 AM

    Hey Dave, great to hear from you! But don’t be giving away trade secrets. Some people make a living out of playing people like “a cheap radio.” I do have the “longish haired” O.C. surfer dude thang going again, though my kids just call me an “old hippy.” (It must be the “longish” silver streaks in said hair.)

    Janet, your “calling” to motherhood will, in the end, probably make more of a difference than any amount of books this group will manage to sell. suz, w/ or w/out clothing, I love your stuff. But I’d suggest not going to the library in the buff, or the next “robe” you’ll be writing in will be an orange jumpsuit. Jeanne, I was thrilled just pronouncing the word “megadrilologist” (but your posts here are always thrilling!). Gina, you are the personification of persistence, and Noel, your quotes are wonderful. Please start a blog so us “old hippies” can warm our arthritic prose by your fire. Grace to all!

  • siouxsiepoet April 14, 2006, 6:29 AM

    ha! the secret is out. i knew you had that pastor thing about you. a true shepherd of God. who cares if you bear the title, you do the job and that is all that matters.

    i for one, am truly blessed.

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