There is an important right that comes from naming writing as my calling, with claiming that it’s not merely my hobby to string together sentences in text, but my true and proper job to tell stories and share them. It’s a matter of prioritization. There are many things I should do every day or every week, and many competing claims for my time and energy. Some things have to be done no matter what my mood or inclination, like making sure dinner is on the table every evening, paying the bills, and listening when a child really needs to talk. Some things have more wiggle room, like whether I can put off mending that sweater for another week, how dirty I’m willing to let the bathroom get before I clean it properly, and listening when a child is bored and wants entertainment. Somewhere in this prioritization of things to do, I slot in my hobbies: do I have time to read a fun book for a while? Shall I take a break for a word game between laundry and dinner? Do I have a great idea for some entertaining project that I want to spend the afternoon on? If writing stories is a hobby, it gets fit in, perhaps a little guiltily, when I feel that I’ve given proper attention to the jobs I really ought to be doing. But if writing is one of my right and proper jobs, if writing is one of the things I really ought to be doing, I have the right (indeed the responsibility) to prioritize it differently. Instead of setting it aside when someone or something else wants my attention, I need to make time and space for it. Instead of dropping the writing when something else comes up, I get to say, “Not now. I’m working.”
Always rights come with responsibilities, and along with this right to make writing a priority, if I name it my job, I also have the responsibility to do it properly. If writing is my calling, that means it’s my contribution to the world, and I have to do it to the best of my ability. I can’t be doing it just for my own amusement or self-gratification. Rather, I have to push myself to learn and develop, I have to try to discern and follow leadings, and I have to do my best to use this job to make the world a better place. But, and this is the wonderful thing about a calling, that responsibility doesn’t sound like a chore; it sounds like a joy.
Admittedly, it feels sometimes like a daunting joy. I wonder whether I’m heading the right direction, or doing all I can. When I was a kid I’d have sleepovers with my friend Jennie, and sometimes we’d play a game with our sleeping bags. We’d crawl headfirst into the sleeping bags and stand up, completely blind, without much use of our arms, and half-suffocated. Then we’d spin around a few times until we’d lost all sense of direction, and set off shuffling across the bedroom until we ran into something and had to guess what it was. The bed? The bureau? The radiator? Each other? Sometimes writing as a calling feels like that. I’m blind, insensitive, dizzy, stumbling in the dark, wondering where I’m going and whether I’ll run into something painful or breakable at any moment. Maybe I’m lost, maybe I’m just wasting my time, and maybe I’m not even very good at this… but also like our childhood sleeping bag game, I’m smiling the whole time at the sheer ridiculous, miraculous fun of it.
[Picture: Writing, rubber block print by AEGN, 2009.]