The Calling to Write, and Spotting It.

male hand with pen isolated on white background

As Writers, many of us feel that we are truly aware of why we write. Some of us speak about our “Origins Story” – that point in time where we suddenly identified with being a writer. Some of us, like me, can go way back to early childhood with that origins story.

Others talk about a lifetime “dream” or “calling” – the two being very different beasts, mind. Callings aren’t dreams. They are real. Dreams can remain dreams for as long as you do nothing about them.

Some others struggle with accepting they are a writer already, even after maintaining a blogging or journaling regime for several weeks. Even after publishing some articles somewhere.

Why is it so difficult to admit in public that we like to create? Like to write? Are writers?

The call to write, the destiny to create is a very personal thing. And in a round-about way I’ve circled back to the main thought behind both Pressfield and Brook’s posts (see the previous two posts in this series) – that, despite the staggeringly bad odds to rewards or success, we write because we’re called to write. We have to write, and we can’t not write.

That’s a calling, at the deepest level. But even that is grown further (or can fester) with differing motivation forces (other than the already discussed writing for money, or writing to publish).

Jeff Goins Actually Uses the Word, “Calling”

From The Writer’s MANIFESTO:

Real writers don’t write for recognition.

They don’t do it for fame, accolades, or notoriety.

They do it because they cannot not write

In You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) (2012), Goin uses the term “calling” four times. And this is the quote I particularly like –

This isn’t easy, this writing life. It is, however, a noble calling. And like most things worthy of fighting for, it will require all of you. Not just your fingers and brain, but your whole self. When people tell me they want to publish a book but aren’t willing to build a platform or worry about marketing, I don’t believe them. If you want to be a writer, if you want this badly enough, you will work.

In that quote, Goins manages to roll the craft of writing and the business of writing into one – into the calling to write, and into the being of a writer.

And in a recent newsletter, Goins uses one example of focusing on one thing – the one thing which matters. He says –

You see, there are umpteen things I could be doing every day: checking email, updating Facebook, meeting with people for coffee. And those are all good things.

But there is only ONE thing that makes my day a success, only one thing that gives me a deep sense of purpose.

Sure, it’s a little more nuanced than that. Some days, I HAVE to do more than write. And some days, I have to fight to do my one thing or even sometimes neglect it.

But after enough days of not doing it, I begin to feel empty and uncentered.

Somewhat ironically, it’s in Jeff Goin’s latest book – The In-Between–which isn’t specifically about writing (but does act as a memoir to Goin’s life of writing)–that he develops the idea that a calling isn’t something that happens on us like a flash of lightning, or epiphany.

“I always thought I wanted to be a rock star. But the more I pursued music, the more I realized it wasn’t right for me. My true vocation was hiding in the shadows, watching from afar, like a distant love interest, always taken for granted.

That’s the funny thing about a calling. Like a girl next door, it can sneak up on you.

Some people wait their whole lives for the right career to come along, refusing to begin their lives until they have more clarity. Longing for a vocation to complete them, they sometimes never find their life’s work. What I’ve discovered is that the opposite is true: while we wait for our callings to present themselves, they are waiting for us to wake up to the signs.

In this same book, Goins also quotes from another person who mentions that many people spend their lives following a “shadow calling” – basically something similar to a true calling, but a diversion. This is perhaps,in my opinion, something quite easy to do within artistic fields. I personally have flitted from several crafts and artistic hobbies, but when I look back over many decades, realise that I was in denial of my real calling – which I’d known about when I was very little – for quite some time. Shadow callings may include some of the ingredients of the big slow calling that sneaks up on us, and may even give us much of that after-glow after a good productive session.

For some people, that’s perfectly acceptable, and maintains a happy life.

But wait. There’s more. We’re talking about writers here.

Where Does the Calling to Write come from?

I accept that sometimes it has to be about the money, and that’s okay to keep that motivation in mind, but then, why write when I’m going into negative figures? And if Goins is right, I shouldn’t be writing for recognition (or publishing) either.

I should be writing to fill an emptiness. Or put another way, to fulfill.

Hey, I am!

Goins writes thought-leadership type books, newsletters, runs a writing membership group called Tribe Writers. For him, restlessness may come from simply not writing for a time.

For me, restlessness only comes at certain times, or over certain writing projects. Heck there are large chunks of days or even weeks when I could admit to feeling very content with other creative pursuits and not miss writing. So, do I still have a calling?

The opposite – the sign that my writing has fulfilled my calling, is a feeling of sheer contentment and productivity, after a long hard day’s writing work. I get the same feeling from other creative work, but in writing I share much more of myself. That feeling can be tempered a little when I get a critique that just doesn’t make sense, or when a blog commenter doesn’t see something the way I do, but I know it’s good fulfilling work, because I remain staunchly proud of it, for myself. That, perhaps is the difference between my writing, and my scrapbook page, or my art journal, perhaps.

But the answer sits on another level, slightly above that of a calling to create, or a calling to write. Because something also tells us to write…certain things. And some things make me really really happy if I complete them, or spend flow time on them.

In next Wednesday’s post I’ll deal a little more with this difference in feelings over differing writing projects for myself.

What factors lead to your own writing? Was it purely a calling to just pick up a pen, no matter what? Or is there another level to it all?

This post was the third in a 7 post series running from this Wednesday to the next. You can find the index post for all from the series here.

In Monday’s post I will be looking at one writer’s thoughts on deep motivational forces.  On Tuesday I controversially dispute what we mean by calling, and next Wednesday I wind up the series with the discovery of what makes me tick writing wise.

Note: Jeff Goins is a writer I greatly enjoy reading. I love his eloquence in word choice, and ability to share his life. I’ve listed several of his books in this post, and quoted from him.

Only yesterday a new launch of Goin’s Tribe Writers course and membership group was released.  I treated myself (an early Christmas present), and would highly recommend it based solely on the books I’ve read.  Goin’s website can be found here. Signup, and you’ll get The Writer’s Manifesto for free. Tribe Writers details are found here. (This apparently could have been an affiliate link, but it’s not).  It’s a large investment, but exactly that – if you’re looking to put some oomph (and support) into your writing career right now.

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