Sunday, March 30, 2008

Is writing a gift or a calling?

Yesterday I got involved in a discussion of writing and whether it really is a "calling" from God or not. I apologize for getting a little defensive on the topic. It is one that I have struggled with mightily over the years. I was asked whether, if God asked me to stop writing and serve Him another way, I would obey or cling to what I perceive as my "calling."

The answer is Yes. Yes I would obey Him in whatever He asked of me for a season, but yes, I would also cling to my calling because I know it is a lifetime call. How do I know this? Because it is not just what I do, but a part of who God created me to be.

I think it is safe to say that there are at least two kinds of writers - those who write for intrinsic reasons, and those who write for extrinsic reasons. (There are probably others who fall somewhere in between.) Intrinsic writers like myself have been scribbling stories since we were old enough to hold a pencil; it is as essential to us as breathing. Extrinsic writers pick up the craft at some point in their lives in response to some external stimulus or need. They may write for the rest of their lives or for a season, but for them it is more of a choice than it is for the intrinsic writer.

As an intrinsic writer who spent a decade denying my gift in order to focus on my other responsibilities, I can attest to the fact that doing so makes me miserable and unfulfilled. God has consistently placed people and opportunities in my path to draw me back into using my talent. It has taken a lot of convincing for me to accept that such a seemingly selfish activity, which takes so much time and energy away from other things and has such an uncertain outcome, could ever be of value to God. But He has never stopped "calling" me. There is no more appropriate word for the clear, consistent urging of the Holy Spirit over the years. Therefore, while I would agree with the person who originally posed the question that we are called to obey God in all things, including how we use our gifts, I would argue that sometimes the gift itself contains a call - a call to obediently develop that gift throughout our lifetime.

One thing that encouraged me was a comment from a pastor friend, who observed that whenever we use the gifts that God has given us for no other reason that the pure joy of doing so, we are actually worshipping Him!

So these stories of mine are an act of worship, strange as it may seem. The obedience part, for me, is not a question of whether or not I should write, but in having the faith to keep at it no matter what. Even if I only manage a paragraph a week. Even if it's garbage. Even if I never get published. I need to cling to what I know I have to do, because God has placed within me a call I cannot extinguish. However He chooses to use my work in the end is fine with me.

But He can't use my writing at all if I never write.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's a gift... and a curse

For those of you who are fans of the TV show "Monk," you may recognize the way that Detective Adrian Monk describes his abilities. In a pseudo-modest voice he intones "It's a gift... and a curse."

I've been feeling the same way about my writing lately. It's definitely a gift. People respond so eagerly to stories. They want to wring my neck for keeping them waiting for the next installment of whatever I'm working on. I have friends and family members who are still waiting for me to finish the romance novel I started in 2004. What amazes me is that they still even remember the characters' names and care about what happens to them.

The creative process itself is completely mysterious to me. I don't really know why sometimes I have good ideas and sometimes I don't, or where these people come from that live inside my head. My characters are as real to me as the people I live with every day. I remember hearing a quote from Michaelangelo about sculpting, that he just removed all the little bits of rock that didn't belong there, to reveal the figure inside.

The problem with this - the curse - is that I can never fully live in the present world. My stories are always there in the back of my mind, and as soon as I have a little quiet time they come to the front and start begging to be written. Since most of the time I can't sit down and write, they just rattle around in my brain playing scenes over and over, a little differently each time as the plot and characters fine-tune themselves. The only way to make it stop is to either write it down, which only causes me to start thinking about the next scene, or to ignore it so long that the ideas burn themselves out. (This is what happened with the romance novel.) I recently said to my husband, "I wonder what it would be like to live in only one world at a time." His reply was, "Well, you'll never know!" This was revealing; after ten years of marriage he finally understands!

My friend Michelle Gregory recently went to the Mt. Hermon Christian writer's conference and wrote this on her blog: "It was encouraging to see that there are many other people in this world who have stories and characters living in their heads, perhaps even keeping them up at night."


Sunday, March 9, 2008

I need some fun!!!!

Hey there everyone... I was just thinking how desperately I need some fun!!!!! I know Easter break is coming up and I'll get to spend some time with my long-lost family over there in SnowLand. My sister said they got 13" Friday and were stranded in the house. We have only gotten two snowfalls this year, one 1" deep and one 3" deep. My poor son hasn't even gotten to build a snowman! All the poor kid wanted to do this winter is build a snowman. I'm actually starting to believe in Global Warming. Okay, I don't believe in global warming. I learned from the NOAA that our weather is due to the Gulf Stream which brings warm tropical water past the eastern seaboard. See why science is important for everyday life?

But what I really need is a "Girl's-Night-Out" kind of break. A "Laugh-out-loud, Be Obnoxious, Have too many Cokes" kind of break. A "Play Cranium Until Midnight" break.

Yesterday DH took DS to his sister's house so I could have some quiet time to get things done. I did manage to clear off the dining room table and get the Christmas tablecloth changed to the Easter one. And I gave the bathroom a good scrub. And did the grocery shopping. Woo hoo. Now I just need to borrow a steam shovel to clear out our office/guest room. And I have tons of papers to grade and lesson plans to do today. I'd rather go to Longwood Gardens and look at flowers.

The point is, I wish I could have gone along with them and hung out for the day with the kids. But no. I had to stay home by myself, nose to the grindstone. Whine, whine, complain, complain! Okay, I'm done now.

My son just wanted to spend time with me Friday night. I was seeking solace in a book; my brain was so fried it was all I could do to stay alert until bedtime. So he climbed into the recliner and read next to me. It was rather squished but really, really nice. He is so awesome... what a great kid! I know I'm being a mom now but he is really, really doing well in school and is well-behaved to boot. People say I must be a great mom but the truth is, he just came that way. God knew how much I could handle, I suppose.

Anyway, enough rambling. Have to rouse myself to get to church an hour earlier today.

Have a blessed Sunday! Easter is coming! I love Easter even more than Christmas... It always makes me want to climb on the roof and shout "HE IS RISEN!!!! JESUS IS RISEN!!!!!" Corny, but true!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Oh my goodness!

I just popped in here and checked my statcounter. You gals are still checking in regularly to see if I've written anything. I'm so sorry!!!! I can't wait until summer when I'm done teaching for the year. This has been such an overwhelming school year... I can't even begin to convey how consumed I have been with school stuff. But I promise I'll be back eventually!

It's great to know I have such wonderful friends!