I was recently asked, in so many words, if I thought my writing was a calling. Tough question, that. Just what constitutes a calling, anyway? Old Man Webster makes the definition broad: anything you do customarily in the form of a vocation to something divinely inspired you engage in.
Here’s where I fit into that band width: I’m a word guy; I like words. I like the wordplay of creative writing and the pleasure and thought-provoking nature of it. Too, I like stories. More and more in conversation to make a point, I’ll begin, “Let me tell you a story.” Story is the right-brain equivalent of our modern habits of debate, philosophizing, and instruction, but story is a softer, gentler manner of doing so. It allows the points to be made but allows interpretation, i.e., application to a listener’s specifically limited circumstance. And lastly, I’ve always had a habit of “reporting” what I see to others. As in, “Mom! see that tree? It looks like a buzzard!” Or “I went downtown today and saw Joe. He told me…”
A friend once commented that that centerpiece of a writer’s psychology is to observe and to do so from “outside the herd.” In other words, the writer tries to give meaning to his/her surroundings by being an advocate of nothing. We do so by committing what we do to a story form, something broad enough to encompass the situation in question and to do it in a way that can reach the listener or reader regardless of attachment to or placement within the circumstances the story attempts to cover. We can do so in plainsong – simple language – in elegant language, or some appropriate blending of the two.
Based on this, then, my writing is a calling; it’s bred into my nature. Am I genetically predisposed to it? Yes, I think. My father, despite his occasional harshness and meanness, used wordplay in making conversation, in joke-telling and to express his own well-considered thoughts. Mom was a classically trained pianist, and from her came the urge to express herself in the creation and language of music.
There’s always a choice in one’s calling. Social circumstances and acculturation have their effect. But, as Webster alludes, the calling is made from some inner voice, calling out louder than the rest of the voices begging for alliance with your soul.
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