Friday, July 29, 2011

The Calling

When you're a writer, publication seems like the top of the mountain. As you submit, submit, and submit some more and endure rejection after rejection, it takes everything you've got to keep on climbing. "The Call" seems like the fulfillment of all your dreams, the summit of Everest. You're ready to plant your flag, lay claim to your alphabetical spot on the bookstore shelves, and bask in the glory of hard-won success.



But if you're ambitious enough to endure the road to publication, "the call" will probably give you a brief (and admittedly stunning) moment of satisfaction--and then it will open up more vistas you want to explore. Once you get published, you'll want to stay published. You'll see a spot on a bestseller list looming up ahead, and you'll want to reach that peak, too. You'll have to survive the biting winds of reviews, the misty, uncertain path of promotion, and a million other stumbling blocks along the way.



The goal only leads to more goals. And that's the way it should be. Goals keep us moving forward, whether we're plodding toward a peaceful Sunday morning with the newspaper or charging toward glory on the battlefield.



But it's important not to lose sight of the real goal, which is to do good and meaningful work. If you're an engineer, you want to build structures that last. If you're a scientist, you want to set knowledge on a new path. And if you're a writer, you want to write stories that enrich people's lives. It's the work itself that matters.



I'm thrilled that my stories are in print, but I'm even luckier to have found what I was meant to do. The writing itself is uniquely satisfying, and the characters I create are good company. I'm never bored, because if the real world gets dull I can always turn to the fictional one. And since I started writing, I see everything in a new and richer way. Every incident is a piece of a story. Every minor episode in life has endless possibilities. I pay attention, I listen, and I remember and record.



In religious circles, they say a preacher has a "calling" and is drawn to the ministry. I think creative "callings" are much the same. There are things you were meant to do in life. If you've found your talent, if you sit down and the words flow and time flies, you've found your purpose--and no call, no contract, no royalty check, is going to be more rewarding than that.

17 comments:

  1. Joanne, lovely post. Really enjoyed the pics, too!

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  2. Excellent thoughts, Joanne.

    I relate to the idea of writing as a calling. Why, otehrwise, would we pursue such an iffy profession with low financial reward for years and years? I've heard writers call themselves insane for "choosing" this path...but I agree with you. I think the path chooses us.

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  3. Joanne, well said. Whenever I get wobbly over a mean review (the merely critical are to be expected), or Madame Copy Editor and I are arguing over sleeve buttons vs. cufflinks (I'm for serious on that one), I will re-read your post. I love to write, that's what matters most.Thanks for the reminder.... the um, wake up call.

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  4. Thanks, Tracey. I love old books on exploration and mountaineering, so it was fun to use the illustrations in a post!

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  5. AMEN!
    Loved the post. Writing is a calling for sure and we are most miserable when we don't listen to it. I'm glad for every mountain climbed and flag planted and I'm glad for every time I slid right back down the mountain and had another idea so I could start climbing again. The top is wide...it will support lots and lots of flags!

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  6. Ashlyn, you're so right. Whether I was published or not, I'd have to write. So it's good I got lucky!

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  7. Grace, I knew you'd get it. And I'm happy if those thoughts help anyone through the frustrating times. It's hard to remember the joys of creation when you're slogging through copyedits!

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  8. Thanks, Terry! You are as dedicated to your calling as anyone I know.

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  9. Carolyn, let's all go have a picnic at the top of your mountain. I'll bring the red checkered tablecloth, you bring the pickles!

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  10. Joanne - If being a writer wasn't a calling it would be the first sign of insanity. I spend hours talking to imaginary people and record the conversations and any other forms of human communication, for all posterity. I sit in my office for hours dreaming up plots, great one liners, and playing God with imaginary peoples lives. I talk about my characters as if they're real, and while I'm in my book, they are. Yeah, it's either a calling or a sickness.

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  11. You're right, Robin! Scrape gets confused as to whether I'm talking about real people or fictional ones over the dinner table! Especially when I'm mad at one of my characters because he or she won't do what I want...

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  12. Good to remember! It's not over when you get The Call!

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  13. Joanne, your post was one that I'll add to my list of "Wish I had written that!" I was inspired!
    Thank you, Amelia

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  14. Shana, hopefully it's never over!

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  15. Amelia, thank you! That means a lot coming from you. I'm blushing:)

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  16. Beautiful post, Joanne. It is a wonderful thing to find what you love doing. I'm so glad I held on and didn't let the bad odds stop me from trying. It took me a long time to figure out what I was meant to do, but better late than never.

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