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.