January 16, 2011

WRITING ADVICE: Mike Duran #3 – “How Do You Know You’re Called To Write?”

I have never seen Mike Duran. We “met” online a couple years ago because of a little…altercation I caused by saying something less-than-nice about Christian speculative fiction on his blog. Mike, being both a spec-fic writer and editor, won me closer to his side with gentle and wise words. Since then I’ve found that Mike has lots of gentle and wise words. I’m looking at how some of them have had an impact on my own writing in these WRITING ADVICE posts. (Quotes are used with his permission.) He also participates in “ONE OF WRITER'S DIGEST 101 MOST VALUABLE WEBSITES FOR WRITERS, 2008 & 2010”, NOVEL JOURNEY at http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/.

Mike asked: “So how do you know you’re ‘called’ to write? And what other factors do you think help someone determine whether or not they are really ‘called’ to write?”

Simple answer for me is that you don’t and while I can say unequivocally that I am not called to write, I can’t speak for others except to say that I suspect they aren’t either. Using a Bible search engine (set on KJV), I came up with exactly FOUR references using “called to” in the way we’re talking about here. Two of the four Paul applied to himself as an apostle (Romans 1:1, I Cor 1:1) and two stating in the same passage in the following verses that WE are called to be saints. Apparently no one in Scripture was called to be a writer either.

Everything I’ve read says to me that people write what they “wanna” write.

Bill Myers (author/inventor of the MCGEE AND ME series of videos and novels, and the ELI series) states emphatically that he didn’t even want to be a writer: “Ironically, at the University his worst subject was writing. He claims to have prayed, and said that he would be able to do anything for God, except write. Even so, he has become a prominent Christian writer, and has a large amount of successful books and films to his credit.” Not because of a “call”, but because things just kept happening and so he wrote. CS Lewis never once writes about his “call”. Madeleine L’Engle never writes about her “call”. Yet both have written profound stories that have shaped the way people think.

In my own life, I’d have given ANYTHING to get a clarion call so that I could justify all the postage, the computer and the time spent writing. Even if I were to tell you that I have a “calling”, virtually nothing has come of that “call”. People are not flocking to Christ because of my writing. I’ve even had conservative, evangelical friends question me because of objectionable word choices.

In the original essay by Mike Duran (read it here: http://mikeduran.com/?p=8909), he says, “My own journey toward becoming a writer is inglorious. I started late and have stumbled along. Even after signing with an agent and contracting to be published, I still wrestle with my ‘call to write.’ Is this equivocation consistent with all authors? I don’t know. I do know it comes back to this: Every calling is great, when greatly pursued. If God’s given you the talent to write, the drive to develop that talent, and the confirmation from peers and professionals that you have it, then there’s a good chance you are ‘called’ to write.

Lastly, in an article I’ve used countless times when I teach writing to students between the ages of nine and forty-nine, dual genre (and not any sort of outspoken Christian or religious) writer, Laura Resnick has this to say in her article “The Luck Myth” in the Fall 2001 issue of The Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: “I’m still here because I persist. Talent certainly helps me sell my work, and I’ve occasionally had a stroke of luck. But if I didn’t constantly write and submit, look for…create new opportunities…prepare and plan, then I’d probably never have broken into the business, and I certainly wouldn’t have survived in it, let alone achieved any level of success.”

Certainly those who do not have a faith tradition don’t worry about this question publish regularly and even become bestsellers. While this is not conclusive evidence, I think I can say with confidence, “You don’t need a call to be a successful writer.” So if “they” can make it without a mystical call, then I tend to lean toward the mootness of the necessity – or even the existence of – a “call” to those of who do follow Christ. There are no factors to determine if you’ve been “called” to be a writer, so there are clearly no “other factors”, either.

The call to be saints however, is unequivocal, powerful and has taken on the appearance of a command. If I can be a writing saint, fine. But a “call” to write? Seems to me that it is unnecessary and doesn’t really exist.

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