The Writer's Calling


I came to writing through vocabulary.

I’ve written stories since I was a child, with plots and intrigues that flowed easily.

Mimi, my grandmother, swore that I wrote my first story around the age of 7.

But my earliest memories were the weekly writing assignments in 3rd grade.

Mrs. Beatty gave us a list of 10 new vocabulary words every week with daily assignments.

We had to define them, spell them correctly, use them in sentences of our making, and the grand finale was the homework due Friday – writing a longer piece about whatever we wanted, so long as we used all the new words appropriately.

Most of the kids wrote essays. I made up stories with my classmates as characters. I had fun, the kids loved it, and thus, I found my writer’s calling.

Mom said I was the only one of us who willingly did this assignment. Apparently, my brothers hated it.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Those 3rd grade writing assignments were fun. But writing has gotten more complicated and demanding in the years that followed.

Stories and plots flow as much as ever, but I now have a lot of resistance that I didn’t as a 9 year old.

I know this is what I’m meant to do. I have no doubt that writing is my destiny. But it’s hard, painful work.

Writing requires never-ending introspection into who I am and what motivates me, as well as observing people, interpreting who I think they are and figuring out what makes them tick. That’s a lonely job.

Although writing is rewarding, there’s never that sense of completion or that belief that I finally got it exactly right.

Jack Remick, an author and a former writing teacher of mine, said that final manuscript was an illusion.

He said he could go back to “Terminal Weird,” which he said won a lovely award and make improvements on those stories.

(For the record, this was the teacher who taught me the Cage-Escape-Quest-Dragons-Home story structure.)

His point was that you have to decide when a manuscript is good enough to let it go, but it will never be perfect.

How frustrating is that?

As a whole, I believe the writer’s calling is an honor. But like most honorable and worthwhile pursuits, it’s isolating and has many challenges that make me wish I had the calling to be a biologist or something.

That’s pretty kooky, really. I didn’t even like science when I was a kid.

What about some of you? Were you inspired to write as kids? Does inspiration come as easily now? Do you resist or go with the flow? I would love to hear some thoughts and stories.