Mary DeMuth is an award winning author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her memoir, Thin Places, boasts of a God who brings redemption and beauty from even the most tragic circumstances. She is passionate about seeing people be set free from their past and turn their trials into triumphs. Find out more about Mary’s books and ministry on her blog, or follow her on twitter. And ps? I want to be her when I grow up. Amen.
As a writer, I’ve written my way through a long journey. I considered writing a pursuit and a dream twenty years ago, then spent ten years writing in obscurity, typing miles and miles of unpublished words. Through that decade, I did what Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book Outliers. Genius comes mostly from persistent hard work—namely 10,000 hours of dedication. My decade was my 10,000 hours.
But even as I made fake deadlines and made myself meet them, even as my children grew from babyhood to toddling busybodies to elementary scholars, I felt that deep wooing inside. A calling to write. It’s something I knew way down deep. I was made to write words.
The sheer joy of writing sustained me ten years. And the calling kept me hungry and tenacious. After I wrote my first novel (still unpublished) in 2003, I’d had several small-scale successes. I’d joined a critique group and fetched valuable feedback. I met who would become a dear friend and mentor. I got published in several magazines, and I landed a small newspaper column. When the novel garnered me an agent, I felt that flutter of joy. Someone important valued my words!
That joy continues, but now it’s tempered by reality. I’m having to circle around again to calling, remembering that Jesus has gifted me to write, that my words somehow (through His grace) touch folks. Amid the worry of real deadlines, fickle sales numbers, marketing pressures, and a constant low-grade stress about money, His calling seems like a whisper. Everything else shouts.
Wherever you are on your writing journey, you must settle this issue. Have you been called to write? How do you know? Here are 10 unscientific questions you can ask yourself as you determine calling:
- Do you wake up at night and jot things down? No matter where you are, if you hear an interesting turn of phrase, do you determine to remember it?
- Have you risked enough to send a query letter? Have you been rejected and learned to develop a thick skin? Have you had anything published? (Many “writers” say they’re writers but never risk having their words out there.)
- Have other people told you (not your family or your best friend) that you have unique talent to write?
- Have you received positive feedback about something you’ve written? Have your words changed the course of someone’s life, or helped another person see things differently?
- Do you love to hang around other writers? Do those writers give positive feedback on your writing journey and encourage you to continue?
- Do you absorb and devour books, particularly in the genre you’re interested in?
- Are you enraptured by critique? Have you learned to accept constructive criticism? Does the craft of writing excite you? Do you write at least 500 words a day?
- Would people describe you as disciplined and tenacious?
- Can you trace a line through your life showing your tendency to write your heart on the page through the years? Journaling? Story writing? Poetry? Songwriting?
- Has God specifically spoken to you about His desire to see you write?
How did you do? Again, remember this is my list, a reflection of my own journey. It may not resonate with you. But what should resonate is this: calling.
The calling to write helps you endure the ups and down of the publishing journey. It carries you through the dark places of unwritten words. It woos you back to the page when you’ve strayed. It kicks you in the behind when you’re tired of revising again. And again. And again. It encourages you when you’re tired of the publishing industry and its seeming insatiable demands. It steadies you when you feel like quitting. It reminds you why you write.
So settle this now. And if you’re discouraged today in your journey, revisit calling. Remember the sovereign God who calls you. He is able to accomplish amazing things through surrendered pens. Rest. Wait. Hear from Him. Settle your calling. And then write like the wind.
Thanks, Mary. I truly love this post. For a long time I was able to answer ‘yes’ to a lot of these questions, but I didn’t do anything about it. To be called to write, you have to actually write. I ignored that part for a while. Thank you, Mary, for settling your calling and encouraging us to do the same. Are you serious about taking the next step in your writing journey? Consider hiring Mary or another writing mentor at The Writing Spa.