Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is Writing Your Calling?

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I was listening with interest to a discussion about whether being a writer can be a calling in life. Something you were born to do. One author said that she knew it was a calling for her because she constantly felt opposition when she was writing. Another author said that she had known for as long as she could remember that she was supposed to be a writer, and knew that she would be able to influence others for good through her writing.

As I listened to the discussion, I began to ask myself: Is writing a calling for me?

It’s a hard call to make from the discussion criteria. For instance, I’ve never really felt opposition when I’m writing. Of course, I have six children so I have a lot of interruptions and my writing time is limited. But can I count that as opposition? I don’t really think so.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. I’ve written stories since I was in second grade and I love telling stories. But does it really count when I also wanted to be a teacher, ballerina, doctor, archaeologist AND a writer?

So let’s say my calling in life is not as a writer, can I still be a writer? And are people who believe they are called to be writers, better than average writers?

I definitely think that there is a writer in everyone. Everyone has a unique point of view and a different way to express it. And, in today's world, there are so many opportunities for every type of writer---from books to blogs. It's easy to spot those who are good at expressing themselves and have found a writing "home" where they hone their craft. But did they feel it was a calling from the start? Maybe or maybe not, because you can learn the craft of writing and make improvements no matter where you start in the writing process. For me, I don't think that you necessarily need a "calling" to be a good writer. But it begs the question: if you don't feel writing is a calling for you, are you somehow less obligated to do it than a writer who feels they have a calling for it? How do you know for sure if it's your calling or not?

I think the differentiating line comes because those who feel that they were given a calling seem to have a special relationship with writing. As one author put it, “It was just always my instinct to do it, if that makes sense. As soon as I could pick up a pen and make words with it, my brain did the rest.” She felt like she was born to write and part of me really identified with her. I love seeing words come together and flow into a story and it’s always been that way.

But does that count as a calling?

I truly love writing, but even after some thought, I still haven’t decided if writing is really a calling for me. Writing is something I feel passionate about and it is something I need---and have since I was a child. I use it to relax and it is the one place where I can let my imagination roam. I think I’m a better person and a better mother when I’m writing, because I have something that is mine, that stretches my mind and helps me keep learning. I also love sharing my stories with others, but honestly, I don’t know if it was something I was given a life calling to do. There seems to be a fine line somewhere along the way. Yet, even if writing isn’t a calling for me, I don’t think I could give it up. I wouldn’t want to, anyway.

I’d really like to hear what you think. Is writing really a calling? Can you spot writers who have received the calling as opposed to writers who have not? Do you know it's a calling after you are successful at it or before? What has your experience been? Do you feel you have a calling in life to be a writer?

P.S. I forgot to announce the winner of my contest from last week! *drum roll please*

Elizabeth Hall! You are now the proud owner of my new book, All's Fair. I will be contacting you for mailing information shortly. Thank you to everyone who participated!


At 6/19/2008 11:37 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Would you believe I've been practically agonizing over this very question for a couple of months now? It's that parable that gives me pause. But, hey, I'm not burying a talent if I was never given it to start with, right?

Julie, I'm so much like you with the wanting to be a writer/ballerina/archealogist thing it's almost scary. (Scary for you, I mean. I'm thrilled to think I might have a little Julie in me.) Anyway, I wrote a loooooooooong response to your post, but the computer gremlins ate it. Rather than try again, I think I'll continue your musings in a post of my own tomorrow. Is that okay?

Consider this advance warning for everybody else: no guest blogger this Friday. I know. I'm disappointed, too.

At 6/19/2008 11:40 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

It *is* that parable that makes it worth agonizing over, isn't it?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. And while I have loved your guest bloggers, I'm thrilled to have you back tomorrow. :)

At 6/19/2008 12:11 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I've never considered writing a "calling". Considering all the callings various bishops have given me even when I faced multiple deadlines, I don't think they considered it a calling either. Perhaps I'm kidding myself, but I do think I have some talent and like all the talents or gifts the Lord has given me I think I have a responsibility to develop and share it. I don't think that sharing a gift is limited to just one means of sharing. A gifted musician may sing on the great stages of the world or conduct the ward choir and sing lullabys to children. A writer may write mega bestsellers, publish for a limited audience, be a news reporter, or simply devise understandable instructions for the latest gadget, or he/she may do all of these at different times in his/her life. The point is we should all be willing to look at our talents or gifts and say "Here I am, Lord, is this the way You want me to use this talent at this time?"
And Kerry, though your guest bloggers have been enjoyable and informative, I'm delighted you'll post your own blog tomorrow. You may not consider your blogging a calling, but it's certainly a gift.

At 6/19/2008 1:38 PM, Anonymous MoJo said...

How is this other author defining a calling?

Is it a calling for me? No. It's a talent, one I love, one I think I'm pretty okay at, and a rather self-serving one at that. If I can make money at it, gravy! More self-servingness.

I think that could be turned around to ask: Is reading a calling? 'Cause surely there are readers for the writings who find it as compelling as the writers.

At 6/19/2008 2:18 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Like MoJo said, you have to define "calling." I know several writers who will admit themselves that writing isn't a calling, that it's something they enjoy but could walk away from.

But where the line is between "I have to write" and "it's a calling" is very personal. "Calling" is a very big word, so I'm hesitant to use it in regards to myself, but I've had several experiences that make me think that yes, this is something I'm supposed to be doing. Maybe that counts.

At 6/19/2008 3:34 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Maybe that's where the true argument lies, what's the difference between a talent and a calling?

Thanks for all your comments. I am quite enjoying reading your thoughts.

At 6/19/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger Pat said...

Not being one who was "called to the work" OR blessed with this talent, I can only tell you what it means to be on the receiving end of your gifts.
Several years ago, I had some serious health issues that had me terrified and so very mindful of my own mortality. The only way I could find to console myself, was to read everything I could get my hands on! Miraculously, (and by the grace of God's tender mercies) everything I "happened" to get my hands on had the same theme running through it which taught me the most valuable truths, and was just what I needed to hear to get me through my crisis.
I am fairly healthy these days, but have recently had a change in lifestyle that has catapulted me into some serious bouts with depression - thank heaven (quite literally) that there are so many good uplifting books out there for me to immerse myself in! (Sometimes that is all I have to look forward to in a day!)
So, whether it is a mere "talent" or a "calling", or what-have-you, if you have this gift, and feel compelled to use it - please continue to do so - you may never know when what you have written will be placed in the hands of someone who will be benefited by it. (Which to me is the saddest part for you author types - that you may have to wait till the next life to see the results of your labors!)
So sorry for butting in, and for the wordy comment - stepping down off the soap-box now...

At 6/19/2008 4:15 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Pat, I loved hearing your point of view. Thank you so much for your comment.

At 6/19/2008 11:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Please get on your soap box often. In fact, come over to my soap box and leave some comments. Always open for business. You're terrific!


At 6/20/2008 1:38 AM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

if you consider the callings we were all given before the world was. (book of Abraham) then yes I was called to be a writer. as for a calling issued in this life: as far as I know there is no ward writer calling unless you consider ward newsletter editor.

I blogged about this a couple of years ago.
copy and paste the link in your browser if you wantt to.

At 6/20/2008 12:35 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Pat, your words touched me as have many letters I've received from readers. I'm sure other writers have received notes too from someone we managed to send the right message to in something we wrote. Most LDS writers, thankfully, don't set out to preach, but just in dealing with problems from an LDS point of view some writers communicate needed positive messages. In that light perhaps writing is a personal calling. But whether it's a calling, a talent, or a gift I think God gave it to some to be used for the benefit of many.

At 6/23/2008 1:55 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Bruce R. McConkie taught that we were trained in Heaven in the talents we would have in this life. I don't know whether to refer to that as a calling or preparation or what. I do know that there are few things as powerful as the written word, and when we're able to use those words wisely, we have the ability to positively impact all who read them. I don't know if I would necessarily say I was "called" to be a writer, but I know it's what I'm supposed to do. I'm a little fuzzy on the definition and the difference. Interesting discussion topic.

At 6/23/2008 2:26 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Great comments, Pat. I don't see writing as a "calling" in the sense that I'm "supposed" to do it, or else I'm failing. I see it as a talent that needs to be developed. If I work on it, then my talent will be strengthened. If not, then it will fall under a bushel somewhere in the desert. I think the thing that surprised me most is when readers started telling me that I had a "wonderful gift" because I was using writing as a creative outlet more than anything and as a career possibility second.

At 6/24/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

writing is not a calling for me. If it were, God would have made me better at it. But it is something that makes me happy--something that makes me unhappy when I'm *not* doing it. I can't quit writing because then I'd be a miserable lump. Writing is my center when I feel out of balance internally.
Great post Julie, very thought provoking.


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