Called to Write

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I was having lunch with a writer friend of mine, and she didn’t seem like she was in the best place emotionally. “I’m starting to question whether this is really my calling,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because some days… it just isn’t fun.” (She said this with a straight face.)

“Hmm,” I said. “Is your marriage fun everyday?”

“Mostly, but…um, no.”

“Every time it’s not fun, do you question the entire marriage? Do you consider divorce?” I asked.

“Of course not.” She rolled her eyes.

“Well, I think your calling as a writer is similar,” I told her. “Every time it gets hard, you try and figure out if you’re doing something wrong, but you don’t question the whole darn thing. Every time you have an argument, the whole marriage doesn’t fall apart. Every time you have a bad day writing, you don’t have to question your entire calling.”

praying“But…” she argued, “I thought God is supposed to give us passion for the things He calls us to?”

“Are you passionate about your husband?” I asked.

“Sure.”

“Every day???”

She laughed. “No, not everyday. I get your point.”

Your calling to be a writer is bigger than a feeling that shifts with the wind. Once you decide that this is what you’re supposed to be doing, you have to avoid using every roadblock as a reason to question it. Instead, look at whether your calling is being confirmed. 

What are some ways to know you’re on the right track?

  • You’re taking little baby steps toward possible publication.
  • You know that your writing’s improving.
  • Someone important has given you encouragement.
  • Rejection letters are getting nicer and more complimentary.
  • Your critique group is saying good things and they know what they’re talking about and you don’t think they’re blowing smoke.
  • You’ve published something smaller like a magazine article or a contribution to a book.
  • You’ve got an agent interested in your work.

Unless you have a total lack of anything resembling confirmation… stop questioning your calling and get to work!

Have you questioned your calling as a writer? What led to the questioning? How did you resolve it?

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50 Comments

  • Sue Harrison says:

    Thank you for being an encourager, Rachelle!

  • Jeanne T says:

    You have such wisdom and an encouraging way of conveying truth. I’ve questioned my calling recently. Questions usually strike after I’ve gotten some contest feedback and also when I’m having a difficult time figuring out an aspect of the story and nothing is working.

    I resolve it by talking with a friend who’s further along the journey and can give me a broader perspective.

  • Joanne Sher says:

    I have DEFINITELY questioned in the past – and this post is SO helpful! THANK you, Rachelle!

  • Thanks for the encouraging post, Rachelle. I can’t say I’ve ever question my calling to write. It’s more my ability to write for the market I am in. I’m not a fun person. Some say I was born at 40–which is a somewhat kind way to call me a fuddy-duddy. But here I am writing books for kids. I would love to write something zany even, but not sure I can manage that.

    • I agree with you Cheryl. I’ve never questioned my ability to write either until I get the bright idea to write something I’m not used to writing like a children’s series. I site before the laptop and go blank. I never get “writers block” unless I’m trying something new. I’m sure it’s my insecurities and that’s why I appreciate this blog.

  • Great post. I realized recently that those days when I found writing to be very, very hard, I wasn’t doing something wrong — I was doing something right!

  • Marielena says:

    Thanks, Rachelle. A terrific post. I’ve always compared writing to a relationship, because in truth, we ARE in relationship with our writing. We have good days; we have bad days. I’ve been writing as a journalist forever, been published in magazines and newspapers, won numerous national awards, and now, as I step forward into writing my novels, I find that many days I ask: “Is THIS what I want to do, what I’m supposed to be doing?” I don’t think those questions ever go away and actually, are healthy signs that we want to make our relationship with writing the best it can be.

  • Burgandy Ice says:

    Ugh, yes. Great post. I like how you have specific encouraging things to keep track of rather than random hopes ’cause sometimes facts don’t seem to matter as much as emotions, and those are the moments that I tell myself I’m just dreamin’.

    Thx!!

  • Becky Veasey/Taylor says:

    I agree with Cheryl.. it’s my ability to write for the market. Since making the decision to write I always have something I want to write about and need to work on making more time for writing but it’s the selling of myself that makes me question my calling. The list was awesome and fortunately I could answer yes to several of them.

  • I question my calling as a writer until I’m in the mist of a wordless week. When my ability to mold out moments to make is no longer in reach of life. It’s a this very moment my confidence is renewed and I know my writing is a feast not a fast.

    • Rachel Muller says:

      So true. When I encounter those “wordless” moments I have to pry my hands from the keyboard and remember to not rush or force the story.
      Taking a breather seems necessary, and clearing the mind of all synonyms is refreshing in order to gather new inspiration.

  • Dale Rogers says:

    Thanks, Rachelle. I think we all need an occasional reminder that our calling as writers
    isn’t always easy and fun.

    When I read something I wrote earlier and find myself getting caught up in it, I feel writing
    is something I’m supposed to do. Also, when I get that excited, can’t stop for anything feeling, I believe I’m on the right track.

  • Thank you for your concrete list and not typing out some fuzzy feel-good sunshine-and-rainbows bit of fluff. I question my writing on occasion because of the time it takes away from my family, but I’m spot-on with almost all of your list. I also know that my time with my family is improved when I have some time for writing. I’m going to tuck this post away for future encouragement.

  • One published friend suggested I keep a timeline of sorts to show things (mostly positive things) that have happened along my writing path, even if they seem small at the time. It’s been fun to look back to where I was a year ago–when I was blogging and getting no comments, didn’t have any writing friends, hadn’t attended a conference, hadn’t interacted with agents or editors, etc.–to now. Even though I still don’t have an agent or a book deal, I know I’m moving in the right direction, and seeing it visually on the page has helped to confirm that, even when I’m down.

  • I’ve always been writing. I spent most of my adulthood claiming to be a songwriter. My current novel is getting close to being finished with an editor. If nothing ever becomes of it, I will still be writing. I can’t worry about the success or failure of it. I really love to quote Bob Dylan from “If Butterflies are Free” “Are birds really free from the chains of the sky?”

    • Larry says:

      The penguin [hereafter referred to as “the Random Penguin], the ostrich, the emu, and a few others might disagree with good ol’ Bob. :)

  • Larry says:

    It is important for writers to distinguish between our ability and desire to create a good story versus the blunderings and absurdity of the industry.

    Does one no longer get joy from what they write, or is one contemptuous of the idiocy of those who crunch numbers and chase after the tailwinds of the market whilst sitting loftily and proclaiming that they seek out originality and are the pillars of the industry which is the last bulwark against a crude and obscene culture?

    Does one no longer get joy from the act of writing and storytelling itself, or does one look at the myriad duties one has to complete on ones’ own, and often at ones’ own expense, while supposedly being part of a publishing “team” ?

    Does one still want their writing to resonate, or has one taken just one too many looks at how whole forests are reduced to pulp to serve as platters for warmed-over cliches and awkward and forced sentimentality which is eagerly lapped-up by the few who still buy books?

    In other words, one may not be questioning whether or not they ARE a writer, but why they should bother with continuing to BE one.

  • I have learned not to question my yearnings. A yearning to write, a yearning to hike, a yearning to read. Not all can be satisfied immediately, but all can be accomplished in time, and all have proved to be callings because in each my relationship with God has matured. And because it’s a calling from God, I don’t have to sweat the outcome; my only duty is to be in the moment where I am called to be.

  • Paula says:

    Hm…well now I DO question my calling as a writer, lol! I actually wasn’t questioning that until I read the “some ways you know you’re on the right track” section( no offense of course, it’s a great post!)

    As much as I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to write I’ve never had any readers (other than close friends or family) say that my work is any good. Agents aren’t interested and my fellow writer’s don’t have any positive comments about it.

    So… I’m going to go ahead and guess that I’m a terrible writer.

    That’s sad but it doesn’t change how I feel about story telling/writing.

    Maybe that thing that we love, the craft that we call “our calling” isn’t something that we have to be very good at?

    In any case, I’m a horrible writer but I still love to write and I probably always will.

  • Jo Michaels says:

    No. I’ve never questioned my calling. Though it took me a while to realize what it was. I always wrote stories but until college, I never thought of myself as a writer.

    I got encouragement from those that matter most: Mom, Kids, The Best Boyfriend in the World, etc… That’s what keeps me going every day.

    Living every day with a real passion for what I do isn’t a challenge. To live every day with a passion for anything only takes your whole heart. It shouldn’t be a struggle, it should be as easy as breathing in and out.

    You’re right, doubt takes us all now and again. But you’re also right when you told your friend to keep going. I bet when she writes, she doesn’t think she sucks. So maybe the answer is to write more and think about the book, not yourself.

    I know that when I pause or take a day off from writing or living passionately, I begin to feel like I suck. But then I hit the keys again and it all falls back into place.

    Seems like a lot of folks above agree.

    Great post today. WRITE ON!

  • I question my abilities as a writer, and the direction it often takes – but never the faith leading the way.

  • M. G. KIng says:

    Encouragement, indeed.

  • Despite some validation of my writing, I’m constantly struggling with doubts and despair… in response to an email I received from a young writer in Nigeria, I’ve actually just written a blogpost about it comparing the struggle with doubts as a writer to Christ’s struggle on Gethsemane. The post is called Letter to a Young Writer in Nigeria

    Maybe I worry too much? Who knows?
    Judy Croome
    Johannesburg
    South Africa

  • David Todd says:

    The sense of the calling of God is different for different people. I’ve said this before in some Christina forums and some Christians have criticized me for it, seemingly believing that if I didn’t sense God’s call in the same way they did that I wasn’t really called at all. I reject that kind of limitation on how God speaks.

    I have never sensed a direct call from God to write. In 1999 a story came to mind, and I wrote it. [I like to say I was bitten by the writing bug in 1999 and diagnosed incurable in 2001.] Then I learned that publishers don’t want to publish a story; they want to publish the story of a writer who could have a career with them. So I moved on to the next thing, which led to another and another. Way led on to way, as my favorite poet said, and I’ll never get back to where I was before.

    Am I called to be a writer? Preachers are counselled to consider their calling by the evidence of grace, gifts, and usefullness in their life. I feel I have those three concerning my writing. So far God has never said, “Thou shallt write” to me, and I doubt He ever will, as He never has for any of my major life decisions. In the absence of that, I’m good with the evidence of grace, gifts, and usefullness.

  • Rachel Muller says:

    I questioned my writing abilities until I had an author friend read a few chapters of my ms. When it passed her inspection, and she urged me to enter a contest, I stopped questioning and did it.
    Turns out I made the Top 28 in the SYTYCW Global 2012 Contest!
    Now, when I start to doubt I remind myself God has given me talent and I need to use it until He’s done with it.
    Great post! Great reminders!

  • Michelle Ule says:

    Every time I have whined to God and threatened to quit, I have gotten encouragement from someone, whether a thanks or something more.

    Several years ago, I told God I would stop questioning this “call.”

    And so I have. :-)

  • Amen and amen! I’m going to pass this on to my critique group.

  • Stephanie M. says:

    GREAT POST!

    Marriage is WORK, lots and lots of work. I don’t expect writing to be any less. I’m just glad there’s no math :)

  • I’ve never questioned my calling, but there are days when I definitely don’t “feel” it, but you’re right – there are days I don’t “feel” it for my marriage or for mothering, but I’m committed and I plan to do a good job, even on those tough days. I like what Lindsay Harrel said – to celebrate the little victories so when you’re having a tough day, you can look back and see how far you’ve come. I take it a little further and I have my entire family celebrate those little milestones, because we’re all in this together and they should get some reward for the sacrifices they are making for my writing, too. Last week I sent my manuscript into the two publishers that requested it at ACFW and, as a way to celebrate all my kiddos had to put up with (they are 8, 6, 2 & 2), we all went to Chuck E. Cheese’s and had a blast!

  • Love this! Almost busted a gut on that first question. All things that are worth anything require some sacrifice and lots of work. Including hubbies!!!

  • WOW this was absolutely beautiful! Thank you! LOVED how you compared it to marriage. That is soo true!

    There were times where discouragement flirted with me but I refuse to let it conquer. I think every bumpy road makes you wonder sometimes, but passion always prevails. If it was there to begin with, chances are it was there for a reason :)

    What an AWESOME post!!

  • Rachelle, I have to thank you so much! Everything you named in the ‘…ways to know you are you on the right track’ list are all directed at me. I believe God spoke to me through this post and appreciate it. This is such an encouragement. God bless.

  • Thanks Rachelle for an encouraging post!

    I have always been encouraged by Henry Blackaby’s Bible study “Experiencing God.” In one lesson we were to look back at our life and list the “markers” where we could identify the Lord’s hand. Remember how God often asked the Israelites to build an altar, a reminder of a work He did for them?

    Sometimes if I am feeling discouraged, not just about writing, but about anything, I mentally remind myself of the Lord’s ever present help with a litany of those “markers.”

    I appreciate your very specific identifiers!

  • Micky Wolf says:

    Bravo, Rachelle!

    A great dose of encouragement. I see this visual when you talk about clues to knowing you are on the right track–the writing journey and ride are variously exciting, occasionally a bit boring; it will wander up, around, down and over the smooth or rocky terrain of yet to be discovered valleys and mountaintops; periodically we will whiz along in delight, other times chug chug and persevere through all kinds of seasons of sunshine, clouds, rain, wind, sparkling flakes, and gentle breezes. But through it all, as with marriage, we will endeavor to savor the moment and be grateful for the Divine invitation and nudging to stay the course.

    Now, who of us would want to miss all of that? :)

  • Julie Garmon says:

    Loved this one and have been married almost 34 years. Maybe that’s why it hits home. :-)

  • Thank you for the encouragement. I liked your analogy.

  • Julie Sunne says:

    This is a wonderfully encouraging post to so many writers, Rachelle. The principles also apply to other callings in our lives. Thank you so much for penning (typing) it!

  • Tim Klock says:

    It has taken me 51 years of banging my head on proverbial walls to realize that writing is (seems to be) about my only talent & calling. If God told me I could do whatever I wanted to and could make a living at it (similar to how He gave those choices to Solomon), I would without hesitation pick being a writer. Sure, I get impatient sometimes and doubt that anybody would want to read or publish my writing. But I HAVE to write. It’s my thing. It’s my life. It’s what I really believe God has called me to do. I just hope & pray my writing glorifies Him.

  • Thanks so much for this because it really ministered to me!

  • Dana says:

    I guestion myself a lot. I’ve even prayed to God that if it’s not my calling to take away the desire to write. But what ends up happening is I tell husband I’m guitting, and then I’ll come up with another great story idea, and I’m back to writing.

  • Best bullet point list, EVER. It makes me want to take up embroidery so I can put it on a pillow.

  • Zoe Elwood says:

    I’ve had more bad days doing jobs I shouldn’t have been doing instead of writing. Writing is my salvation – even on the days when the words I want don’t flow, but there are always some words that do. Bad words lead to good ones and the good work starts to flow. Writing is my passion – has always been my passion. It will never leave me.

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    I’m amazed at people who tell me, “God called me to ________” only to give up when they grow discouraged.

    My question to them is, “Did God call you to something else?” “Did God tell you he changed his mind?”

    Their answer is always, “No.”

    So, God called me to be a writer. I will write until I die or he tells me to stop.

  • Gloria Doty says:

    I first wrote something that was praised when I was in 3rd grade. I am now 66 years old. I have has 15 different careers in between, always knowing I was intended by God to be a writer. I am now writing full-time and not questioning it. The good thing about all of the ‘other’ careers and family is it all becomes fodder for what I write.

  • Carol North says:

    I knew I was going to be a writer at five. Took a while to get there because I wanted to be a mom (times four) first. Have been writing professionally since 1983. My advice is “believe in yourself and never give up.”

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