Saturday, 12 March 2016

Respecting our calling as writers by Andrew J Chamberlain

There’s more than a whiff of self-indulgence about writing. Closeting ourselves away from all of our responsibilities and ‘ignoring’ our loved ones, we writer seem to think that the creation of some piece of writing is more important than the very real demands around us.
Then when we are finished, the fruit of our labours doesn’t produce something that people can immediately and fully access, like visual art or some music; neither have we made something that people can immediately use. Anyone who wants to appreciate our art will have to work hard to do so.
And what benefit do we gain for this self-focused isolation? We haven’t been indulging ourselves in some leisurely pass time. We haven’t kicked back and watched a favourite film, contently munching through some popcorn. We’ve been working hard!
There seem to be a lot of reasons for us not to write, the world doesn’t want us to get on with the business of writing, it would rather distract us or have us doing something more obviously useful. Really, it’s a wonder we get anything written at all!
And yet…
And yet those of us who can’t help but write somehow find the time to do so. It’s our passion, it’s the hunger in us, a manifestation of the urge to create. Not only that, but some of us will admit to having a calling to write.  
Talk of a calling raises. If we dare to admit our calling to others, we are expressing reality in a very binary way. Either we are right or we are wrong, either we are called or we are not. If they don’t believe us, either they are right or wrong. Such talk can drive a wedge between us and those closest to us, it’s dangerous territory and we know it.
It’s no wonder some of the heroes of the Old Testament get fidgety about their calling. Gideon, for example, was very uncomfortable about the challenge God had set him, as this verse from Judges 6 shows us:
"Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."  (Judges Ch. 6 v15)
We might be amused by Gideon’s excuse about lack of social connections, as if that mattered to God’s calling. But what if we feel called to write? Do we have our own excuses for resisting that calling? Might we offer excuses like: “I don’t have time to write, I’m not good enough, I haven’t sold anything yet”.
Or maybe we don’t feel holy enough? “I’m not worthy to write, I don’t have anything Christian enough to say”.
There will be no shortage of excuses but deep down we know that what they are - excuses. Think about the example of the Olympic Runner and Missionary Eric Liddell. I think Liddell was called to run. There’s nothing inherently Holy about running round a track and he didn’t always win. The point was, though, he was called the run, and so he did. Likewise, if you are called to write, then write.

Only you know if you have that calling, and if you do, no excuse will stand against it. So if you think you are called to write, can I suggest three thoughts to bear in mind:

   - Your responsibility is to respond to that calling, not to worry about the outcome
   -  In giving you this calling, God is fully aware of your other responsibilities 
      -   Respect your calling and don’t judge either you or it, by human standards.

In taking on a calling, we soon learn that there’s a world of difference between taking our calling seriously, and indulging ourselves to the detriment of others. Taking our calling seriously does not harm others, rather, if we can respect the calling God has given us as writers, then others will come to respect it too.

Andrew is the presenter of The Creative Writer's Toolbelt a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has published fiction and collaborated on a number of ghost-writing projects through Authentic Media, including the bestselling, 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories.


  1. This is a timely post on the day of the meeting in Bath and of other local groups in distant parts of England. Thank you for reminding us. Sue

  2. Thank you. That is very helpful to me today, as at the same time as having, in one sense, recent clear confirmation of my calling because of book contracts, I am still not earning much and have been very worried about money, and wondering whether I am doing the right thing. Your post is just what I needed to read.

  3. "Your responsibility is to respond to that calling, not to worry about the outcome" - I think I might pin this up above my desk! Thanks, Andrew, for this helpful advice.

    1. Hi Fiona, I'm glad this helped. I do think this issue is so hard! We have to battle against all of the things that would claim our time, and then produce something which is subject to everyone's judgement including our own. There have been projects where I've just had to say "I'm just going to do this because I think you want me to Lord, and that's all."

  4. Thanks Andrew. I hadn't thought before of your point 2: that God knows what else we have to do yet calls us anyway. In my constant frustration to find more time, I need to remember that God has placed all these things in my life for his good purpose.

    1. Hi Jane, sometimes I think everything else in the universe doesn't want us to write! A separate subject which I don't feel qualified to tackle is whether it's harder for women than men - certainly mothers but actually all women. I think it might be true but someone else needs to tackle that one!