call·ing (kô'lĭng) n.
1.)An inner urge or a strong impulse, especially one believed to be divinely inspired.
2.) An occupation, profession, or career.
Most writers would confess feeling an "inner urge" or "strong impulse" to write -- some would even say it's "divinely inspired." I don't doubt the "inner urge" part; it's the "divinely inspired" part I've been questioning.
I think this term, "called," is used too recklessly nowadays. People usually feel called to great things -- to preach the Gospel to packed houses, to play shortstop for the Yankees, to win American Idol. How come people don't feel called to "lesser" endeavors? Have you ever met someone called to be a custodian, a lettuce picker or a mechanic? Probably not. People in those professions are usually looking for an exit strategy. So why is it that people only feel divinely inspired when it comes to great, grandiose destinies? Where would we be if God didn't call someone to take our trash to the dump, change the oil in our car and disinfect the bedpans in the nursing home?
Of course, all those folks are dreaming of becoming writers.
For one reason or another, people see the "call to write" as a glamorous thing. Just the mention of "writer" conjures images of someone in a bathrobe and slippers till noon, sipping their favorite beverage on a seaside balcony, oblivious to deadlines and time constraints, imagining exotic locations with quirky characters, a stack of uncashed royalty checks tottering at their elbow. No wonder people feel "called to write"! And herein, lies part of the problem.
As I see it, the reason many people feel "called to write" is because they have a misconception about the office. In other words, because they see writing as a fashionable, lucrative, carefree existence, they feel an "inner urge" more readily. And who wouldn't?
The fact is, writing -- good writing, professional writing -- is a tedious, trying endeavor. At the outset, a person may feel called to write; but what happens when the critiques come and the rejections roll in? What happens when editors yawn and agents snicker? Then we'll see how divinely inspired the author feels.
So here's what I'm coming to believe: Calling is tested by adversity and proven by persistence. How do you know you're called to be a writer? First, you keep writing.