This weekend, I’ll be in Texas for the Laity Lodge Writer’s Retreat. I was thinking it would be wonderful if we could all meet there together. But, we all know that’s not possible, for many different and very good reasons. I wondered, however, if you might like to know a bit about how a retreat like this feels, so I looked through my archives and found two posts that I’d like to share here again. I shared the first one on Wednesday. Today, part two. I first posted these in December, 2010.
The idea of “call” can seem so big. It’s a word that belongs to people like Moses and Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa. They’re the ones who are called. People like that. And if I’m really called (by God?) into a life of writing, wouldn’t that be reflected in – oh, I don’t know – more followers, or comments, or contracts, or cash?
Parker J. Palmer writes this about calling:
Our deepest calling is to grow into our authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks – we will also find our path of authentic service to the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as “the place where your deepest gladness meets the world’s deep need.”
Perhaps therein lies the key. Finding the road that leads each of us closer toward who we were meant to be in the first place. Only you know which road that is for you.
But here’s the thing about that road: once you’ve struck out on the pathway, content to follow wherever that road leads, you realize it’s a gift.
All of it.
The fact that you found that road.
The fact that the road even exists.
The fact that the twists and turns and potholes along the way make you stronger as you go.
The fact that you keep finding a way to put one foot in front of the other as you make your way along the road.
All of it is a gift.
And if it is a gift, then credit belongs to the Gift Giver, and thoughts of followers, or comments, or contracts – even thoughts of cash – diminish. Because here you stand, holding this remarkable gift.
So, here’s the perfect place to share with you the final two of four points that we were given as we sat for two afternoons in late September, in the womb of that room at Laity Lodge:
3. Be humble. Who can take credit for a gift they’ve been given? Let’s say your spouse or a dear friend has gone out of their way to give you the most perfect gift that fits like a glove. You treasure it, and when you wear it people often remark about its beauty or its flair or the way it makes them smile. You respond by saying, “Thank you so much. Mary (or Jim or Susan or Bill) gave this to me.” And so, this gift – this call – to write, deserves to be credited back to the Gift Giver, the One who knows exactly what fits us best.
4. Pay attention to the craft – view the nuts and bolts as sacred. Grammar, spelling, syntax, sentence structure. All of it matters. It’s the way we honor the gift and the One who gives it. It’s the same as hanging up a special outfit instead of casting it aside on the floor at the end of the day. Or, shining up a piece of jewelry before closing the clasp around a wrist. Maybe it means more journal writing and fewer blog posts. Maybe it means more reading. More praying. More breathing. Maybe it means taking a writing class, or a workshop. It’s the nuts and bolts that make a thing work and hold itself together.
One last thing. Maybe writing isn’t your calling. Or maybe it’s not your only calling. But something is. Whatever it is – art, justice, science, cooking, healing, etc. – it is a gift, and the four points we learned in The Writing Life apply there, too. Your gift – your call – fits you perfectly.
[The definition of calling] starts with the self and moves toward the needs of the world: it begins, wisely, where vocation begins – not in what the world needs (which is everything), but in the nature of the human self, in what brings the self joy, the deep joy of knowing that we are here on earth to be the gifts that God created. ~Parker J. Palmer
by Parker J. Palmer.
Photos: The Frio River at Laity Lodge.
To read the first two points, click here.
You might like to read more about the craft. If so, click here for a list of ten books about writing.