I just picked up a book at the library called Writing as a Sacred Path, by Jill Jepson. In the opening paragraphs, she compares writing to a vocation, a calling, or an irresistible impulse. I’ve just started the book so I don’t know how good it is going to be, but I like the idea of writing as a sacred path.
But going back to this vocation. The word got me wondering what exactly a vocation is. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word as a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation. Well, I don’t think of writing as a career or an occupation, and I certainly don’t feel suitable. And rarely capable! Another definition is a person’s employment or main occupation ‘especially regarded as worthy and requiring dedication’. Writing isn’t my main occupation, although I might wish that it was. Finally, the dictionary says the origin of the word could come from the Latin vocare, to call. Okay, now that resonates with me and reflects back to the opening of this library book, when she says writing is like a calling. But what does that mean?
A vocation, a calling, to me, is something we cannot separate from ourselves. No matter where we are in our day, it’s there, under the surface, impacting everything we say and do. Added to that is the urge to write, the simmer that makes us miserable when we are not writing.
I remember a young person telling me she wanted to write a book, wanted me to give her an idea, tell her how to do it, and she wanted it published within a couple of months. This person obviously thought writing was simply tossing some words down, magically getting them published, and sitting back while the money rolled in. If this person had heard that call, felt that longing, tried to capture the spirit of stories out there in the universe, she would never have asked about writing so flippantly. Yes we want to be published, yes we want to make money. But we write anyway, without those things.
And of course sometimes writing feels less like a yearning call and more like a gorilla on our back. Or a leach sucking us dry. Or an inner critic breaking our heart.
My husband recently gave me some quotes that I think impart what I am trying to say here in a much simpler fashion. So I am going to end with them. Words to take away and think about when that calling pulls you down the sacred path.
Cacoethes scribendi: insatiable desire to write
Verba volant, scripta manent: words fly away, writings remain
Think about that last one.