By: Dennis Bates
Writing is a funny business. Not funny as in “Ha Ha,” but funny as in peculiar, strange, weird and sometimes even a little maddening. Fiction writing may be the funniest, and guess, what, that’s what I write. My mind needs a place to go when I’m not using it. And wherever that is on any given day, it goes there a lot.
I am what some people call a “seat of the pants” writer. That means I don’t do story boards, interview my characters before I start writing, do full page bios for them, or look up pictures of potential models for the people I write about. Believe it or not, I’ve heard writers say they do some or all of those things. I know one writer, who does the blog here the two days I don’t, that even creates musical scores to listen to while she writes.
Good on you, I say, but anybody can write with crutches like that. I prefer to spend hours trying to come up with a good opening line and then let things happen on their own. Okay, I have some idea of where I’m going, but frequently I never get there. I either find an interesting side road along the way to explore, or my characters revolt and go where they want to go. I’ve had villains become heroes, good guys disappear and minor characters steal the show.
Sort of like real life.
I put my fingers on the keyboard and ask, “Where are we going today?” It’s a lot more exciting that way for me, and I must be in this for the excitement because I’m sure not in it for the money, at least not so far. Probably not ever, but I knew that going in, so it’s not a big shock to me.
For the most part, I view what I do as a ministry. I started out to become a traditional pastor in another galaxy far, far away, even in dog years. It never happened for lots of reasons, some of which I’m still learning. Every now and then I fill in for pastors who are on vacation or recovering from nervous break downs brought on by congregations which demand too much and appreciate too little. I don’t mind helping every now and then, but I do not know how somebody could do that week after week. It’s emotionally draining and physically exhausting.
Frequently after I’m done, some well meaning person will say, “You missed your calling. You should have been a minister.” (Reread the last sentence of the preceding paragraph.) I suppose I should be flattered by that comment. After all, I think it’s meant as a compliment. But, in fact, it irritates me. I have not missed my calling. I know today what my calling is today better than ever before. It’s to write stories that God wants me to write, the way He wants me to write them, and let Him use them the way He decides to use them.
I didn’t stay in seminary or become a brain surgeon or a concert pianist for one reason: it wasn’t what God wanted me to do. I’d like to say I knew that all along, but honestly, I did not. I just learned it recently. So I offer you this advice: Let friends, parents, teachers and even ministers or Priests advise you and counsel you. But, never, never, NEVER, let any of those people tell you what your calling is. That’s God’s job, and only He can do it. So, if you want to know what your calling in life is, ask God.
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