About a month ago, several of the Redbud Writers and I sat on tall chairs in Johnsen & Taylor bookstore in Wheaton, and chatted about how to combine motherhood and writing. Some 30 to 40 women sat rapt, nibbling cookies, drinking coffee, inhaling our words.
In the last 18 years, I’ve birthed two children and ten books. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. So combining writing and motherhood is what I’ve done, in this season of my life. Many newbie writers struggle to even embrace the title “writer”–confusing it with “published author” or getting a paycheck. I kind of got over that in fifth grade. Prior to being a mom, I was a writer, made my living as a writer. I see myself not so much as a mom who writes, but rather, a writer who just happens to have kids.
One of the women in the audience, Angela, wrote about what she heard that night about combining the responsibilities of writing with those of parenting. She recalls that I said something about obedience to the call. I was delighted that she’s not only thinking about it, she’s writing about it. Which is what writers do–they write.
I think part of whether you have the courage to call yourself a writer depends on why you write. I do not write because it has brought me fame and fortune, because it has not. I write because of obedience to the call, and because, I realized, I can’t not. I can’t not write. Call it compulsion, obedience, or just listening and responding to the call of God on my heart.
Here’s the thing: we mistakenly think of obedience as a drag–something we have to make ourselves do, even though we don’t want to. But if we are truly obeying God’s call on our life, it’s not drudgery. It’s hard work, oh yes. It’s getting your butt in the chair and making yourself do short assignments and icky first drafts (to paraphrase Anne Lamott) when you’d rather do something else. But it’s also a privilege, and a joy.
Frederick Beuchner, whose ideas on calling I’ve embraced, says we can answer the question “what is God calling me to do?” by listening to the voice of our own gladness. There is joy and freedom in answering the call. And yet, just as parenthood is a responsibility that includes hard work and great joy, so is writing. If God has given you the ability to “make something like truth out of words,” to quote Beuchner again, then you have a responsibility to hone that gift, to feed and nurture and raise that ember within you to a flame that becomes a light.