I have been working on this blog for eight months, dancing around in my search for a new vocation. Assembling all of the components -- gathering material from my life, dissecting and reconstructing it into essays on the page, and then creating images in the web builder -- has been a labor of love. Recently I started to feel like I was running dry. I found myself feeling buried under the mess of day to day obligations and worried about having material to write about for the next newsletter. When I admitted this, my friends asked,
Why do you have to keep writing?
They pointed out that the blog doesn’t make any money. It’s not like I need to keep it up in order to support my family. (Ouch. I felt like that meant the writing wasn’t valuable!) They pointed out that I shouldn’t keep going just to check a box or to seek attention. (Was I writing out of obligation? Oh dear, did it look like I writing to seek attention?) They pointed out that the format could change. No need to write about several categories each month. I could highlight even just one. (But I wouldn’t know which to choose! These are all important to me!)
After a lot of mental backtalk and turning the conversations over in my head, I was ready to sit down and flesh out my own goals for this blog, assess whether I was meeting them and then decide whether to make any changes.
I started this blog to have a space to my writing. It seems like blogs are one of the ways writers promote their work, and I am on a journey to enter the writing community. I wanted to grow my reader base. To those ends, yes, I was seeking attention in order to make a name for myself. I also wanted to develop a style. And, I wanted a place to hold myself accountable to my goal of writing regularly.
Last summer when a friend of mine recommended me to the BostonVoyager’s Trailblazers series, I realized that if I was going to put my name out there, I needed a web address where viewers could find my work. I marketed myself in that article as a co-leader of a book club, but also confessed my desire to be a writer who encouraged an exchange of ideas in community. EveninCambridge.com was born. I tinkered with the website for about a month before settling on a format that I thought most accurately displayed my pursuits. If I ever get another opportunity to share my writing, I’ll have something to show the next time I put myself out there.
My life has felt so full in recent years, and dividing it into categories like “read,” “write,” “discuss,” “pray,” “serve,” and “reflect” provided a type of checklist for my interests. It’s not enough for me to read a book. I want to respond to it -- either in action or words. I want to discuss it with friends. I want to be a part of a community that is learning and growing and putting ideas into action. But I also want to remind myself to pray about those ideas and actions and to ask how they translate into the service of others. I don’t want to be busy for busyness sake either. There needs to be space to reflect and reevaluate.
In that vein, while I have been reading and writing intensely over the past several months, I have tried to tease out the larger themes in search of a new vocation for myself. I was inspired last summer when, on my husband’s recommendation, I read a series of essays called “The Little Virtues” by writer Natalia Ginzburg. In one of her essays she writes:
"If...we do not have a vocation, ...then we cling to our children as a shipwrecked mariner clings to a tree trunk; we eagerly demand that they give us back everything we have given them, that they be absolutely and inescapably what we wish them to be, that they get out of life everything we have missed; we end up asking them for all the things which can only be given to us by our own vocation; we want them to be entirely our creation, as if having once created them we could continue to create them throughout their whole lives. We want them to be entirely our creation, as if we were not dealing with human beings but with products of the spirit. But if we have a vocation, if we have not denied or betrayed it, then we can let them develop quietly and away from us, surrounded by the shadows and space that the development of a vocation, the development of an existence, needs. This is perhaps the one real chance we have of giving them some kind of help in their search for a vocation -- to have a vocation ourselves, to know it, to love it and serve it passionately; because love of life begets a love of life."
Her words spoke so clearly into an emotion I previously only felt as weight on my shoulders. Here I was, on the cusp of sending all of my kids off to school and feeling like I wanted to launch myself from the identify of “stay at home mom” into “something else.” What something? What title would I seek?
Yes, that sounded right to me.
But, can’t you write anywhere? Is the writing what makes it a vocation? If so, then it’s done. I should feel satisfied.
For me, it’s a joy to write every day. When I feel overwhelmed by my goals I try to celebrate that. After I walked away from medicine I developed a rhythm of writing every day and felt incredible release and purpose. I embraced being “a stay at home mom who also wrote”. Then, when I was pregnant with my second child, due to emotional overload and physical limitations, I became unable to write. I was depressed about the loss of that space for months. Several years passed and writing once again became something I would do in the future. At some point. Someday.
There have been many life interruptions this school year -- our dog getting sick and passing away, our hot water heater expiring, our kids getting sick (again and again and again), school events and other activities -- and yet I am finally (finally!) in more of a writing groove.
I am definitely celebrating that.
You sense an asterisk, and you are right.
Community is also incredibly important to me. I want to be writing and exchanging ideas with a group for a purpose. It lifts me up to hear your comments and hear your stories when you read my blog. Brene Brown defines the two human needs of connection and belonging in this way:
“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment...Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” (Daring Greatly, p145).
Outside of the blog I am about to pursue the next steps with my writing. First, I registered for a writing class. I have never taken one before, and I worry that no one will like my work! I have talked with contacts in the writing and publishing world and have identified next steps I could take in refining and publishing my own work. All of this has been exciting and intimidating at the same time.
But what about the blog? Why continue?
I have a sizeable body of work now. I have a place to direct people to my writing.
Why should I keep writing?
I realized I didn’t have a concise or clear answer for that. This thought defeated me for a few days, until inspiration hit.
“Why should I keep writing” is the wrong question.
Here’s the question I want to answer:
How can I keep myself from writing?
For so long I have wanted to do what is in me to do. And that is put pen to paper. I can’t keep myself from writing any more than I could keep myself from breathing for more than a minute or two.
However, what to write about begged re-evaluation. Are you doing this to fulfill some obligation? That question resonated with me because I noticed that I was starting to wonder what to write that my readers might want to read. Thoughts like that added unnecessary stress and were barriers to the creative process. Please, I tell myself, from now on let me write simply what is in me to write.
I pour myself out through words, and I need a place to put them. So for now, I will continue with this blog. Today, I celebrate all over again the fact that I have a space for these words.
What about you? What is bubbling up in you just begging to be poured out?
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.