If I listen I can hear My Self
calling out to me,
singing in a higher key,
a voice that feels both old and new,
and small, but with a large word
waiting to be heard.
I used to hear my minister father talk frequently about his feeling that he had been ‘called’ to preach. He passed along to me a certain yearning to find a place and a work in this world that was uniquely mine. It was presented as both a gift and a challenge to be called, to hear and to respond to whatever inner stirrings might be nudging me in a particular direction and toward a particular purpose.
I don’t remember exactly when my writing life began. My mother has poems saved from as early as second grade, but I was a skinny, bookish high school student trying to hide a southern accent and a spiritual and sexual identity crisis when writing became a way of living. Like so many who feel forced into hiding for one reason or another, writing became the life that I was too afraid to live except on the page.
Over the years writing would be at times a course of study, an extracurricular activity, a vocation, a part-time and full-time job, a comes-and-goes-career-and always my dream. But regardless of whether I published or was paid, it remained the place where I felt most at home, most at peace, and most myself. It was a way of coming out long before the official kickoff of that process.
What I didn’t realize initially was that the page could also be a frightening and a frustrating place. I wrote in fits and starts. I abandoned as many poems, stories, and ideas as I birthed-and more than I actually finished. Sometimes what flowed effortlessly onto the page one day, read like so much self-indulgent drivel the next. I would go for years only wishing I was living a writing life, wondering if it was more of a fantasy than a calling. Nevertheless, the page was one of the few places I was never in a hurry to leave.
In Julia Cameron’s book, The Right to Write, she says,” “When we write about our lives we respond to them. As we respond to them we are rendered more fluid, more centered, more agile on our own behalf. We are rendered conscious. Each day, each life, is a series of choices, and as we use the lens of writing to view our lives, we see our choices.”
Whether I’m writing a poem or an essay, a blog entry or a novel, whether it’s for a byline or a paycheck or an opportunity to help someone else say what they mean, I’m putting myself on the page. It’s my way of choosing to answer the only calling that has ever really made sense to me-and working from the only place that truly feels like home.