by John Bachman
What if your call to write takes you down a blind alley?
I’m guessing you see the paradox in that question. Call implies a purpose and a Caller (God, the Universe, the One, Reality, etc.). The direction may be unclear, but there is a direction. Blind alley, according to one dictionary, is “a course of action leading nowhere.”
So we have a Caller that calls us to go…nowhere. Or somewhere that appears to lead nowhere.
Until this year, my writing was fairly consistent in direction. I wrote articles for spiritual media, including my own blog. I’d count them up at year-end and feel good if I’d published 15 or more. I worked steadily on a book manuscript. All of this felt like a call.
Several months into 2018, it dawned on me that something had changed. The pieces I wrote were longer and deeper and took much more time. Now, with the year almost over, I’ve placed two academic papers and have completed two pieces of creative nonfiction—a genre I have never once explored and may not do terribly well.
I have no doubt that this is call. I have some doubt whether God has lost her mind. And yet…
The tangible results are by no means there, but something is happening. A reader or two has remarked on the depth of this year’s writing. The creative nonfiction shoved me into an entirely different process, assembling far-flung vignettes around a theme and then seeing how they play with each other. The essays revealed sides of me I’d never seen until I wrote them.
But where is this all heading?
Don’t ask me. I have no idea.
And that might be the point. Writers who are building a platform—who hope to make a living or a reputation or a lasting impact through their words—have to think about tangible results. Some spiritual writers (including me to some extent) are in that boat, and I don’t begrudge them a thing.
But this, to me at least, is something that distinguishes spiritual writers: there is another party in this transaction, other than writer and reader. There is a Caller, and a call that the Caller issues. Because we follow it, we are not in control.
And because this Caller is inscrutable, we sometimes are led down what look like blind alleys.
I am learning, slowly, to embrace this. It is hard, because it looks inactive and unproductive and even lazy, and we (especially we Americans) have learned to avoid those. They’re not part of our zeitgeist.
But if this Caller is at the core of our lives—the core of what makes our writing spiritual writing—perhaps that is what we have to follow.