I don’t exactly when I decided that writing would be a significant part of my life. But it was later than one might think. A lot later.
It wasn’t when I was a child, even though, when I was 10, my father brought home a blank-sheeted book he had bound at his printing business – for me to write a story. But it was largely because I was a voracious reader, and he thought I could write my own story. I did, or at least part of a story, a mystery, about a kids who discover that a grandfather clock hides a tunnel. (That’s all I remember about it.)
It wasn’t in high school, even though my favorite subject was English, and even though I has discovered Twain, Dickens, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Frost, T.S. Eliot, and so many other writers and poets.
When I started college, I was in a pre-med curriculum, and that lasted all of two semesters. By the end of my freshman year, I had already taken two semesters of life sciences and two semesters of chemistry. And I had another 13 hours of chemistry to go. Since Glynn + chemistry = total misery, it was time to rethink what I wanted to study. I ended up in journalism because I knew I could write, and because I wasn’t going to lose any course credits.
What I didn’t know how to do was type, and typing was a requirement to enter the Journalism School. So the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I taught myself to type. Imperfectly. But adequately enough to get into journalism.
But as odd as this might sound, I didn’t think of journalism as writing. And I spent less than a year working for a newspaper before going to work in corporate communications.
It was in 1975 and 1976 that the idea of writing began to enter my head, writing apart from what I did at work. And it happened, I think, because I was unceremoniously pushed into speechwriting. I liked it; in fact, it is still what I consider the best part of all corporate communications work – the best and the most difficult. Speechwriting requires you to write stories to be told aloud, stories for people to hear as opposed to stories for people to read. And that requires work in understanding storytelling, rhetoric, language, and humor (among a lot of other things). It’s no surprise that most communications people don’t like speechwriting.
But I did. Speechwriting also led me back to poetry. From 1976 to 2006, I had many kinds of jobs and responsibilities, and speechwriting was always part of every one of them.
An interesting thing about speechwriting is that speechwriters do stand in the shadows. Someone else will get credit for their best work (and blame for their worst). In a very real and sometimes profound way, I was striving to do my best work for someone else.
In A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Made to Live, author Emily Freeman says something as simple as it’s profound: “I don’t believe there is one great thing I was made to do in this world. I believe there is one great God I was made to glorify. And there will be many ways, even a million little ways, I will declare his glory with my life.”
Freeman goes on to discuss why desires are put in our hearts, desires like a desire for writing. It’s not so that we can excel and become famous authors, receive honorary degrees and awards, and speak and be lionized at writing conferences.
I don’t believe I am “called” to write. I do believe that my heart has the desire to write, but not because I have wonderful stories to tell.
No, like speechwriting, my desire to write is defined by doing my best work, all my work, for someone else.
Over at TheHigh Calling, we’re discussing A Million Little Ways. Today’s discussion will be live at 2 p.m. Central time. Joinus, and find out what people have to say about desire.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.