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The Calling to Creative Work

Published:
February 14, 2024
November 16, 2019
Creative-Work|Creative-Work-Square

Laura has established a career as a creative person. But even though she has written four books and authors a nationally syndicated column, she didn’t always think of herself as a writer. This is the story of how that calling took shape in her life.

I discovered my creative calling in the most unlikely place — standing in my bathrobe at 2 a.m. with a newborn baby screaming in my ear.

I was a brand-new mom, fresh out of graduate school, bewildered at how quickly life had changed. Three short months after I got my degree, I held our first child in my arms.

While I was overjoyed to become a parent, I found new motherhood unexpectedly hard — a crash course in my own shortcomings. Sleep evaporated overnight. Complications made nursing painful. My patience wore thread-thin.

One late night (or early morning?) I flipped open my laptop in desperation. Bouncing on my exercise ball in vain hopes of quieting the baby back to sleep, I started typing.

***

When does a creative practice become a vocation? And when does a vocation become a career?

Despite the fact that I was doing the work of writing for years, it took me a long time to call myself a writer.

Because I never planned to become a writer. Because I had no degree in writing. Because I was trained for another profession. Because my business card bears another title.

But I have come to believe that humans are created to create. In kindergarten, we happily called ourselves artists. Yet by middle school, how many of us considered ourselves artistic?

Adults are quick to shake their heads: “I’m not creative.” But creativity isn’t limited to drawing, painting, music, or design. Cooks are creative. Engineers are creative. Parents are creative.

The impulse to create — to change the world around us in some small way — is innately human. Whether or not we ever make a living from creative work, we can make a life: a richer, fuller, deeper, wilder life.

In my experience — and in the lives of countless writers and artists I’ve come to know — the call to creative work is an unfolding vocation. Rarely is it accompanied by certainty or overnight success. Instead it grows slowly, unfurling into unexpected corners, changing us along the way.

***

As a grad student, I’d spent three years writing and researching and pouring over papers. With a child on my hip, I thought maybe I could write my way through this new challenge, too. Blogs were having their heyday back then, so why not start one?

For months I tapped away about motherhood, weaving together the spirituality I’d studied with the new reality I was living. Blogging kept my writing consistent, like a daily journal. I poured out my questions and my prayers. But I was still too shy to share my words with another soul.

After all, I wasn’t a writer. No one else would want to read my thoughts. It was just for me, right?

One bold day I took the leap and shared a blog post on Facebook. A few friends commented. (Of course my mom thought it was great.) My husband encouraged me to keep going. So I did.

Slowly the blog started to build a small community — parents who wanted to connect faith and family, friends who were struggling with their own transitions from school to ministry, other bloggers who loved to discover kindred spirits.

But my blog still seemed like a fun diversion, a hobby wedged between work and parenting. Back then, lots of friends had blogs to share cute kid photos with family. Mine just seemed a little quirky: theology meets motherhood.

Then a strange thing started happening. Blogging brought me unexpected energy, even when no one else was reading. I couldn’t wait to steal away to work on a new idea. Time spent writing felt like time outside of time. I found the magic of flow: when hours pass in a blink.

Practically speaking, I could have given up then. I didn’t have a huge readership — just a small number of loyal followers. My blog made no money and grabbed no attention. But I loved discovering how life-giving writing could be: how it sustained me, shaped my thinking, and started changing me.

So I kept going.

***

Along the way, I received invitations to write for other publications. I made friends with other writers, online and in “real life.” A publisher started following my blog, and I got the opportunity to pitch my first book.

And now, after a decade of writing, I see the world as a writer. I search for stories in each face I encounter. I find wonder waiting in ordinary moments. But every artist will tell you that the call to creative work is not without its shadow side. Devoting myself to writing while working and raising four children has cost me — in sleep, free time, exercise, and fun with friends. I’ve had to sacrifice time and energy, saying no when I wished I could say yes to everything.

Yet discovering this calling also taught me that I was born to do this work. I come alive when I write. I find God in the words. I connect with readers in ways that have widened my heart. The sacrifices have been worth it.

Creative callings are fraught with insecurities. It’s vulnerable to put yourself and your work out into the world. Writing felt safer when it was smaller. Yet the call to create brings the call to share.

There will always be better writers and deeper thinkers. But my voice is mine. I have to trust what I’ve been given — this particular perspective for these particular readers. The goal is to serve those who read my words: to invite others to reflect on the joys and struggles of their own lives with fresh hope.

Seasons of the creative life come and go: times of hard work, times of harvest, times when fields have to lay fallow. (I can barely write a word while pregnant, I’ve learned—because my body is literally called to other creative work.)

But I have come to accept the ups and downs of the writing life like the peaks and valleys of any other calling — marriage, parenthood, friendship, or professional work. Looking back, I see how the creative journey has been full of surprising directions. The future will surely hold the same.

If I could revisit that bleary-eyed new mom holding a screaming child at 2 a.m. years ago, I would thrust the laptop into her hands even sooner. Go for it, I’d tell her. Be not afraid.

You can do this, too. This call is for you.

Creators:
Laura Kelly Fanucci
Published:
February 14, 2024
November 16, 2019
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