Perhaps I sadly butchered that over-used, oft-butchered quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet–if so, allow me to join the crowd.
The question, you see, is not whether to be or not to be. Sometimes I might only be, like the man who turns over on his bed as a squeaking door on its hinges (Proverbs 26:14, in case you care), but I have never thought, “Ok, I think for today I will just not be.”
No, for most of us the question is this: what shall I be? There are endless options. I could be grumpy, be lazy, be cheerful, be kind, be a nurse, be a stay-at-home housekeeper, be Ben’s running partner, or be a writer. If I am a writer, though, I will cease to be anything, anymore, ever again. Why, you ask? Well. Writers must never be. They lie on the couch like languid lumps of putty, rather than being lazy. They may sing songs, but never should they be cheerful. They can stop and help the lost person at work, but let it not be said that they were kind…
If I speak nonsense (not am speaking, but speak), I apologize. I refer to an obscure rule of writing that states that ‘being’ verbs, although very nice in everyday language, should not darken the pages of a skilled writer…
Which begs the question: am I a writer? Do I want to be a writer? What am I to be or not to be? (I am sorry, editors among us, I cannot ask the questions without my buddies the ‘being’ verbs.)
These cryptic questions stem from my presence, about a week ago, at a CLP Writer’s and Artist’s Conference. I walked small and bashful among hordes of people, feeling slightly uncertain if I was in a place I belonged. All the writing I have done to date has been mostly independent scribblings or school projects. A loner writing to loners, I scorned the rules and regs of writing and instead let myself and my imagination run wild on the page, except when checked by a tight-reining editor. Those passive verbs and colorful strings of adverbs thrived healthy and vibrant as the weeds in my backyard.
The Writer’s Conference carefully informed me that writing should not occur by the side of a strong sense of individualism. It pushed writer’s groups, community, and criticism. Secondly, it broke to me the fact that some people consider there to be ‘do’s and don’ts’ of writing. Last, but not least, they spoke of the hard work of writing–of being disciplined and devoting time to creating stories that may be just for practice.
As the last fact dawned on me, I was sitting quietly and sweetly in a class, listening quietly and sweetly, and all the other hackneyed adverbs that go with quietly and sweetly, but inside, like a small and traitorous voice, something said, “Aha, I see. Well then, perhaps I don’t want to be a writer. I don’t need to be, you know. Perhaps I want to keep doing what I’m doing and pecking out thoughts for my blog when the rare thoughts strike, and occasionally journaling, or submitting something to the CLP Sunday school papers when the inspiration comes, hoping of course that they will not change too many of my fresh and carefree thoughts…”
“Do you think I should be a writer?” I asked Ben later that evening as we drove through the dusky summer eve. I knew Ben’s opinion on the conference we had just attended. He thought writer’s conference would be good for me, because it would show me that I can’t just write when and as I feel it, and that good things are not accomplished without discipline, research, and learning.
“Well, dear,” he said, sensible as always when I ask sudden and dramatic questions, “It would be easy for me to just say yes, but I think you should pray about it and see what God wants you to do.”
I sank quiet. To that, there is no answer. I forget, frequently, that my life is not my own to mold at will into whatever shape or form I wish. I forget that God made me and gave me the opportunities, the abilities, and the lack thereof, and that it is He Who guides my actions and my days.
Moment by moment He will reveal what He wants me to be; the label is not important–whether writer, nurse, Sunday school teacher, or keeper-at-home.
What matters is that I am His.
There, my friends, is the answer for us all.