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What to be or what not to be, that is the question…

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.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Hi, Alison,
    I loved reading your perspective of WAC, though my greatest fear was that someone would get some kind of idea that there is only one way to be a writer and now I wish I would have put in all sorts of caveats. It is hard for me to imagine that you struggle with knowing if you are a writer since you’ve written a book! – what many of the rest of us only wish to have done! (And Jennifer told me that she loved editing your book and that it took much less time than most books since it was so polished.) Compared to you I feel like a fraud. But I suppose that is why we shouldn’t compare.

    I sure hope God wants you to keep writing. I’m glad I found your blog. I read through a bunch of past posts and will subscribe to keep up with you.
    Gina

    1. Hi Gina, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. 😊 You and Ben are right, you know, writing does take work and discipline! My first big project was accomplished with a lot of external motivators–an instructor waiting every week for a specified page count and my desire to graduate. That was a gift that forced me to write, and if I ever accomplish another big project, I will need to find more discipline and more of a community of critics to push me. WAC made me think about what my goals are and realize that sometime I will probably have to make a decision about what to prioritize, that it won’t happen by accident.

      I am honored that you are here on my blog!😊

      Alison

  2. The closing thought of this blog is exactly what I needed right now. “…my life is not my own.”
    I’m sure there are places and times to “be a writer.” Your writing style on this blog draws me in and speaks to those areas in my life that I didn’t realize were needing light. I would rather read something that was inspired by personal experience then a “check the box” article.
    -An unknown reader

    1. Thank you! I’m glad if others can somehow relate to my personal experiences.

  3. Thanks for addressing this mega-question and answering it so well, that we must be His. I’ve tossed the writing dilemma around and still haven’t decided whether to pursue it, and give it due diligence, or to drop it, for now, or forever. Sigh. Your Ben gave you solid advice, as my Ben so often gives me. I need to need to start praying…

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Laura! 😊 Sounds like I’m not the only one grappling with this question! We do both need to pray–so easy to forget…

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