Writing is a vocation that picks a person

Each week, you’ll hear from one of the WordSisters. This time, it’s Ellen.

One sunny autumn day, my husband and I lunched on our porch and planned the classes we might like to take during the lo n n n g Minnesota winter.

“Music is my hobby and writing is yours, so…” he started to say.

“Hobby!?!” my voice veered into a screech. I heard the vehemence but was unable to stop.

“Writing is not my hobby. For me, gardening is a hobby. Making jewelry is a hobby. Writing is NOT a hobby.”

I caught my breath, then resumed, “I have been a writer as for long as I can remember. Even as a girl, I searched for the words to describe what I saw and how I felt. I kept journals and wrote stories.” John put his soup spoon down and listened, eyebrows raised.

“I just meant that we don’t make a living at playing music or writing essays . . . .”

His reasonable comment frustrated me even more. I wasn’t getting through. He had to understand. I tried again, “I was a writer long before I met you or became a mother. And God forbid, if I were no longer your wife or the boys’ mother, I’d still be a writer. I can’t stop being a writer—and believe me, I’ve tried.” Long a manager, he had learned not to let his face betray his emotions in front of troubled or troublesome employees, but I could see he was listening intently.

Calmer and almost resigned, I said, “There have been so many times when I felt like a talentless wonder and tried to swear off writing as a pointless pursuit. The last time I wanted to give it up, a very wise writer named Emily Meier told me, ‘Writing is a vocation that picks a person. No practical person would pick it!’ And she’s right. I can’t stop being a writer—even though I want to sometimes. Whether I like it or not, I’m a writer.”

I ended my fierce soliloquy, sat back, and assessed his reaction. Now that my rant was over, he allowed emotion to flow back into his features. He looked taken aback and frustrated.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I guess I didn’t choose the best word.”

I felt bad for jumping down his throat. But after 25 years of marriage, it would take more than this to rock our boat. I squeezed his hand, then leaned across the table to kiss him.

“I’m sorry, too.”

“So, as I was saying,” he said, “Music is my hobby and writing is your passion . . . ”

“Yes, it is.” Our eyes met and we smiled.

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