In the past two weeks, I’ve had at least two conversations where I said, “Since I’m not working anymore…,” and the person I was talking to responded, “But you are working. You’re a writer.”

Oh yeah. That work.

I needed the reminder that writing is my work because I don’t always feel like it is legitimate work for a number of reasons:

  • Creative writing doesn’t include a regular paycheck.
  • I work from home.
  • I’m still developing the discipline to write daily. Sometimes I do well. Other times, I don’t.
  • I have more unfinished writing than published writing, partly because I write slowly, but mainly because I’m a perfectionist who knows my writing will never be “good enough.”
  • At this point, all deadlines are self-imposed.
  • I hired myself, and I’m my own boss. Sometimes I wonder if I picked the right person for the job.
  • The opportunity to write full time is an undeserved gift.

The last reason fills me with gratitude, but it’s sometimes accompanied by a paralyzing guilt and sense of responsibility. What if I don’t succeed? Why have I been given this gift?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but the second reveals something fundamental about work. Seeing the opportunity and ability to work as a gift, whether we’re self-employed or an employee, shifts the focus off our personal success or failure to the fact that work requires us to serve. Not only do we need to serve others—our customers and co-workers and family—but we need to serve the gifts we’ve been given.

This is a truth that Madeleine L’Engle came back to many times when talking about her work as a storyteller and writer. So, to wrap up this small offering, I’ll leave you with a few of her words from The Rock That Is Higher:

I listen to my stories; they are given to me, but they don’t come without a price. We do have to pay, with hours of work that ends up in the wastepaper basket, with intense loneliness, with a vulnerability that often causes us to be hurt. And I’m not sure that it’s a choice. If we’re given a gift—and the size of the gift, small or great, does not matter—then we are required to serve it, like it or not, ready or not. Most of us, that is, because I have seen people of great talent who have done nothing with their talent who mutter about “When there’s time…,” or who bury their talent because it’s too risky to use.

Yes, it is risky. We may not hear the story well. We may be like faulty radios, transmitting only static and words out of context. But I believe that it is a risk we have to take. And it is worth it, because the story knows more than the artist knows.

Whatever gift of work you’ve been given, I hope you’re encouraged to serve that gift today.

Photo Credit: singhajay at morguefile.com