Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Communication Breakdown (12/16/10)
TITLE: The Calling
By Michael Throne
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His calling was quite vivid; he was to be a writer. But there was more to it than that, he felt certain; he just couldn’t quite make it all out. It was like a cell phone call that kept going in and out of range; “You’re to become a writer and… commitment… dedication… discouragement… spread the gospel… millions upon millions… joy and peace and… happiness….”
The words and visions lay scattered upon his heart, and Henry committed himself to doing his best to fulfill them.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t much of a writer.
He did try. He wrote short stories and started novels and fashioned a how-to guide for holistic gardening, but nothing seemed to click. He’d show his friends his latest effort, and they would smile kindly and say, “I like it. Honest.”
But he knew they weren’t very good.
So Henry took a class. He learned about tension, and flat and round characters. He learned about plot and point-of-view. And perhaps most importantly, he began reading, and learned what made some writing great, and, sadly, saw how his own paled in comparison.
Henry began to get discouraged. He prayed and once again heard, “Keep writing…,” but once again, there was something else, something big, something that didn’t quite come through.
Henry joined a writers’ group. It was a gathering of four of five people who met twice a month to share whatever they’d written and offer their advice. Almost immediately, Henry began to notice his writing skills improving.
One day, an attractive young woman joined the group. The members welcomed Alta and shared their thoughts and suggestions on the stories she offered. But after just a few months, Alta stopped coming.
Henry felt dismayed; he wondered why.
So he called her. Alta, it seemed, had just started writing and had taken the critiques to heart, as every new writer does. After six or seven stories, she’d gotten discouraged. Henry talked about his own struggles. He mentioned how he’d actually felt called to write, despite his lack of ability. To his surprise, Alta replied that she’d also felt a calling, though she didn’t know why. Together, they reluctantly vowed to continue.
And Henry’s writing continued to improve.
As Henry’s writing steadily progressed, so did Alta’s. Henry could see the improvement from one story to the next, and their critiques also became more and more refined. Tension, subtext, story arcs and nuances became the language of their meetings and Henry and Alta found themselves frequently calling each other between meetings and sharing their thoughts and suggestions and ideas.
Alta started her book the following year. Henry hit a wall; he suddenly couldn’t write a coherent sentence, but Alta was on fire. Her book, her essence of faith embodied in a story, was surprisingly compelling and became the theme of their meetings. Chapter after chapter, line after line, they worked it over until finally, when it was finished, the book was good, really good.
In fact, it was excellent.
Afterward, Henry still saw her, every so often. Alta would email him from the road. She’d been on Good Morning America and talked with Larry King; she’d shared her faith with Oprah and Charlie Rose. Her book remained at the top of the best-sellers chart for months, bringing the joy and hope and peace of a living faith in God to hundreds of millions of people.
Henry was happy for her. He could see that God’s plan had been fulfilled.
And with just a trace of sadness in his heart, he moved on.
But these stories never end like that.
Alta called Henry from Albany one cold December night. She’d been at a book signing and wanted to talk; she’d been lonely since her fiancé returned to Spain. “Why don’t you come on out?” she said. “I’m in the middle of New York and don’t know a soul.”
Henry debated momentarily, threw caution to the wind and got on a plane.
As chance would have it, Henry sat next to a most fascinating woman who illustrated children’s books.
“That’s amazing,” Henry said. “I’m working on a book for children.”
“Really? Are you published?”
Yet from that modest beginning developed a relationship which ultimately culminated in thirty-seven rejection letters, nine successful children’s books, and, of course, the happiness and richness of a marriage blessed by God.
Merry Christmas, Faithwriters.
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