My daily schedule for the last year. This is a giant post-it note hanging over a bookcase next to my desk.

How do you view your work? Is it a paycheck, an obstacle to your real life, a source of anxiety, or just something you do because everyone else does it?

Do you cherish the dream that your work could be a calling — something that challenges you and makes you stronger and better? Something that gives you a deep sense of purpose?

My work for the last three years has been full-time writer. Before that I was a teacher, a professor, a college president and a foundation executive. Those were my jobs. I was lucky because, though all of them were difficult, they were all rewarding. They all contributed to my growth as a person and as a leader.

But my calling goes beyond any job I ever had.

If you want to read more about calling and about the five practices that ground my own calling, please hop over to Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit, the blog and newsletter of Karen Horneffer-Ginter. While there, enjoy exploring Karen’s site and read about her wonderful new book Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit.




Shirley Showalter


  1. Joanne Hess Siegrist on May 13, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Shirley – Great lines this day. Cheers!!! I printed them to save forever as your words clarify my very own heartbeats. Smiles – My new way of saving my thoughts: Printing out my own e-mails/facebook comments and saving them in my private journal binder. While in my golden years they may find their way into a memoir book, during these current days I’m busy documenting heirloom photography.

    • Marian Beaman on May 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      Joanne, how nice to meet you again in the blog world! I still have the book you autographed for me in 1996, Mennonite Women in Lancaster County.

      I married an artist, our son is a photographer, and I love choosing photos to illustrate my posts. Photos freeze time and give words another dimension.

      • Joanne Hess Siegrist on May 14, 2013 at 9:28 am

        Marian Beaman – It is so wonderful to connect with you – the first since 1996. Smiles – One of the best things I did 1996-2013 was to create/lead Heritage Watchers. That is a support group (like Weight Watchers) and scores of folks experience great adventures documenting heirloom photographs. This descriptive site tells details. Be assured that I will welcome you to a session whenever you travel by this community. Cheers.

        Lancaster’s Feature on Heritage Watchers

  2. shirleyhs on May 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Thank you, Joanne. You definitely have followed a calling all your life and have helped so many find the stories in their lives through collecting their heirlooms and documenting their origins.

    I’m so glad you found value in these words. May they bless your path this day.

  3. Joan on May 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Great post, Shirley. For me writing is a calling … healing, satisfying, and my purpose in life. I have no choice. I just have to do it.

    Love seeing your schedule. It’s very similar to mine and I love working it.

    • shirleyhs on May 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      Work it, Joan! I can sense the energy in your words. May you feel the flow of words from your heart to your pen as you fulfill your calling.

  4. Marian Beaman on May 13, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    I chuckled when I first saw your lists. As one list-maker to another: I have monthly-weekly-daily lists: Day-timer, card stock, sticky note, but I’ve never put the word “shine” on any of them–ha!

    The greatest compliment ever paid me by the Dean when I retired from my professor life is that I viewed my position as a calling. Indeed I did. Now I’m in a new phase and loving it . . . can’t wait to get into my writing chair each morning. As a new blogger, though my retired friends wonder how writing can take so much time. But we know that!

  5. Tina Barbour on May 13, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Shirley, thank you for sharing your words of wisdom. The words are printed out now for me to keep and reread. I have always felt a deep need to have meaning and purpose in my work. I’ve never been happy to have “just a job.” I believe I’m a writer and a storyteller at heart. I long to be able to write full time, but I also feel that my day job as a newspaper reporter has meaning and allows me to do things that I find important: listen to others and tell their stories. I try to make even seemingly dull stories about government meetings meaningful by breaking down complicated issues into clear explanations of how they affect people in their daily lives. I guess that’s the writer AND the educator in me. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your schedule with us, too. I am in need of such daily rituals, and your serves as a fine example.

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Tina, you exemplify beautifully that in-between place where you long to have more time to write and yet you have many opportunities in your professional life to frame that work as a calling also. Brava!

      I love how you describe the spiritual benefit of seemingly mundane writing. Clearly explaining anything is such a gift to others. And in a democracy, it is essential that citizens understand what is happening in government. Special grace to all who help such communication happen.

      All best in preparing the schedule that fits your important calling now. BTW, many writers believe that four hours is all that any writer should attempt in one day. I had to write more because of deadlines. Remember that even one hour a day, or even less, can move a project along beautifully, is it comes from your heart.

  6. Richard Gilbert on May 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    I love your daily schedule! As Annie Dillard said, “A schedule defends against whim and chaos.” You also have been working a lot! I wonder if your afternoon work differs from your morning and how? I’ll follow the link to your guest post soon . . .

    • shirleyhs on May 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Yes, the last six months have been almost as rigorous as farming, Richard. 🙂 I would have limited myself to your four hours if I did not have so many publishing deadlines to meet. My problem was in not knowing what you could have taught me about the process taking six years. I signed a contract that gave me almost two years to finish the project, and I had some good material in hand. But oh boy, I’ll know better the next time.

      I try to break things up mornings and afternoons when possible. If I can do drafting/editing or editing/marketing, I do that. Makes the long hours more tolerable.

  7. Kathleen Pooler on May 14, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Shirley, Your words of wisdom have come at a perfect time for me as I struggle to find a schedule that will honor my writing time and calling to write my memoir. I feel far too distracted by social media these days and need to commit to a regular writing schedule. Your handwritten schedule will serve as my template. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve described it like story is having a tantrum inside me and is begging me to release it on paper. All I have to do is show up! You have inspired me.

    • shirleyhs on May 15, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Kathy, I’m not surprised that finding time for your own writing is a struggle. I think it is for all of us, and I have to admit that my FB and Twitter time crept in, more than once, to my writing time. I sometimes justify that creep because I know that maintaining relationships with a community online is also an important part of the process.

      Having said that, I want to encourage you to pay attention to your inner writing story, now having a tantrum. Pay attention to that pounding in your rib cage. Go write! You have a beautiful spirit and wonderful story.

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