Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Does your writing pass the 3 tests of métier?

For me, writing is the only thing that passes the three tests of métier: (1) when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead; (2) it produces a sense of accomplishment and, once in a while, pride; and (3) it’s frightening. — Gloria Steinem

What does writing mean for you?

I was looking for my old organic chemistry textbook the other day and instead found a book I vaguely recall telling myself I would never look at again once I finished Technical Writing. The book is called Writing with Style by John R. Trimble and it’s filled with academic conversations about writing that I found only somewhat interesting during my junior year as an English major.

The above quote was on the first page I turned to and, after reading it for a third time, I found myself asking two questions. The first was: What does métier mean?  The second was: How can I add it to a casual conversation this week?

So I did what every logophile does when she stumbles across a new word. I looked it up.

According to Merriam-Webster, métier means 1) Vocation, trade. 2) An area of activity in which one excels: forte.

Looking beyond the common definition, I discovered it’s an old French word that is derived from the vulgar Latin “misterium,” an alteration of the Latin “ministerium” which means work or ministry.

All thoughts of sounding sophisticated (and even more odd) at my next public gathering where immediately cast aside. That one word had just reminded me of three things about writing. Three things I used to know, but had somehow lost sight of in the last few months.

Three Definitions of Writing

1) Writing is a vocation, a trade. We hear this all the time, but for so many of us it’s still just a hobby. As a result it is often set aside for something “more important” or is overshadowed by whatever is captivating our attention most at a given time. The people who really excel are the ones who stay focused.

2) Writing is an activity, which by definition requires action. It’s also a strength. Writing is a difficult skill to truly master. It’s something a lot of people wish they could do but, like learning to play the violin is something few ever take the time to really perfect. Those who know how to write and effectively communicate a message are blessed. It’s a shame and a waste to ignore that gift.

3) Writing is a ministry. People read because they’re looking for something to speak to them. Words encourage in moments of doubt, strengthen in times of weakness, and bring passion to seasons of apathy. Words open up new avenues of thought, take us to places we can’t visit ourselves, and allow us to understand the world through the eyes of a stranger.

Does my writing pass the test?

As I sit here I have to ask myself if writing, for me, passes the three tests of métier. How often does it fully captivate my attention these days? Do I feel accomplished when I finish a project, and do I ever feel proud of that work? There’s no doubt that it’s frightening. And I think that right there is what’s hanging me up right now.

So now I have one more question I need to find the answer to. What am I afraid of? Because, for me, it’s time to face that fear.


  1. You state it so simply and yet you give me so much to think about. How easy it is to forget that, if writing is to be our vocation, we must actually treat it as such. We have to have dedication, there must be action, and there is a certain amount of responsibility to our readers (and ourselves). I love your thoughts. Thank you for the encouragement today.

    1. And thank you for your comment, Jessica. While part of my blog is me working through my journey as a writer, I really want to make sure what I share is of value to those who take the time to read my thoughts. Feedback is so helpful in determining what I post in the future.

  2. Well said. Some good reminders for us as we work. Thanks, Terry.