Writing is my spiritual practice. Some people pray. Others meditate. I write.
I’ve written enough over the years that I literally have filing cabinets lined up along one side of the garage full of the writing I’ve done for fun, not profit, for me, not others, for the joy of writing in and of itself.
This is writing no one else will ever see.
Some of the poems are prayers. Some are conversations with God. Some are letters to the person I was or wanted to be. All of it was written from the depths of my soul, from that deep yearning to connect with something larger than me. The best writing from those pieces aren’t polished and published; they’re full of insight and revelations and truths.
Some of my favorite authors are spiritual writers—not writers who write about the topic of spirituality, but writers who use their writing to explore their spirituality and as a result of that exploration create wonderful published works.
When I was in college, I had the pleasure of hearing Natalie Goldberg speak about the writing life. For her, writing was an extension of the Zen practice of meditation. She sat and moved her hand across the page, letting the words flow out of her. It was no different than sitting meditation in which she sat and let the thoughts dissolve around her or walking meditation in which each step she took brought her closer to God.
When I was at the Vermont Studio Center, I had the privilege of writing with and learning from Melanie Rae Thon. Melanie’s writing practice consisted of asking questions and answering them through writing. Whether it was questions you asked yourself or your characters, the answers revealed themselves through the words that poured forth. Those answers could become solutions to real life problems or the conflicts and resolutions to published stories or novels.
When I realized the best writing I admired came from the spiritual practice of writing, I changed the way I approached the page. There was the writing I did for work and the writing I did for fun. Over the years, however, I lost sight of how the two intertwined: that the best writing I’ve done is also the best writing I’ve published which is also the best writing that has come from delving deep into my soul through my spiritual practice.
When writing became a job—something to produce for a profit—and stopped becoming a journey to find a way back to God—my spiritual practice—I saw the profits drop and my soul start to die.
Sure, I had the spiritual writing I did for fun on the side, but it was no longer essential like eating and sleeping. It had become a hobby, not a lifestyle.
It was only when I received an e-mail from the new editor of a national publication who discovered my writing through one of my spiritual pieces published when I was much younger that I woke up and realized a fundamental truth: the writing that answers the questions of the soul is also the writing most people want to read. It’s looking the hard questions in the eye and answering truthfully, whether through an article, an essay, a novel, a poem, or a short story, that brings the reader and the writer together in a timeless journey of discovery of the purpose and meaning of life.
Modern life may be different than medieval life, but the life of the spirit remains unchanged. That’s why we still read the classics—the truth does not change.
Writing for fun, for discovery, for the soul is the deepest, truest writing that you’ll ever do.
It doesn’t matter if it ends up the cover story of a national magazine or in the filing cabinet in the garage. What matters is the writing is done with the same loving practice as the everyday self-care tasks of caring for the body. For writing is one way of caring for the soul.