Good 'spirituality' writing creates an experience for the reader and makes demands on the reader, but only after it has done all of that to the writer.
Over a year ago, I underlined this in Vinita Wright’s The Art of Spiritual Writing, but wouldn’t know how true it was until I started sharing my writing with others.
The process of blogging has made me confront myself as much as being in therapy or attending retreats. Sitting down to a blank page has required a deep trust in following a muse’s nudging, or perhaps a Holier Spirit. It has fostered an awareness throughout the week, a radar for where there’s light and where there’s darkness. Every round of editing uproots another question:
“Is this true or what you want to seem true?”
“Why are you experiencing a block about this topic?”
“Are your motivations for this paragraph, this piece, this entire project, still healthy?”
Writing words for others makes me face the roughest parts of myself, and courage makes me press “publish” despite them. With writing as my spiritual guru for the past year, here is what I’ve learned:
1. Fight the False Self
Deadlines have now helped me understand the term “writer’s block.” There have been many days I’ve sat down to write and all that happened was my cursor dragging out a string of letters, just to eat them back up.
Other times the words flow so freely, I barely need to edit. When I’m in this natural writing place, I recognize that the times that feel forced are because I was working against my false self. I was writing words I think an audience wants to hear. Or trying to seem funnier or more put together than I am. Or sometimes, I’m writing about a topic I want to want to write about, but honestly, just don’t.
I see these patterns outside my writing too. Trying so hard to put on a parenting style that just doesn’t fit. Saying the words I think people want to hear. Feeling guilty that I haven’t been more artistic or healthy or politically engaged, when in reality, I haven’t made time for those values because I want to want more than I actually do.
Writing is teaching me to listen to who I am and trust that she is enough.
2. Live in Discomfort
Months ago I started calling myself a writer in a battle against imposter syndrome. It turns out this is a war. Every time I attempt to publish something, the inner critic begins. Who are you to offer words on how to live? Vulnerability fights back and I publish. Then I have a meltdown in my personal life and feel incredibly foolish. How can you write to others about healthy habits? You are so fake! Eventually the inner critic quiets and the meltdown passes and I come out on the other side with what feels like an epiphany…
Until I realize it's a familiar theme and one I've already blogged about. Maybe you should stop writing until you’ve got it together. This feels like a special form of crazy.
I could take my own advice and remind myself that life happens in spirals and this is all growth. Unfortunately, that doesn’t silence the inner critic telling me to stop sharing about my growth until it’s complete. I know that is perfectionism speaking, perfectionism that isn’t even achievable and shields me from connection. I know that growth, health, and wisdom can go hand-in-hand with backsliding, selfishness, and foolishness because we’re human. Knowing that and dwelling in it are two different things though.
Writing is teaching me to fight the urge to only show the positive, to tie every post up in a neat bow. Life isn’t that comfortable so good writing shouldn’t be either.
3. Take Intention in the Little Steps
Writing is a form of self-care and spirituality for me, but it is also related to career goals. Because the latter seems more socially acceptable sometimes, or maybe just more tangible, it can become my focus. I’ve found myself recently on autopilot with my writing, paying more attention to a self-imposed schedule than the process of creativity or the content coming out of it.
I didn’t realize this until I saw the same behaviors in my parenting. I get so focused on getting to that playdate on time, I try pushing past the acting out behaviors of my kiddo. I meet them with resistance, trying to stay on schedule, and am (not surprisingly) met with more resistance. Our battle leaves us both feeling worse and we’re still late—late to an event that's purpose was to have fun together.
I have to step back and ask myself if I’ve lost sight of the point of all this? If I’ve become so focused on an end-goal, I’m taking short-cuts on the little steps that get me there. Am I being the gentle and in-tune parent (who might show up late)? The writer who creates good content (perhaps slowly) because she enjoys it?
Writing is teaching me to remember the intentions behind my behaviors and that there is never-ending grace to start again (or press delete).