A new friend asked me yesterday if I was a writer. He had noticed all the books in my house about writing and poetry. I smiled and hesitated. Well, not really. It’s a rare occasion that anyone actually reads my writing even though I have 20 years of notebooks, and now gigabytes, filled. It’s more like writing is my spiritual practice or that I write to save my soul. It’s my chance to make sense of this muddled world, to settle my heart when I’m scared and to howl at the moon in private.
Most of my writing wouldn’t pass muster with Sr. Miriam Patrick, my eleventh grade English teacher who told me at the tender age of 15 to give up the “pen”, my poems were too emotional. She also made me tie up my hair once because she claimed Mary Magdalene had long curls and I was tempting the boys. But that’s got to be another blog post.
When I write to save my soul, it’s not pretty our polished. The pen scrawls across the page as I search for the words that are going to crack my heart open, just a bit, so I can see inside. Some days, the writing is fruitful and I learn the mysteries of god. Other days, it’s more like drinking a strong cup of coffee; I become alert and attend to the trouble in my life with clarity. And some days, I think my writing is the prayer in my soul that needs air and its appearance on the page surprises me more than anything.
This last year, I added a new dimension to this spiritual practice. I copy other writers’ words into my journals. Usually they are excerpts from books that touch me, or lines from poems, or whole poems. I write them on a clean page and often touch them when the ink has dried, as I would a sleeping baby, with gentle wonder. I read them, recite them out loud and then memorize them so I can take them with me. Sometimes, I spend a whole week with one line, but there’s no rule about this. I somehow always know when I need to go to the next line or find the next passage. It’s the one place in my life where I always let my heart lead, rather than my ever-busy rational mind.
I think that’s the challenge for UU’s, to quiet the overused rational mind. It’s like trying to write with our non-dominant hand. It’s cumbersome and slow. It doesn’t yield quick neat results. And it’s hard to trust the outcome because it’s often intangible. So this is a practice where I’ve learned not to expect the outcome, but to trust the process will yield whatever is necessary.
If you are interested in writing as a spiritual practice find a comfortable pen, a clean sheet of paper and begin. Or check out these resources, and most of all enjoy.