Help from others

If you’re trying to write all alone, you’re already in trouble. If you’re trying to make the spiritual journey alone, you’re already in trouble. It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do or what kind of spiritual path you’re taking. Human beings are designed for community. I can say that confidently, even though I’m a classic introvert. It doesn’t matter what your temperament is; one way or the other, you need help from beyond yourself.

Needing help presents a dilemma, because a lot of the actual work of writing must be done in solitude. A lot of the thinking and musing that happen while you’re writing or preparing to write happens better in solitude. And a lot of the prayer and meditation that build the interior life happens when we’re alone as well. However, the glory of this dilemma is how many options we have. Have are just a few resources for help, ways in which we tap the blessings of community:

  • The works of good writers, filmmakers, visual artists, speakers, musicians, and mystics.
  • Ordinary communities we’re part of already: colleagues at the workplace, people in the faith community, family members, people we jog with or go shopping with, online communities such as friends through social media or people we connect with on a favorite blog.
  • People we go to for specific kinds of help, such as pastors, mentors, spiritual directors, therapists, favorite grandmas or uncles, and life coaches.
  • Organized communities such as writing groups, prayer circles, knitting circles, and hiking groups.
  • Retreats and conferences of every sort imaginable.
  • People we connect with on a personal level through e-mail or – remember these? – cards and letters. 

We need help. Sometimes we need encouragement, and other times we need technical advice. We need company and a cup of tea, or we need several hours of focused work with someone else looking on. It is normal and healthy to need resources. Don’t try to be self-sufficient; it will limit the quality of your work, and very easily such an attitude can lead to pride and defensiveness. Occasionally at a conference or workshop, a writer approaches me with questions about getting published, and I get an overly protective vibe from him. This is the person who worries about someone stealing his idea if his manuscript sits on an editor’s desk for others to see. Not surprisingly, I learn that this person has never let anyone critique this manuscript. He’s holding on tightly to his private world of swords, and it’s made him anxious. It also has prevented him from growing as a writer.

What assistance do you need? What support would help you do your work better? Try a few things and see what works. Get in touch with other writers and creative types, and be open to what you might gain from their company.

from “The Art of Spiritual Writing” by Vinita Hampton Wright