If Things Aren’t Going Well

Sometimes, you know that you’re not doing well. The writing may not be stuck, but it has ceased to tap anything deeper than your thesaurus. The prayer may not have stopped, but it has ceased to help you love your life. At such a time, one deficiency may be pointing you to the other abundance. 

I once heard Madeleine L’Engle speak about writing. During the question-and-answer period at the end of her talk, someone asked if her faith had helped her write – or something to that effect. This happened years ago, so everything I’m writing now is my paraphrase. I do remember, though, Madeleine saying that quite the opposite was true. Every time she’d found herself wandering away from the faith, it was the writing that brought her back. 

I believe that we are designed in such a way that our soul work – whether it’s writing or praying – will always take us where we need to go. If we truly attend to the work, we’ll be fine, even if we’re struggling and nothing seems clear. So, when my spirituality is flat and loveless, I turn to the writing, and I simply write what I feel like writing. If it’s attentive, creative writing, then more often than not, that creative work helps my soul come back to a place of spiritual calm and healing. 

And when the writing can’t find its footing and the block remains despite my efforts to write through it, I figure it’s because my spirit is struggling or in pain or full of sorrow. Which means that the writing can wait while I go to the annual women’s retreat at my church, or maybe I get more sleep and make a point to pray the psalms for a while. More often than not, as my spirit gets refreshed, the writing is free up again.

To be honest, I have to say that I see little difference between writing and praying. They both happen in the same place – that core of my person where all the wisdom lives. They both require attentiveness and honesty and an open heart. And the two disciplines – the art and the spirituality – are so intertwined that it’s really inaccurate to refer to them separately. When I tend to the one, the other is helped. When I dismiss either one, both suffer. 

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