Spiritual writing is engaging.

Because my day job for more than a decade has been editing books for a Jesuit publisher, I have become well acquainted with the principles of Ignatian spirituality. The Jesuit order of Catholic priests – also known as the Society of Jesus – was founded way back in 1539 by St. Ignatius of Loyola and several companions. Ignatius’s most well-known writing, The Spiritual Exercises, became foundational to what many of us know as spiritual direction. I could go on at length about Ingatius’s insights, but I mention him in this book because he understood that the spiritual life is an ongoing engagement with reality. He understood that prayer must always be an experience, not merely an idea or a belief.

As a writer and one who has assisted many other writers, I have learned that creativity also is bold engagement. 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. True creativity is a spiritual function, a form of engagement that requires openness, attentiveness, honesty, and desire. These same traits are necessary for spiritual growth and enlightenment. The best spiritual writing is what I would call thoroughly Ignatian in that it creates an experience for the reader. This sort of writing goes further than providing information or giving instructions; it creates a space of engagement in which the reader might connect a reality and be moved forward into her life and gifts.

So when you bring together the act of writing with the realm of spirituality, you have encountered engagement in one of its finest embodiments. “Spirituality writing” transcends words on the page, yet it forms through words. When a writer takes on the task of exploring the world of the spirit, she has invited a process that will change her permanently. If she has done her work well, it will change her readers too. 

  • How do we bring together our most interior sensitivities with the concrete experiences we create by arranging words into sentences, pages, and entire visions?
  • How do we tame the fiery truths of the universe by giving them names or descriptions? Should we even try?

I believe that, for some of us, attempting to juggle fire is a life calling. A writer’s task is to discover the names of things, and the task of a spirituality writer is to provide vocabulary by which the rest of us can name what God – that lovely, terrifying Divine – is doing to us, for us, around us, and right inside us. 

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