Every spiritual memoir reaches into mystery, attempting to place human life in a broad sacred context. Your task as a writer is not to shy from the unknown but to interact with it, to stretch your hand forward into the abyss. This is the second distinguishing attribute of spiritual memoir. The writing itself becomes a means for spiritual growth. Often the writer stumbles on this strange occurrence middraft, discovering that the writing itself is an avenue for prayer, a means of wrestling with angels, or a form of contemplation.
Once you experience writing as an agent of spiritual growth, it’s possible-indeed, fruitful-to invite growth every time you sit down to write. Take, for instance, the following introduction to Nancy Mairs’ memoir, Ordinary Time:
I have spent the whole of my conscious life-against all principles of reason-in an uneasy and unrelenting state of religious faith, and as I hurtle toward the half-century mark, I find myself wanting with increasing urgency to know why and how I’ve done such a thing and what the consequences have been. The only way I can find out is through language, learning line by line as the words compose me. Other people may have developed different and more efficient strategies, but in order to know anything at all, I have to write a book.
from “Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir” by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew