Writing As A Spiritual Practice


I’ll be giving a talk on writing as a spiritual practice in March for Wisdom Soup, a wonderful new Meetup I learned about recently. If you had told me fifteen years ago I’d be giving this talk, I’d have thought you had me confused with someone else. I’m a storyteller, I’d have told you. Leave that stuff for the gurus. Yet here I am, and I believe any success I’ve had as a writer is due in large because I recognized that my daily trips to my workroom were above all else spiritual practice, whether I wanted to call them that or not.

The problem I had fifteen years ago was with the word spiritual. It didn’t feel grounded. A spirit, it seemed to me, was a thing not of this world, and like it or not, I most definitely was of this world. This world was where I suffered and rejoiced, where I won or lost. This is where it all happened. Yes, I’d often drift into fantasy where the world was different, where I was different, where things worked out differently – but then I’d awaken and there I’d be, right back where I started in a world I could not control.

Of course, at the same time I’d go every day to my desk and imagine a world different than the one I could see, hear, or touch. This imagining, which I called writing, was different than fantasy. I wasn’t trying to change what was when I wrote, I was trying to see it differently, whether through fiction or memory. What happened at the desk, when it went well, felt more like reality than invention. In fact, when it went very well, writing felt more like reality than much of what I experienced as I careened around that world I could see and hear and touch. “If only I could live the way I wrote,” I’d sometimes lament. “Then I’d never have to fantasize ever again.”

I’m still not a fan of the word spiritual, but I have not come up with a better one to describe the totality of that which exists beyond my five senses. Nor have I come up with a better word to describe the constant, daily, moment-to-moment practice of remembering that most of what I call reality, what I’ve called The World, is really just a story. It is not the rain I’ve experienced, but the story I told myself about the rain, that it was good or bad, that it should or should not have fallen. The rain is nothing; the story is everything, and you can’t touch a story.

So I was correct when I believed I was just a storyteller. We all are. The question is whether I will tell my stories on purpose, or live a story I would never read or share. It is a choice I make every moment of every day, one I practice and practice, whether I’m writing, speaking, eating, or walking in the rain.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.