First Fruits: Writing as an Act of Worship

March 17, 2020 § 48 Comments


By Jenny Currier

“Have you ever considered writing as an act of worship?” my roommate asked two years ago. She saw me struggling to find time to write, mentally beating myself up over it. And though I am a person of faith, the answer was no.

It wasn’t until I attended a writing retreat in Italy last fall that I recalled our conversation. While overlooking the Tuscan countryside, I wrote without distraction. This was new for me, staying in a beautiful foreign country with easily accessible gelato and being able to reach my writing goals. Simultaneously, I noticed difficulty while praying; I could not focus my mind on prayer in the traditional sense. When I asked God about it (because who else would I ask?), the answer I received was, Just keep writing.

Call me crazy—and at this point, I would understand if you did—but I felt as if God enjoyed seeing me use my gifts, to me a revelatory thought: who wouldn’t want to see the gifts they’ve given someone put to good use? God is much kinder than I am; by this point, I would have spitefully taken my gift back. Instead, I spent the remainder of my week in Tuscany, and the two months that followed, in a strange euphoria, as if I’d finally figured out the secret to a writing life.

But, as way leads to way (or rather, as Thanksgiving led to Christmas) my schedule filled with holiday travel, shopping and social engagements, and I was knocked out of my rhythm and routine. Then I ended up in the hospital with unexplained low blood sugar, making the simple act of waking up difficult. I was trapped in a brain fog inhibiting my concentration and creativity. Once the fog lifted, my laptop was stolen. It felt as if writing—particularly the work I wanted to do on my book—had turned into a cosmic joke. I started to believe that the world would be just fine without my writing, and maybe I would be, too.

An object at rest—or a writer who has stopped writing—stays at rest. Stuck, she requires an enormous force to move again.

For me, that “force” was spiritual, an energetic push in the form of a new practice during the season of Lent. Instead of giving up sugar this year, or practicing yoga, or shutting off all devices after 10pm (all of which have helped me in the past), I kept coming back to “make more time for writing.” Not because I need to meet self-imposed deadlines. Not because I need to publish more, lest an agent ignore my proposal. Not because I need to finish this dang book (though all of those things are true). But because writing is a way I can engage with God; being made in God’s image involves tapping into a creative entity. In Greek, humankind is referred to as God’s poima, meaning poetry. We are God’s creative masterpiece—and I feel more complete when I lean into my desires to create.

As my Lenten practice, I have given up “not making time to write.” In the morning, after I’ve had coffee, read my devotions and journaled, I set the timer for 30-60 minutes and begin with a short (200-300 word) reflection over something I’ve read that morning. This is my sacrifice of first fruits—offering my first creative output, that God may continue to allow my creativity to flourish.

I’ve been successful in daily writing and reflection, and most days I’ve found the time and inspiration to continue my effort—I’ve written and submitted an essay for an anthology, and this blog post, too, feels like a tangible fruit in a short time. For accountability, one friend checks in to see if I’m writing, and I send another my morning reflections (his Lenten practice is to read something spiritual, so we are keeping each other mutually accountable).

Combining writing with a spiritual practice has been both grounding and motivating for me. My hope is that I can build a habit and learn to let go of other “necessities” that take away my time. Full disclosure: I prioritize morning gym sessions over all, so God may also be teaching me a lesson about my relationship with exercise and food.

I have a fairly consistent inability to change my behavior simply because I should. Perhaps you are similar. Can you find motivation in a power or being greater than yourself, that enables you to overcome inertia? Perhaps it’s considering the people who need to hear your story, who can benefit from your words. Perhaps there is someone you can write “to”—an imagined audience, a real-life accountability buddy who expects to receive a daily message from you (or a piece of writing) that marks your progress. Perhaps it simply the feeling of coming into your best self while writing, and recognizing this self is a gift to be shared.

There are many ways to engage in the spiritual side of writing. The most revolutionary for me has been to see my writing as an expression of a gift, an act of worship.

______________________________________________

Jenny Currier is a freelance writer, food tour guide, and publications coordinator at Brown University. She is a finalist for the 2019 International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. Her stories have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Sunlight Press,and Vagabond Magazine. If you’re interested in reading her reflections, message her and she’s happy to share. (Or you’ll find her work in Forward Day by Day for the entire month of July 2021.) Follow her on Instagram @travelingfoodwriter and Twitter @jennycurrier.

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§ 48 Responses to First Fruits: Writing as an Act of Worship

  • Setting a goal, setting a timer, setting about a spiritual practice as in Li-Young Lee’s “The Gift.” A treasure of discipline.

  • I say that the universe told me to finish writing my book three years ago, Jenny, but I know it was God behind the message. Even so, I never thought about writing as an act of worship. You’ve given me lots to think about. I’ll ask Him about it, too, because…who else? 😉

    • This comment makes me happy. I’m so glad you felt that call to write and persisted! And I believe there’s such thing as retrospective worship, especially if God is outside of time 🙂

  • Lack of discipline is my problem, I know what I want, I know what I need to do. You are so inspiring thank you. This is good advice.

  • Yesssss! In my blog and in the memoir classes I teach, I emphasize writing as an act of worship. Love your post!

  • Deborah Cort says:

    This phrase, “recognizing this self is a gift to be shared” is so true. I believe we are here on this Earth to share the gifts we have been given. Your sharing here has been a gift to me and I thank you!

    • Thank you, Deborah. I appreciate the kind words, and thank YOU for sharing your beautiful beliefs! Now more than ever is a great time for all of us to use our gifts to help one another ❤

  • Sadly, I often think of Lent as a time of giving up things I love. But I also, seemingly, love wasting time on everything but using my God-given gifts. You’ve given me a wonderful way to think of Lent and writing, Jenny–thank you!

    • Rebecca, I’m so glad you could reframe Lent and writing! But I, too, usually think of Lent as taking away things I love or adding in things I’m not good at…which, I guess, making time to write is something I’m not good at? I like the way you phrased it: “I love wasting time on everything but using my God-given gifts.” Wishing great writing for you :).

  • Kim Hinson says:

    I love this Jenny :-). I especially love your insight that “I felt as if God enjoyed seeing me use my gifts.” I know how much I love watching my daughters do…everything. How awesome to realize that God must feel the same way about all of His children—all of us. Thank you for sharing this message!

    • That’s amazing, Kim! I love giving gifts that friends and family are excited to use, and I can only imagine how compounded that is with children. I’m so delighted that it struck a personal chord. You paint a beautiful image of parenting ❤

  • Sandra says:

    What a beautiful piece. You’ve articulated something I’ve thought about but not to this degree. I am going to share with my “spiritual writing” people.

    • Thank you, Sandra! It’s nice to know I’ve not pondered these things in a vacuum 🙂 And I really appreciate you sharing it with friends. I hope you are well and safe in the midst of all that’s happening!

  • Shannon Thomas says:

    I needed this. Aside from writing, I’ve been in an unmotivated creative slump. I love to bible journal as an act of worship and connection with God, but haven’t done so in many months, aside from our monthly class at church. God wants me to connect with Him and worship, using my creative gifts.

    • That sounds like a wonderful practice, and I hope you feel sparked to start it up again. I feel like it becomes a positive feedback loop – and I hope it is filled with wonderful surprises 🙂

  • G. J. Jolly says:

    Jenny, I like your idea about starting a writing practice with thoughts about something you read. For the longest time, I’ve been trying to keep a journal with no success. Come to find out, I was trying to do it at the wrong time of day for me. Night is my best time for this. Still, I do struggle with the first few sentences. I think your practice is one I will try in hopes I’ll loosen up quicker.

    • The time of day makes all the difference! I used to journal at night, but I was inconsistent, and I fell asleep so many times that much of it was nonsense. So I hope that shift helps! And writing as a response has helped me– I hope it helps you 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    I loved this post as I definitely see writing as a spiritual practice. Do you have a blog I might follow?

    • Hi Elizabeth! Thanks so much 🙂 I do have a blog that is more travel and humor at jennycurrier.com but I’ve also archived a year of gratitude in which every day I would write a blog about my “joyful moment.” It’s definitely spiritual in nature. You can find those at joyfulnessproject.wordpress.com ❤

  • bearcee says:

    Beautiful! This meant a lot to me because I’ve been writing a weekly column on faith and doubt and mystery for almost three years for a magazine—and it’s difficult to develop ideas week after week. You captured the relation between your faith, your temperament, and your writing so well. Thanks!

    • Wow, that sounds like a wonderful column! Three years is a LOT of content. Which magazine is this? I love the concept and I pray you feel a fresh wave of inspiration 🙂

      • Barry Casey says:

        It’s in the Arts and Spirituality section of spectrummagazine.org, but you can also read them at my blog, Danteswoods.com. My first collection of essays, “Wandering, Not Lost,” is available from Wipf and Stock on Amazon. Writing as a spiritual practice—what could be better!

  • naveedinj says:

    Good

  • […] First Fruits: Writing as an Act of Worship — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]

  • Nicole says:

    This summer, realizing how often I let internal criticism and judgement derail my writing practices, I felt God invite me to see the blank page, my writing time, as sanctuary. That word has made such a difference the past several months — to enter my writing as worship, as confession, as gift-giving, as listening, as surrender, as communion. As holy ground that some days looks scrappy and others sublime, but always safe. It feels so wonderful to encounter another writer encountering the same phenomenon! I needed the infusion of affirmation that “this is the way, walk ye in it” 🙂 Thank you!

    • Nicole, that is so beautiful. I admit that I most often associate the blank page with terror–what a beautiful reframe. Negative self-talk AND feeling like I need to produce something “worthy” (for others?) is often stifling. I’m so glad you found a *sanctuary* in writing, and that we received similar words of wisdom. Affirmation, indeed ❤

  • […] First Fruits: Writing as an Act of Worship — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]

  • Sydney says:

    Yes, it is clear to us who know Jenny that this is, indeed, her using her gifts and is a worshipful experience.

    Beautiful.

    • Such kind words ❤ I have a lot of debt to my roommate, who spoke words of blessing and encouragement over me for the entire year we lived together. Thanks, Sydney 🙂

  • […] First Fruits: Writing as an Act of Worship — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog […]

  • Steve Savage says:

    Thanks, for the encouragement. It is indeed a act of worship. I being putting it off for many years to write and it drives me crazy, knowing how far I’ve could have being. Your writing have motivated me. Thank you.

  • “An object at rest—or a writer who has stopped writing—stays at rest. Stuck, she requires an enormous force to move again.” As writers we get stuck when the crises in our lives feels great than our inspiration. Wonderful blog. I can relate to the faith and worship especially during the present times.

    • For sure, Mariella. I think there’s also fear at play… and fear manifests in so many ways. I began writing this blog before the coronavirus had swept across the USA in the way it has, and I think your words about crisis > inspiration feel weighty and true.

  • I am moved by the faith and worship that seems to be resurfacing. Its like we are finally aware of a higher being. Glad I found you blog.

  • evebundi says:

    Here I am thinking that I’m the only one who struggles to find time to write. I’m humbled by this piece. You’ve created a new perspective of worship that I’m gonna incorporate in my creativity.

    • I’m so glad I could be the one to let you know YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I hope that viewing it in through a different lens will free up your creativity and inspiration in new ways 🙂 wishing you the best!

  • hurtzogood says:

    Hi Jenny, first time blogger here. Where did you find your inspiration when you first started writing/blogging, and what have you found works for you best when you find yourself facing writer’s block or another obstacle?

    • When I began blogging, my inspiration was everyday life and finding a humorous way of telling stories (I followed a blogger out of Chicago whose style I wanted to imitate). I’ve always kept a journal, so personal stories and reflections seem to come easiest for me. Re: writer’s block. Sadly, the only way around is through – and I avoid it at all costs, until one day, months later, I sit down and it all comes out. Sometimes giving it time is part of the process.

  • leebanons says:

    cool

  • Really enjoyed this, thank you for helping me to remember that using our gifts is worship and sometimes, ministry.

  • […] A short essay I wrote, First Fruits: Writing as an Act of Worship, was published on the Brevity […]

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