March 17, 2020 § 49 Comments
“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.