Just before this Lenten journey began, I read Pat Schneider’s book, How the Light Gets In: Writing as Spiritual Practice. One of the most important themes that continues through this book is that our spirituality emerges from the intentionality of our writing…our diligence in moving words from the depths of our soul onto the paper (or electronic device!) on which we write. I particularly appreciate the metaphor she uses early on in her book, particularly for those who may be new to the process:
“Beginning to write is an intentional, particular, inner act; usually it seems like turning toward something unknown in my mind–an inward looking, listening. A clearer metaphor might be fishing. I go fishing in my mind. I put on bait, the bait of my own longing, my desire, and my hunger for connection, for a tug of something alive at the end of line. Something that I may have to struggle with to pull in, but that will be wild and important to me, whether I keep it or let it go. In writing, my desire is for the flash of recognition, the image that I only partly glimpse, but recognize as a glimmer of something worth trying to capture in words on my page.”
-Pat Schneider from How the Light Gets In: Writing as Spiritual Practice (pp. 4-5)
Having spent the past year myself working at this concept of autobiographical and spiritual writing, I think her description in right on. Embracing this intention to write requires me to sit, to catch a glimpse of something (memory, quotation, a flash of a person or time or event) and then to put words to the page, attempting to go after that flash of recognition. Almost always, when I am finished, I go back and read what I have written and am amazed by the detail that was somewhere in my mind, inaccessible to me until I allowed the words to have life. That, as Pat Schneider would say, is how the light gets in.
Since reading her book, I’ve had the delightful opportunity to talk with Pat several times about writing, and some common experiences that we share in spite of the many differences in age and time and geography in our lives. She is a teacher of the “writing prompt” and so, I am offering one to you as well.
Writing prompt: “A moment I saw clearly”
Sit for a few moments. Let an image come to your mind, whatever it is. As you write, begin to describe that image you saw in as much detail as you can. Allow the words to take you in the direction they need for you to go. Don’t stop to re-read your writing until your words have all found their way out. Sit for a few minutes before going back to re-read your writing, only then adding in anything more that occurs to you.
Your writing can be something you keep to yourself, that you share with those close to you, or share here or on your own blog (don’t have one? start one!). What I can tell you is that once I began sharing my writing last year, the “small points of light” I started to notice in my own life became a radiant beam of connection with those I know, and even with strangers. Public sharing might not be for everyone; but, the risk it requires does also have its rewards.
May the light of your writing shine brightly on your journey.