Excerpt from Writing to Wake the Soul

by  Karen Hering

Writing can serve as a spiritual practice in many different forms, some of which you have likely experienced. Perhaps you’ve had a correspondence with a friend or loved one that verged on prayerful reflection, or your journal writing might serve that purpose. Maybe you write a haiku every morning, or a blog entry, as a way of paying attention. An early mentor of mine in the ministry often said her primary spiritual practice was writing weekly sermons, and I know many others who name the writing of their poetry, fiction, or essays as spiritual disciplines.

For much of my own life, journal writing has been an important act of soul centering. Initially unaware of my journal’s spiritual purpose, I later fiercely claimed this writing as a spiritual practice when I realized my journal pages had become a kind of chapel for me, an intimate place that I frequented to whisper my gratitude, praise, and laments, and even, at times, a petition or two. I know many people who regard their journal writing similarly, and perhaps an equal number who consider it a spiritual practice to write daily “morning pages,” a discipline of clearing the mind at the start of each day with three longhand pages of stream-of-consciousness writing advocated by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way.

Fundamentally, writing as a spiritual practice in most of its forms looks a lot like journal or letter writing. It involves sitting down with an open page, without outline, plan, or six points leading toward a predetermined conclusion. Writing as a spiritual practice is an invitation to wander and discover; it is an opportunity to take a step—or many steps—into the unknown. When you write as a spiritual practice, you are not following a charted trail; you are setting out to do a little bushwhacking on the open page, and where you’ll end up is often as unknown as the route you will take to get there.

What makes some writing a spiritual practice and not others is less a matter of form than one of orientation and intention. Writing becomes a spiritual practice when it serves as a personal correspondence with “the still, small voice within,” a way of listening to one’s inner truth, and to the sacred source of that truth. Some might call this a correspondence with God, others with the soul. Still others describe it as a letter to and from oneself, a chance to open time and space for listening to the shy, inner voice that is quickly silenced by a busy pace or a noisy world. It is tuning in to the whisper that sometimes prods us awake in the middle of the night, because the night might be the only time quiet enough for it to be heard. Writing as a spiritual practice awakens our ear to the inner self and, in doing so, to the holy.

Writing as a Spiritual Practice

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