Writing as a Spiritual Practice
I’ve always been a writer, but it’s only in the past two years that I’ve felt comfortable calling myself one. When I was a girl, I’d sit my introverted self down on the floor in my room and write stories, the characters I created becoming as real to me as my closest friends. I wrote mysteries akin to Nancy Drew in which the young heroine always cracked the case and gained the admiration of her friends for her brilliance and ingenuity. As I aged, my writing took more of a personal bent as I began to mine my own life for content and creation. Sometimes I wrote fiction that borrowed from my own personal truths, other times I wrote personal essays in an effort to understand my own life and how I fit into the world. As I got more busy with work and creating a life for myself after college, I stepped away from writing thinking it a frivolous way to spend my time. Afterall, it wasn’t making me money and I was unwilling to share it with anyone, so what was the point?
After a period of several years in which I wrote only intermittently, I attended a parenting class and we were asked to write down our personal experience of parenting and how it had changed our world view. I picked up the pen and it immediately felt like my hand had been missing it for years. As my hand glided across the paper and the words flowed onto the page, I felt an intense rush of adrenaline flood my brain and burst down through every cell of my body. I felt like I was on fire. I was awake and alive in a way I hadn’t been in a long time. My body was telling me that I needed to write, but I still wasn’t convinced writing was a worthwhile way to spend my time. I was a single parent with a small child and I was convinced that writing was a luxury I couldn’t afford, even though my body told me otherwise.
I wouldn’t allow myself the gift of writing time until I had nothing but time on my hands during my breakdown. Physical activity of any kind was too taxing and any sort of noise set my nerves to frazzle. Writing was one of the few activities that didn’t cause me physical or emotional pain; it actually felt healing. Writing was often the only way I could express what I was going through and the journals were the gentlest of listeners taking my words and holding them with great care. It was through journaling that I was able to calm my fears about how or when I would regain some semblance of a life following my breakdown. Returning to the journal day after day kept me grounded and focused and I was able to learn what I was thinking and what emotions were moving through me at a particular moment. When I would go back and reread past entries, I noticed how often my moods fluctuated day to day. I learned that emotions come and go as do thoughts and that enabled me to find comfort in knowing that they don’t last and don’t define me. They exist in the moment and I don’t have to allow them to rule my life.
Writing is core to my being now and is a sacred practice that I grant myself time for everyday. In denying myself the time and space to write, I was denying a core part of my identity. I realize now I don’t have to make money, or publish anything if I don’t want to, but I do need to write. It’s how I know what I’m thinking and feeling. It’s how I process experiences and it’s how I’ve found my voice. I’ve written thousands of pages that no one will ever see and that’s okay. I’ve seen them and that’s the important thing because in today’s world filled with opinions, busyness and productivity, my writing time is a gift I give to myself to be alone with my thoughts and feelings and to process my lived experiences. Writing allows me to be true to myself because I’m granting myself time for one of my greatest passions. It’s a form of self care, my therapy and a source of great joy for me. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be as connected to myself and the world without it. I’m a writer because I need to be one to be healthy and to be my best self. It’s as necessary to me as food and water and I’m glad I’ve shed the notion that I shouldn’t allow myself time for it because it doesn’t bring in money. The joy and peace of mind it brings me are far more valuable.