Creative work, such as writing, can help us build a habit of attentiveness. Putting a feeling, a situation, or even a thought into words makes it easier to identify and name. And once we’ve done that, we might be better prepared to deal with that feeling, situation, or thought.
Prepare to Write
- Set a time to do this writing. Plan a half hour sometime today and put it on your schedule as an appointment you must keep.
- Choose a place to write. It should be free of distractions; you know the conditions that work best for you, whether a home office or the corner of a bedroom or a table tucked away in a local coffee shop.
- Make the space conducive to writing. Disconnect from the Internet; turn off your phone. Get rid of clutter, such as books, calendars, or projects. Enhance the environment with what helps you: background music, a lit candle, an image or object that calms or inspires you.
- Give yourself five minutes to settle in and get ready to write. Sip your coffee or tea, if that helps. It’s probably better not to have food around because eating can become a distraction. Find a good position for sitting. Close your eyes or find a visual point of focus. Take several deep breaths.
- Consecrate the time, space, and your efforts. Accept this writing time as God’s gift to you. Offer your time, energy, and work back to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to clear the way for writing that will benefit you. Expect good work to happen.
Do the Work
Most of the time, it’s best to write quickly and not think too much about what you’re writing. This allows the flow of material to come forth. Choose one or both of the following exercises.
Select an object in your house, preferably one that has some meaning to you beyond its apparent purpose—for instance, if you choose a drinking cup, it should be the one you use every day for your coffee or one that belonged to your grandmother. Sit with this object for a few minutes. Then write about it. Begin with physical description, and don’t leave out anything. Include color, shape, size, texture, appearance, its weight in your hand.
Then write more about it—whatever comes to mind. Write about why you chose this cup. Write the emotions, if any, that surface as you sit with the cup. Write about a conversation you had recently while drinking from this cup. Write anything that you associate with the cup.
Sit in a public place where you can watch people without being obvious or intrusive. Allow your attention to be drawn to a particular person or to two people who are interacting. Describe what you see, beginning with the obvious details, such as physical appearance. Then describe how this person moves; what she does with her hands or her head when she’s talking, how quickly/slowly and heavily/lightly she seems to be breathing. Notice where she focuses her eyes. If she is interacting with someone, write down everything you notice. After a while, try to write about what emotions she seems to be expressing. Write other things too—does she seem tired? Is she hesitant or eager to talk? What does her body language say about her well-being?
Reflect on the Work
- Read what you have written during this time.
- Highlight or underline a word, phrase, or paragraph that has the most emotional pull for you as you read it now.
- Ask these questions: How did it feel to do this writing today? Was there a free flow to it? Was there resistance? Did I feel relieved to do this writing, or was the experience unsettling or negative in some way? What one bit of wisdom can I glean from today’s writing? What outcome from this exercise am I most thankful for?
- If there is some action you need to take, as indicated by this writing experience, make a note of it. If you can, plan how you will take action.
- You can take this a step further and talk to God [Jesus, Holy Spirit] or Mary or your favorite saint about this experience.
If you feel so inclined, share with the DDF community a sentence or two about this experience. I’d like to collect sentences from as many people who are willing.
I wrote the material this week especially for this online retreat—these are not book excerpts! However, if you find this material helpful and would like to pursue your writing further, you will probably enjoy my book: The Art of Spiritual Writing: How to Craft Prose That Engages and Inspires Your Readers. Use code 4535 to purchase your copy at 30% off through 10/05/14. Shipping and handling are additional.