Writing, Faith, and Spiritual Practice

I like this quote from German novelist and essay writer Thomas Mann:

photo by Anabelle Bryant – thanks to two of my friends for sharing this with me

That’s quite a statement coming from a Nobel Prize winner for literature!  But in my own non-Nobel-prize-winning way, I identify with his words. Sometimes writing seems like very difficult work—where the only writing is re-writing and re-writing and still not getting it right, where I find myself re-organizing my book shelves or trolling Facebook or discovering some new way to avoid the discipline of putting words on the page.

And yet, at times, I find that writing is less Thomas Mann and more Harry Bingham (this quote from an interview by Kelcey Parker on her excellent blog):

photo by April Yamasaki, while on holiday in New Brunswick, Canada

So which is it? Is writing hard or easy? More like a chore or a holiday? A difficult task as Thomas Mann implies, or a natural and “seamless” part of life as Harry Bingham describes?

For me, writing has been both—a delight and a drudgery, a natural part of reflecting on my life and a task that I can only get through with much perseverance and prayer.  I don’t have any good advice on turning the drudgery into delight, except when it’s hard, I’m learning to persevere until it becomes easy again, and when it’s easy, I receive it gladly as a gift from God. Writing hard, writing easy—just write!

What applies to writing here applies just as well to spiritual practice and faith.  Some days, spiritual practice may seem easy, as a refreshing and very welcome Time Out from the busyness of my life; on other days, it seems to take enormous energy and perseverance, and I understand very well why it’s also called spiritual discipline. Some days, faith comes easily like the faith of a child, and at other times faith seems difficult and filled with questions and doubt. Either way—as in writing, so in spiritual practice and faith, and life itself—I’m learning to keep on keeping on.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: Which of these two quotes above best describes your experience of writing/faith/spiritual practice/life?


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