Writing My Way Toward Wholeness

Last weekend, I had the good fortune to do something I haven’t done since I was a teen — attend a writing retreat.

The retreat to mark my long absence from writers retreats, workshops, and conferences was Writing Our Way Toward Wholeness, an exploration of writing as a spiritual practice. It was incredibly nourishing, and just what I needed after the frenzy of NaNoWriMo — a nice chunk of time to reflect, to slow down, to reconnect with my inner self, and to write in my journal — something I sorely missed when most of my words were going toward Rapunzel in November. Most of all, I appreciated that the retreat was not focused on craft or achievement, but on rediscovering writing as a tool in a spiritual journey.

This retreat has come at the right time for me, as I continue to adjust to life as a married woman and call often upon the depths of my spirit to stay in touch with the person I most want to be, for myself and for my partner. It’s also reaffirmed the turn I’ve felt my writing life taking recently, which is slightly inward. When I quit full-time employment at the end of 2007 to do freelance work full-time, one of my goals was to have more time for my writing so that it could achieve more — so I could publish, write more for a real audience, and overall start to take myself more seriously as a writer. I did accomplish those things, and that’s a journey I continue to take. But there’s another, equally important path emerging, and that is a reconnection with writing for the sake of writing.

I’ve always written as a way to cope with my life in various ways — to escape, to feel worthwhile, to remember, to give voice to my joys and heartbreak and confusion. But since a fifth-grade teacher put the idea in my head that I was good at this, there’s been an achievement-orientation behind a lot of my writing. I desperately wanted to be published, and saw much of the time I spent writing as a way to bring me closer to that goal. Now I have achieved that goal, although not in the ways I most yearn for — but I find I don’t yearn for that as strongly as I once did. My dreams of publication are not slumbering, but whether I publish or not has less power now to influence my self-perception as a writer.

Continuing to write despite an accumulating pile of rejections, continuing to write now truly understanding and believing that many of my novels will probably never see publication, has reminded me that writing does not have to be about finding an audience. The joy and frenzy of NaNoWriMo drove this home for me, too — that writing is valuable for its own sake. That it’s valuable for the way it gives me a new way to experience the world, for the way it allows me to connect with myself, for the way it clears some of the clutter in my mind. And that if what I’ve written does not get published or does not even prepare me for publishing something else at a later date, that’s okay. Because in some crucial way, it has deepened my soul, and brought me closer to my most authentic self — and what could be more important than that?

I leave you with a “nested meditation” from my retreat, which is when you start with a single line (provided by the facilitator in this case) and add to it with each repetition. It reminded me of a pantoum, which is one of my favorite forms of poetry.

In the other I find
the pieces missing from myself.

In the other I find
the pieces missing from myself
and hidden in his heart.

In the other I find
the pieces missing from myself
and hidden in his heart
where he surrounded his fear of death.

In the other I find
the pieces missing from myself
and hidden in his heart
where he surrounded his fear of death
with laughter.

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2 Responses to Writing My Way Toward Wholeness

  1. […] it’s not an official resolution, I’ve found myself recommitted to journaling after my Writing Our Way Toward Wholeness workshop, so I’m hoping to journal more often in 2013 as […]

  2. […] as being a means toward achieving my dream of publishing a book, but so that I take value from the journey itself — the satisfaction I get from untangling a thorny plot issue, creating a beautiful sentence, […]

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