The Art of Spiritual Writing by Vinita Hampton Wright

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Vinita Hampton Wright and her new book The Art of Spiritual Writing. Vinita is is a Loyola Press editor and the author of many books, including Days of Deepening Friendship, Simple Acts of Moving Forward, and Dwelling Places. She has led witers’ retreats and workshops for nearly two decades. 

The Art of Spiritual Writing is such a wise and wonderful little book. The first time I picked it up, before I even cracked the cover, I had the visceral thought, “This is going to be a classic.” It’s a small book that fits perfectly in hand, like any good guide should and it’s beautifully designed which doesn’t hurt, but why I want to run out and buy a copy for every writer I know is that it’s chock full of practical wisdom. Vinita was raised in Kansas so it’s only fitting she is plainspoken in the best sense of simple honesty. Although her writing is elegant and profound, it’s entirely approachable. She never condescends nor does she pull any punches. Point number one in the chapter “The First Five Things Every Spirituality Writer Must Know” is “Nothing makes up for poor craftsmanship.” Selah.

 These turned-down corners pretty much tell the story. 

 I also love the way she talks about writing and prayer in tandem.

To be honest, I have to say that I see little difference between writing and praying. They both happen in the same place—that core of my person where all the wisdom lives. They both require attentiveness and honesty and an open heart. And the two disciplines—the art and the spirituality—are so intertwined that it’s really inaccurate to refer to them separately. When I tend to the one, the other is helped. When I dismiss either one, both suffer.

I keep leafing through the book trying to decide what not to except since quoting every other page isn’t practical.  I’ll end with this taken from the very first pages of the first chapter.

I could go on at length about Ignatius’s insights, but I mention him in this book because he understood that the spiritual life is an ongoing engagement with reality. He understood that prayer must always be an experience, not merely an idea or a belief.

As a writer and one who has assisted many other writers, I have learned that creativity also is bold engagement. Good “spirituality” writing creates an experience for the reader and makes demands on the reader, but only after it has done all of that to the writer. True creativity is a spiritual function, a form of engagement that requires openness, attentiveness, honesty and desire. These same traits are necessary for spiritual growth and enlightenment. The best spiritual writing is what I would call thoroughly Ignatian in that it creates an experience for the reader. This sort of writing goes further than providing information or giving instructions; it creates a space of engagement in which the reader might connect to reality and be moved forward into her life and gifts.

So when you bring together the act of writing with the realm of spirituality, you have encountered engagement in one of its finest embodiments. “Spirituality writing” transcends words on the page, yet it forms through words.  When a writer takes on the task of exploring the world of the spirit, she has invited a process that will change her permanently. If she has done her work well, it will change her readers too.

If you are a Christian and a writer, regardless of your genre, I highly recommend The Art of Spiritual Writing


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