One of the hardest things about creative writing, as far as I’m concerned, is the pervasive sense of getting nowhere. Sure, I might have a productive morning and crank out a few thousand words, but tomorrow I’ll cut half of them, and even if I don’t I’ll likely wait years before those words see the light of day. If I see them in print I’ll do a little jig. But I’ve published enough to know that publishing isn’t ultimately satisfying. What does satisfy is the creative journey itself and any journey my writing gives readers—but even this I rarely see.
So much of what makes writing valuable is invisible! I’m reminded of these words from James Baldwin, which have been a stronghold for me over decades: “Though we do not wholly believe it yet, the interior life is a real life, and the intangible dreams of people have a tangible effect on the world.” The writing life, the interior life, the life of dreams and prayer and imagination—these are real agents in the world. I believe this.
But that’s exactly the trouble: Writing, and all creative work for that matter, is an exercise of faith. That fundamental struggles every artist begins with—the struggle to believe oneself capable of creativity and the struggle to believe that creativity is worthwhile—never go away. They just grow familiar. Doubt is always there. That awful sense I get every time I write of not really doing anything, not being productive, not really contributing to society, is the only possible climate where faith can grow.
All humans have a faith muscle. Faith is something we do, it’s how we orient our hearts and how we spend our energy. Doubt about my self or my work really doesn’t signify anything. Doubt just is. What matters is whether I show up to write regardless. Sometimes—in this fleeting moment, for instance—I think this exercise of faith is the whole worthy point.
–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew
Two exciting opportunities in February! On Friday, February 8 from 1:30-3:30, I’ll teach a two hour workshop on imitative writing called Art As Theft using spiritual memoirs as models. Everyone who writes can participate in a conversation with other writers that transcends time and place. Join me for an afternoon of playful experimentation!
And on Saturday, February 9, 2019, 9:00am-12:00 p.m., I’ll once again offer an introduction to writing spiritual memoir, Writing the Sacred Journey, at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality. This is an accessible entry into the art and practice of spiritual memoir.
Other second Friday Wisdom Ways Spiritual Memoir drop-in sessions:
March 8: All My Relations, with guest author Diane Wilson
April 12: Parts in the Whole: Form
May 10: Childhood, Revisited
June 14: Community and Revision
Also, check out this new publication from the Minnesota Historical Society Press! Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m honored to have an essay included with many other writers from the Queer Voices reading series. Support your local independent book store and buy it!