I knew about Vinita Hampton Wright years before I actually met her. I read her work and admired her from afar at writer’s conferences. I could tell she was a woman of great depth and wisdom. Then, the stars aligned, and I sent her some of my writing samples, and she liked them. I told her about a book idea I had, and she asked me to send her chapters. I did. Every month for about a year, I sent her chapters until I had enough for a book. And each month she would email me back and say, “keep writing, don’t stop.”
I didn’t stop. Her direction and encouragement were just what I needed to finish the book and get it published (she was the editor), and I will be forever grateful.
Now, her wisdom and advice for writers is collected in a book, The Art of Spiritual Writing. Vinita is a gift to writers who are serious about writing from a spiritual perspective. I’m honored to feature her on the blog today, as part of the Blog Tour for her book.
You won’t want to miss The Art of Spiritual Writing. Here’s a Q&A that will give you a sneak-peak of what’s in it:
What is the biggest mistake writers make when they attempt to write spiritual books?
They don’t make the leap—and sometimes it’s a big one—between the material they write for their own processing and spiritual growth and the revision process that will make the material accessible and interesting to others.
In The Art of Spiritual Writing, you talk about personal writing vs. public writing. Can you explain the difference in a nutshell?
Personal writing is any writing you do to process what’s going on in your life—including events you’re experiencing, lessons you’re learning, concepts that are becoming clear to you, or encounters with the Divine that are transforming you. If you’re a writer, then, for you, writing is a primary means of processing. And if you want to write or need to write, then write. But if you want to write for others’ benefit, then you must make a transition in the way you look at the material. It’s not about you anymore, even if it’s your story. You have to figure out how best to translate your experience or wisdom to the experience, wisdom, and vocabulary of the people you envision reading it. Sometimes there’s not a big difference between the material that’s personal but becomes public, but often there are drastic differences—in tone, organization, what’s left out, and what’s kept.
You also write about the importance of being authentic, and how some spiritual writers only have a following because they project a certain image. Can you name a few true “authentic” spiritual writers? Who do you think are the best, and most authentic, spiritual writers today?
Authentic writers tell the truth, but it’s truth they have worked with and integrated for themselves. It’s truth that goes beyond venting or writing in emotional extremes. Authentic writing includes the emotions as well as thoughts, the intuition as well as the rational. Karen’s book, Rock-Bottom Blessings, is a good example of writing that has worked through the emotions and come up with honest assessment and spirituality that has actually changed the author’s way of living. A seasoned writer I have always appreciated is Emilie Griffin. Another is Richard Rohr. There’s Henri Nouwen, Eugene Petersen, Margaret Silf—they’re the first to come to mind. Writers such as Rob Bell and Anne Lamott have become popular precisely because they are so honest and thus refreshing. So it’s possible to be popular and authentic! But at times popularity has more to do with an author saying what people want to hear, which certainly does not guarantee authenticity.
You say in your book that there’s little difference between writing and praying. Can you explain?
I believe that writing and prayer come from the same place—that center, the soul, where you work through your life, where you doubt and believe, where you create and discover truth. All writing does not happen there, but the most powerful and true and creative writing does.
What is the most important thing you’d like aspiring writers to take away from your book?
Do not hesitate to write whatever you want to write. Write for yourself, not for outside validation. Then, when the time is right, assess the material for other possibilities.
Anything else you want to say?
I’m very grateful to you and the other hosts on this blog tour. I’ve never done this before, but you’ve made it easy—thanks!