So I’m working with a wonderful writing coach in a class on memoir trying to give myself accountability on writing regularly. It’s supposed to be accountability for writing every day, but let’s be real here; it’s almost every day if we count blogging and sermon writing. But the memoir project is coming along too, albeit more slowly.
I was absent from last week’s class for an Openings gathering and missed an important conversation on origin stories. In memoir it is very important to put a lot of thought into where the story begins – usually not with the date of your birth. This is important for me, because I have a lot of stories and scenes, but have not quite shaped the narrative arc of my piece. Where the story begins will say a lot about where the story goes and vice versa. There is so much more to this than just “telling your story.”
Having missed that class, I was not quite prepared for the homework. I needed to come to class yesterday with my “WORD,” just like that, all caps. But what is my WORD? What is a WORD? It’s hard when you miss a class.
So I asked for the fifty cent description of the WORD, and my coach responded:
Your WORD is the essence of your story. Is it secrets, knowing, danger, commitment, joy?
And my mind went wild. Finally I had that writer’s high they talk about. Well, I wasn’t exactly writing, but I was finding the “essence” of my writing – almost as important. By the time I came to class I had my WORD. I may even have my origin story now, the next morning. And I’m excited to get to writing – maybe even every day for a while.
Why? Because there’s something enlivening about getting to the essence of something – especially the essence of our own story. Out of that center place comes inspiration and a vision of what is True (more than just true).
That’s what spiritual direction and spiritual practices have done for me over the past 15 years: helped me get to the essence of my story. Now in my spiritual life I’m not necessarily developing a narrative arc, but I am developing my true self. The closer I get to my essence, the more authentic I can be in my relationships with the Divine and with others.
And then, when I touch it, even if it’s only for a moment, I am inspired in my life of discipleship and love. Not only my mind, but my heart and soul goes wild with excitement.
Just like most people, I find it easier to spend much of my time in life on the surface, barely scraping the essence down deeper inside. This makes for a really boring story – and a not very fulfilling life. Instead I think I’d like to shoot for the WORD that gets to the essence more often.
If you had to describe your story so far with a WORD, what might that be? Have you ever felt that feeling of excitement at reaching into the essence of something? What does being authentic mean to you? Do you think you spend much of your life on the surface? What helps you go deeper?
Openings can help your spiritual life, like my writing teacher helps my writing. If you’re interested in knowing more about spiritual direction, or would like to have me lead a retreat or speak at your next event, check out Openings: Let the Spirit In.