Writing Exercises

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Interior Landscape: Describe the physical place you’re inhabiting right now–the temperature, the light, the sounds, etc. How does this external space mirror your interior landscape? How does it contrast?

Past/Present: Perhaps my all-time favorite question for generating memoir is this: What event from my past is relevant to my biggest dilemma today? This week I invite you to answer this question, only with a spiritual bent. Identify the spiritual question or dilemma most pressing in your life today. Then ask yourself what memory informs this question or dilemma. Don’t censor or sort; write whatever comes to you first.

Dancing: Recall your freest, wildest moment of dancing. Take time to describe that memory in detail–your muscle movements, the sensation of air on your limbs, another person’s touch, your breathing. Through your description, can you illustrate what was happening in your spirit at that moment?

Imagination 1: When has your imagination played a vital role in your spiritual growth? See if you can write this experience as a story, located in a specific time and place. Describe your imaginative work in as much detail as possible. What changed?

Imagination 2: I’m curious about how an active imagination feeds or impedes the spiritual life. Recall a dream, fantasy, or imaginative riff you’ve experienced in your life. Describe the scene, paying attention to both the exterior and interior worlds. Then reflect: Did this dip into the imagination impact your being? In what way? When and how do you see the results?

Patriotism: As we head into the week of July 4th, I’m thinking about the relationship between faith and patriotism. How does your spiritual life inform your feelings toward your country? Recall a specific instant–a moment serving your country, marching in a parade, pledging allegiance describe what happened in your spirit.

Baptism: After a weekend of heavy rains, the air feels washed and new–a baptism of sorts. When have you felt cleansed and renewed? What caused you to feel this way? Write that story.

Destruction: Yesterday I helped a committee at church remove all the pews from our sanctuary and rip paneling off the communion rail–a terrifying, destructive act in our community’s sacred space. Consider an experience of tearing down, ripping up, smashing, or destroying something of value. Write the physical details. What role does destruction play in your spiritual journey, or in your community’s spiritual journey?

Attention: To write well, we must pay close attention to the world. But writing helps us pay attention. Consider an ordinary task you’ve already performed today–brushing your teeth, heating water for tea, feeding the cat. Describe it with attention to the layers of meaning within the task. What does it say about your values? About your relationship to the bigger world? About hope or love or endurance?

Favorite Food: Remember a favorite food from your childhood. Describe it–and the circumstances of eating it–in as much detail as possible. In what ways did this food nourish you?