The other day, I was having lunch with my boyfriend Maynard and his life-long buddy, Robert. We were making small talk and enjoying the mole enchiladas at Frijoles on Aviation Boulevard near LAX when Robert, a commercial driver by trade, asked me if I’d take a look at some poetry he’d written.
Maynard’s fork stopped half way to his mouth. “I didn’t know you wrote poetry.”
“I’ve been writing poetry for years,” Robert said.
Writers and writing teachers often talk about demystifying the writing process. The idea is to make people feel comfortable with the idea that they, too, can be writers — that writing is not the sole realm of the elite or a chosen people. It’s an idea I’m solidly behind.
Robert, who has no formal writing training, is an inspiring example of how this is true. There’s a writer in each of us — we all have a story to tell — though many are reluctant to call themselves writers or even fess up to their writing habits. That opens the door to judgment.
But Robert also demonstrated that writing can be a spiritual practice: “It started as a sort of prayer. I was writing poetry when I was really upset. The thing is, by the time I’m finished, I’ve worked the problem out.”
Natalie Goldberg in her introduction to Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the Writer Within tells the story of how writing became a source of spirituality in her life. Her Zen master wondered why she did a sitting meditation: “Why don’t you make writing your practice?” he asked her. “If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you every place.”
The beautiful thing about writing is that it is unbounded by dogma as religion is. No matter their faith (or lack thereof), a person can enter writing as a way to communicate a prayer or wish, gratitude or yearning. It’s also an effective way to be fully present in a moment. In fact, Julia Cameron made a name for herself advancing similar ideas in her groundbreaking, twelve-step writing program aimed at creative recovery, The Artist’s Way: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice.
But Robert already has a healthy relationship with his creativity. According to him, he’s got hundreds of poems that he’d like to put into a book.
You may wonder, “Are they any good?”
Without even reading them, I can assure you: they are divine.