Friday, October 19, 2012

The Writing Muscle

By Susan

I’ve written here before about my equation between exercise and writing. If my body is stronger, so are my words. Over the years, I’ve found my physical health though yoga, weight lifting, and running bleachers during hot and bright Texas sunsets. When I work my physical muscles, it strengthens my writing muscles as well. Exercise, it seems, has always fed my spirit.

This week, I’ve been hiking.  I’m at the Abbey of Gethsemani, and have been for the past four days.  I’ve completed two strenuous hikes per day and capped off my evenings with yoga. I’ve spent my time in solitude and silence among monks and priests, and I’ve done some deep soul-work concerning my novel and my life. I’m probably in better spiritual health than I have ever been.

On Saturday, I spent several hours in the Monk’s Garden under a 100-year-old Gingko tree with Brother Paul Quenon, a 50-year monk here at the abbey who was a novice under Thomas Merton.  He’s a monk first, but is also a poet and widely-acclaimed writer who loves to talk about words and philosophy and his favorite writers. He gave me some great advice and insight into my plans for my novel, and he left me a copy of his last published article, “In Praise of the Useless Life,” (Parabola, Winter 2011-2012).

I thought about his fifty years as a monk, and the spiritual muscles this man must have. I surmised that his life of contemplation and spiritual weightlifting flow through to his writing, and I realized that all of us have a wellspring of something that fuels our creativity. Sometimes it is the physical, sometimes spiritual.

Regardless, creativity is work. Divine work, perhaps, but work nonetheless. And I must admit that as much as I have written this week, the greater work I have done has been regarding fueling that wellspring. It connects writers, I believe, this tap into creativity, whatever we choose to call it. Lately I've been regarding and recognizing it as the Divine--elusive but ever-present. I show up to do the work. Sometimes I capture the perfect essence of what I am seeking and sometimes I don't. It's the showing up, and the recognition, that both separate and connect us.

That's why contemplation is so critical to our work as artists. Whether you take the time to find your wellspring in a long walk, in quiet time, or in a retreat, refueling the spirit can only help with getting those works on paper. Whatever your tradition, I salute you, fellow writers: Namaste, Shalom, and God Bless. Keep refueling the wellspring. Keep writing.

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