Step Four – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves as writers and of our writing.
We have been examining our resentments, fears and harms. So far this has been a personal journey that explores our personality, character and spiritual life. This week, let’s look at how the events of our life, who we are and what we believe affect our writing. Our work is directly linked to our character and the message we want to convey. We as writers know the power of words. We can use words to heal or to hurt. We can exact revenge or forgiveness by what we say. We can, and many writers have, reflect our religious, political, social and personal agendas either with sympathetic or hateful characters. Writers can manipulate a plot to an advantage, creating a destiny or ending that we want the world to follow. I think some of us may do this with conscious awareness of what we are saying and doing. Others may not be aware of the driving force behind the work. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you begin your work.
- How does my childhood affect the subject matter of my work?
- Does my childhood cause positive or negative leanings in my writing?
- Is my protagonist a reflection of who I am or a projection of the person I wish I were?
- Is my villain a reflection of someone I dislike? Do I use character description, dialog or a name that would allow that person to recognize who I mean?
- Do I lack the courage to confront my personal pain with truth? Do I layer my writing with that personal pain, anger or resentment?
- Do I ever get satisfaction from the harm my writing may do another person?
- Do I lash out in anger instead of kindness, negatively denouncing others as evil, instead of being sympathetic?
- Are my words harsh and mean-spirited? Does my work drip with hurtful sarcasm?
- Does my work reflect the forgiving and kind-hearted nature of Jesus? Or does my work condemn and vilify those who disagree with me?
- Do I create plots that show the Church in a negative light? Do I correctly reflect the teachings of the Church, or does my writing push my own agenda?
- Do I denigrate or mock people of different or no faith? Do I belittle people of a different political party or those with opposing views? Do I feel self-righteous when I do?
- Do I twist the truth to reflect my personal point of view? Or do I create fictionalized versions that deny the truth?
These are just a sample of the questions that each writer should ask themselves before, during and after creating an article, story or novel. Self-reflection is both required and necessary for a spiritual writer. How does one stay a truthful reflection of faith? How do you allow your faith to guide you into being an honest outreach of the Holy Spirit? Here are some tips:
- Always pray before you write! It may be tempting to jump out of bed and hit that laptop, but always pause for prayerful guidance.
- Attend Mass – as often as you can. Listen carefully to the readings and the homily. I can’t tell you how often it has changed the course of my work.
- Read your Bible and/or Catechism daily – taking the time to meditate and reflect on what you have read.
- Read other spiritual writers, including those who are not members of your faith. I have grown in understanding and appreciation by listening to the deep spiritual reflections of people of other religions. It has made me more Catholic!
- Always have people of faith go over your work. They may catch spiritual mistakes, misrepresentations or even personal harms that you may or may not be aware of.
- And last of all, ask yourself this question: Am I writing out of love or out of fear? Remember the words of the Good Book, Perfect love casts out all fear.
Next time let’s move on to Step Five!
Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com