My current favorite book on writing is The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life by Vinita Hampton Wright. So I was really excited when I saw the cover for her newest book, The Art of Spiritual Writing: How to Craft Prose That Engages and Inspires Your Readers. I decided to give myself the treat of reading her book while I was on my California #SoulofChrist book tour, and I have not been disappointed!
The Art of Spiritual Writing is really a manual for Christian and Catholic writers that focuses on the craft of writing, listening to one’s audience, nurturing one’s self as a writer delving into (and sometimes wrestling with) spirituality, and the vocation to write about spirituality, but all from the unique needs and challenges of someone writing about spirituality who feels called to communicate the Truth. I truly wish this book had been available fifteen years ago when I was writing my first book; it would have been invaluable for me.
The Art of Spiritual Writing is a huge service for beginning writers, or writers whose skill is just blossoming to the point that they can begin to think about publishing, because it addresses the issues of craft, audience, and nurturing the writer that are unique to writing faith-based content. (If you are writing a spiritual memoir, this is essential reading!) This book will help one to avoid the typical pitfalls of beginning writers, especially those who are convinced of the urgency of the New Evangelization.
Unfortunately, many Catholic and Christian writers (as well as artists, filmmakers, musicians), feel that their mission to write supersedes the need for quality in their art. Vinita addresses this brilliantly, persuasively, and succinctly. The Founder of the Pauline Family, Blessed James Alberione, used to tell us Daughters of Saint Paul that the “form” of the media that we create needs to be worthy of the Truth which they contain. But so many writers assume that because they want to convey the truth, they don’t need to put in the immense amount of effort that it takes to hone their craft, making their manuscript publishable. Vinita not only calls out these issues, explaining why it’s so important to address them before submitting your manuscript (and in some cases, before even thinking about publication), she also explains how to address them. The chapter about the difference between writing for one’s self and writing for publication needs to be read by every writer who submits a manuscript or proposal to a Catholic publisher!
But this book is extraordinarily helpful even for those writers well-established in the field of spirituality. Although I skimmed several chapters rather quickly because of my experience in publishing, I found at least half of the book invaluable for writers at any level of experience, including myself. All of her reflections on the following topics really hit home for me personally:
* our mission to authentically communicate the truth
* the need to write with humility (humility being an essential virtue for spiritual writers today),
* the special care needed for someone who writes in the area of spirituality
The Art of Spiritual Writing is completely different from Wright’s The Soul Tells a Story, which really focuses on how to develop and nurture your creative process. While The Art gives some brief helpful tips about nurturing your creativity, it mostly covers different areas. Indeed, if you have these two books in your writer’s library, then you simply need a grammar guide, a couple of books on writing craft, and a book on marketing, and you’d have what you need for a beginner’s writing reference library.
The Art of Spiritual Writing is also a carefully honed, crafted book that exemplifies its message. This is a brilliant book for writers that I highly recommend!