Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. It’s a way for insecure writers like myself give each other advice and encouragement. Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.
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A few years ago, a friend loaned me a book called Echoing Silence. It’s a collection of letters, essays, and speeches by Thomas Merton, an American writer and Catholic monk. That friend has since become my editor, and Thomas Merton has become one of my writerly heroes. He’s changed the way I write, not by changing my writing but by changing the way I think of myself as a writer.
Even if you’re not religious, you may find some inspiration in Merton. He saw being a writer and a monk as complimentary, or perhaps like two parallel roads leading to the same destination. Anyone as intimately involved with writing — or any art form — as Merton knows there is something mystical about the artistic experience. For some of us, maybe this is the only way to find God (or whatever religious term you’d prefer) in our lives.
While recently flipping through an old diary of mine, I found these notes summarizing Merton’s beliefs as presented in Echoing Silence.
- Don’t waste time on monasticism if God doesn’t want you to be a monk. If God meant for you to be a writer, be the best damn writer you can be and don’t let anything get in the way (not even religion) because that would get in the way of God’s plan for you.
- When you write, give yourself up to God. In other words, don’t do it to be famous but because it’s what God meant for you to be doing.
- Don’t forget that you’re imperfect. Thomas Merton himself didn’t think he’d get into heaven no matter how much he devoted himself to God. We all make mistakes, both as writers and as human beings, so be humble about it.
The Catholic Church doesn’t recognize Merton as a saint, possibly because of that “not even religion” part or possibly because of rumors that his death was a suicide. Saints are supposed to be roll models, and the Church doesn’t want to create suicidal roll models. Regardless, what he has to say about the spirituality of writers and artists is worth reading. It inspired me, and for that reason he is a saint at least in my own heart.