This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a mini-retreat at my parish on “Serving with Joy,” led by Father Don Wester.
In addition to being pastor of All Saints, Father Wester teaches homiletics (aka the art of preaching) and was one of nine American religious leaders recently interviewed by Time Magazine online in the aftermath of the terror attack at the Boston Marathon. You can read his comments on preaching about hope amid disaster here.
While the retreat lasted only a few hours, one thing Father stressed that stuck with me was: “Don’t let the simplicity of this day diminish the importance of it.”
Much of what was shared during the retreat about serving with joy also applies to writing with joy.
Some of the most memorable and moving words in history are simple and concise, yet powerful. “Let them eat cake.” “Jesus wept.” Blaise Pascal’s famous quote, which is often attributed to others: “I would’ve written a shorter letter if I had more time.” One slim and simple, yet indispensable, book on writing advice is Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
During the retreat we were reminded that we are the custodians of our own joy. As writers, we are custodians of our words.
We were asked to reflect on what robs us of joy. As writers, criticism, self-doubt, and worry about what others might think about what we write can rob us of the joy of writing.
Other reflections that hit close to home are “we learn something from our suffering. Compassion comes from our deepest suffering, and joy takes the shape of compassion.” We’ve heard stories about how writers suffer for their art. While that may be true for some, I believe that as writers we learn a great deal about ourselves through our writing.
We were reminded that we are God’s masterpiece, his work of art. As writers, we create our own masterpieces with our words.
At the conclusion of the retreat, Father read to us Philippians 4:4-9. What touched me from that passage is: “. . . Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. . . Do not worry about anything . . . Keep on doing things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me . . .”
I plan to keep writing and try not to worry about my own self-doubts or the criticism of others. In essence I hope to capture the joy that writing gives to me by sharing that joy with others through my words.
How about you? How do you find joy in your writing?