The Sacred Art of Writing

On the plane to Cincinnati, I’m reading Writing, The Sacred Art: Beyond the Page to Spiritual Practice by Rami and Aaron Shapiro. I read this paragraph that made me want to jump up and down with joy. But that’s frowned on in an airplane.

Here is one on how we edit our stories to become innocent:  “The problem s that as we absolve ourselves of our transgressions, we too often excise them from our self-story, constructing a new story that allows us to say, ‘I am no longer the person that committed these acts.’ This is a form of othering.  [Italics mine.] We are othering ourselves, othering the parts of us that we do not wish to acknowledge. In so doing, we create a shadow self.”

In the next paragraph Shapiro makes this suggestion: “We will meet with the version of ourselves that lived in that moment, the self that committed those crimes. We. . . will meet this self without condemnation, because to condemn it is to objectify it, to buffer our current selves by imagining that this horrible thing, this enemy, is other. It isn’t. We are the other. The enemy is us.

* * *

This is the heart of anyone’s life–constructing a story that we can live with, that we, in fact, live. This kind of story-writing is what makes us whole. The purpose of journaling. The secret to the peace that comes from journaling. We meet the parts of ourselves we don’t like and continue to live anyway.

When we bring this practice to writing, or art, or dance, or any creative practice, we understand the power of doing our art again and again to get better–better as artists, but also better in the sense of healing, stopping the pain of life and making mistakes.

Later today, I read the perfect companion piece to this growth. It’s by Ira Glass, the creator of This American Life.


-Quinn McDonald is a writer and deeply glad that her story is one told in words.