If you’re anything like me, there’s a gift in the darkest season of the year. At the end of each year, I dive deep within and write myself a New Year’s letter. I look back over the previous year, the trials and triumphs. (The things I’m most proud of are often the quietest, the least acknowledged.) Then I listen to the call of my future, and make predictions about the year to come.
And if you’re anything like me, this letter usually contains something about writing. Maybe writing a book, maybe writing every day. Going on a writing retreat. Writing morning pages like a champ.
But always this: Writing my way through.
Writing, for me, is more than a hobby. It’s more than a career. Writing is deeply a part of who I am. It’s an important way I locate myself in the world, separate what’s important from what’s not, and see what’s going on inside that would otherwise remain hidden. It’s how, as my friend Gayle puts it, I uncover “the Kellyness of Kelly.”
In other words, writing is part of my spiritual path.
And my guess is, it’s part of yours as well.
Otherwise you wouldn’t be here right now. You wouldn’t spend your time daydreaming about that writing retreat you’re finally going to take this year, or about the people who will be helped, uplifted and changed by reading your book. You wouldn’t be hemming and hawing about whether you can actually call yourself “a writer.” (If you didn’t revere the title so much, you’d call yourself whatever you wanted to, without hesitation.)
The spiritual path, as I define it, begins the moment we wake up and say, “There must be more than this.” This wake-up call sometimes happens when we’re very young. For others it comes in mid-life, after a great disappointment such as divorce or the loss of a loved one. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely this turning point has already happened for you.
Moreover, you’re reading a blog about writing. If you care two whits about what I have to say it’s very likely writing is part of the call for you. Maybe what you’re wanting to write about is that initiation, that waking up. Or maybe starting to write was the catalyst—maybe it’s what opened your eyes to the deeper mysteries that have always been bubbling under the surface of your everyday adulting.
But just in case you’re uncertain, here are three sure signs that writing is more than a passing fancy—it’s a doorway to self-knowledge, one that is just waiting to take you deeper:
Sign #1: You’ve felt the deep call in your heart for a very long time.
Spiritual growth comes to each of us, whether we’re asking for it or not. It may come as a whisper at first. A voice deep in the heart that says “yes” when the idea of writing a book flickers through your awareness.
But it comes on its own schedule. Whether it will express itself fully in this particular lifetime we can’t know. One of my favorite quotes is by the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. He says, “Enlightenment is an accident, but meditation makes you accident-prone.”
The same goes for writing. I believe writing and publishing is something that can only happen if grace has descended. But daily writing is the equivalent of leaving the door open.
Sign #2: You know your book is “meant to be” in the world, that it’s going to help people a LOT.
There’s this funny thing that happens as we progress along our spiritual path. We start noticing other people are suffering. Like, a lot. Where before we were caught up in our own story, our own fight for survival, suddenly we can see that others are having a tougher time than we are. And guess what? We want to help.
If the genuine desire to help others is motivating your writing, you can be fairly certain that book is part of your spiritual journey. Our thinking minds are beautifully egocentric, and aren’t naturally altruistic. So if your attention is turned toward helping other people—toward acts that are not critical for your own survival—you can assume the numinous is acting through you.
Sign #3: The writing process—or the not-writing process—has raised a lot of deep beliefs and feelings about your worthiness.
When it comes to writing as a spiritual path, feelings of shame and fear are a really good sign. The discovery of self requires lots of face time with the really hard stuff. Being a human is a confusing process. We’ve all encoded weird and painful programming that has to be acknowledged, thanked and released on the road to freedom.
If you are starting to worry about what people are going to think…
If you’re starting to question whether you have a right to write…
If you’re questioning whether you have anything important to say…
If you’re dumbing down your message so it won’t be as controversial…
…then you just might be on the right path. Keep going.
The promise of the spiritual journey is monumental. More freedom, more joy, more peace in our everyday lives.
The fruition comes on slowly, and we have to pay attention in order to notice it. Writing is one of the best tools I know for slowing down and taking the time to notice the journey as it unfolds.
And here’s the secret: Noticing is everything. It’s both the path and the fruition. If you don’t know what I mean, just keep writing. Which also means you keep watching, and you keep the faith. With practice, progress is inevitable. It’s your destiny, and it’s our destiny.
Thank you for walking alongside me.
Love + Books,
Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.