12/06/2007

Praying About Our Writing: an Exercise in Obedience

This year, I had a lot of unfinished projects, so the thought of starting a new one with National Writers Month did not appeal. Fortunately, the Catholic Writers' Guild was having its own program: 30K for Christ. The idea was to commit to writing 30,000 words on a project during November--and dedicating that effort to Christ. Participants could select any project--fiction or non-fiction, new or continuing. The only rules were to strive for 30K words and to spend a little time beforehand praying about our writing.

A couple of times when I mentioned this, someone has said, "You're a Christian writer. Don't you always pray about your work?"

Actually, I've only recently come to the idea of praying about my work. I know that sounds weird, but well, this was work. I didn't pray over doing dishes. If I worked in Walmart, I wouldn't pray over each transaction I rang up. Why, then would I pray over every article, e-mail or query letter I sent out? (Well, OK--I did pray about the query letters.) Further, I had the feeling that praying over my work was actually kind of selfish. Who was I to ask God to come from On High just to guide my hand toward success. I'd do my best for Him; if he liked it, it would do well; if not, all the prayer in the world wasn't going help.

I was first introduced to concentrated writing-focused prayer was when I interviewed Michael O'Brien, author of Father Elijah: An Apocolypse and other books. He received the idea for Father Elijah during a fervent prayer over the state of the Western World, and although he pushed it away, thinking it was a distraction, the idea and a sense of peace returned. "So during the next 8 months, I went to the blessed sacrament every morning asking God for the grace for that day's writing. I saw it as an exercise in obedience. I was convinced it could not be published in our time. No one was publishing serious Catholic fiction," he said.

An exercise in obedience. Maybe I'd been thinking about this the wrong way. Praying about my work wasn't a prayer that my work be successful--even successful in bringing people closer to God--but more about preparing myself to receive God's grace, opening myself to His will, and recognizing that I'm doing so. Maybe its just giving God His due by admitting, whether it's a lousy first draft or the scene that flows, His will be done.

Nonetheless, I'm a person of sloppy habits, and I still didn’t pray as regularly as I should, so 30K for Christ was a good way for me to refocus. I wrote a prayer for our Guild to use:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

God in Heaven, You granted us, in Your Image, the ability to imagine and create. This month, I endeavor to indulge that creativity. Look with favor upon my efforts.

Dear Holy Spirit, this day, this month, I commend my writing efforts to your care. I ask for your guidance and your prayers as I seek to complete the project(s) in my mind and my heart.

O my Jesus, son of God, Light of the world, help me to spread your Light in all that I do. May my words be pleasing to You. Be close to me in this month as I strive to write 30,000 words for you.

Dear St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus. You knew hard work all your life. Inspire me to keep working toward my goal even when the words won't come with ease. You faced uncertainty. Teach me, then to place my trust in God as I forge into the uncertainty of my writing adventure.

Dear Mary, our Spiritual Mother, you were uncertain when the Archangel approached you, yet you gave yourself to God's Will. Give me grace to recognize and embrace my calling.

I place myself and my muse in your care, full of trust and gratitude. Amen.
May the Holy Spirit fill me and guide my imagination, I ask through Christ our Lord. Amen


November is over. I didn't quite make the 30K goal. I did, however, work through some stumbling blocks in my novel's plot, fight off the demons of doubt that are plaguing me with this work, and get 20 K and a strong agent query letter closer to my goal. And I've improved my habit of prayer. That, more than anything, made the month a success.

3 comments:

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

Although I don't want to promote any bad habits, (smile!) I'm a little relieved to hear that I'm not the only Christian writer with sloppy habits. Karina, the prayer is beautiful. As a non-Catholic, I would probably amend the last 2 or 3 paragraphs, but that's a matter of not praying to anyone other than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a completely personal issue. This was a note of encouragement in my week, and I thank you for such an uplifting post. God Bless!

Andrea Graham said...

Deb: I don't think there's a protestant here that wouldn't take issue with praying to saints, (otherwise we'd be catholic, no?). The main point of the piece, though, I can heartily amen :)

Mike said...

You know I never thought about it like that. I have been pushing so hard to get the book out in front of the public I guess I forgot who I was writing about. Someone once said that we should enjoy the journey, and this is one journey that has been difficult to enjoy. I have been so mad at God becsuse I felt as though I was in a box. No matter what I did I couldn't give a book away much less sell one. Perhaps its more than an exercise in obedience. Perhaps its an excercise in prayer, praise, and then allowing God to use our potential. We write to express ourselves, to put forth ideas, to present Christ to a dieing world. But perhaps in our writing we should take time to write to him, after all it was he who gave us the ability to write. In the last couple of week I have been engaging in conversation with an evolutionist. Yesterday I presented the way of salvation to him. Maybe thats what its all about. Using our talents to write objectivly, not our thoughts but his. The only way we can know his thoughts is through prayer, praise and the reading of his word. Perhaps I need to reflect more on what he has done for me rather than what he can do. It's jut frustrating when you know your work is good, but no one reads what you have written. I'm told that God's timing is perfect, yet we see Abraham waited 20 years for the promise, Joseph waited in slavery until the dream came true. Perhaps as writers we are also in God's waiting room. Perhaps in order to use us he needs to refine us as he did the three hebrew children, or Danial in the lions dens. Maybe through waiting we become closer to God, perhaps thats the exercise in obedience