The Gift of a Day: Writing as Spiritual Practice

by Melissa Tidwell

Writing has been defined by one tortured writer as “the art of staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” As we gathered for the beginning our “Wild With Words” writers’ workshop last week, most of the participants were probably rehearsing a definition like that, full of the anxiety almost every writer has experienced: what if I have nothing to say? Our wise leader, Dr. Martha Brunell, helped us avoid the block of first word on the first page by starting us off with something easier that writing: talking. First we brainstormed a word web from an image she provided and then we simply paired off and started talking about the word. Some of us shared a story evoked by the word, while others had  definitions, theological reflections, or on the spot poetry. As we shared, we began to see the lovely diversity of our group, a mix of ages, races, styles, and experience as writers. We began to immerse ourselves in the sheer delight of fooling around with words, expressing our feelings, our concerns for the pressing justice issues of our day, our frustrations, and our prayers.

Brunell, a pastor in the United Church of Christ, a spiritual director, retreat and worship leader and writer, had lead a very popular writers’ retreat at Scarritt a year ago, and some of the participants formed a local writers’ group from that experience. She has written curriculum and many other types of writing and finds inspiration for writing in the commonplace things all around us that can spark an insight that leads to the power of expression.

As Martha lead us in a variety of writing exercises we used buttons, photos, wise sayings, and license plate numbers as the prompts to get our pens moving, and our creative energies flowing. We walked the labyrinth and wrote about what it felt like to be in that space, moving, breathing, being lost and found, on the way or off the course.

Our writing was not only inspiration for future literary work, however. Going on a retreat of any kind is a form of self-care, of stepping away from our daily routines and giving ourselves a chance to move in a different rhythm, to be a little playful, to experiment with different aspects of our gifts. That might seem to some busy people like a frivolous use of time, but underneath most play is some serious spiritual benefit: helping ourselves stay open to new ideas, to meet new people and hear their voices. This practice of creativity is also prayerful, a way to honor our creator by using the inner creative gifts all people are graced with in some form.

What kind of workshop self-care do you need? Here are a few topics covered in upcoming retreats planned for the next few months. Consider gifting yourself or a friend or co-worker with a day away at Scarritt Bennett Center’s ministry of retreats.

Sex and the Spirit: Searching the Scriptures, Healing the Divide

January 23-26 with Laura Kreiselmaier

Click here for more information


Transfiguration of Christ and All Creation: Journey to Wholeness

February 25 with Joyce Wilding

Click here for more information.


Listen: Silence Speaks

March 27-30 with Melissa Tidwell

Click here for more information

mtidwell photoMelissa Tidwell has written about spirituality, music, metaphor, and zombies. She is the former editor of Alive Now magazine, and the author of Embodied Light: Advent Reflections on Incarnation. She contributed to the Companions in Christ small group formation series and has also written for Weavings magazine. In 2013, Melissa returned to seminary to finish a degree begun 20 years before, and is now seeking a pastoral call in the Presbyterian Church. She is a resident campus assistant at Scarritt Bennett Center where she contributes to chapel services.