This post for last in this series, even though I think it’s the most essential. I start each day with a writing prayer. If you know me, you will know I am not a terribly religious person. I was reared in a secular home and I have sort of found my own way spiritually. So when I say prayer, I mean it very loosely. I think of it as a sort of meditation, a way that we can connect simultaneously to ourselves and to something larger than ourselves.
I started my morning writing prayer out of a kind of desperation. The book just wasn’t happening. I knew it wasn’t dead. It looked dead. If it was a tree, it would be bare of leaves and the bark would be molting in big dry patches. But I snapped one of the branches and found live wood in the center, so all was not lost. One day, I was sitting at my desk with a fresh sheet of paper rolled into my typewriter, waiting miserably for the muse to find me. After an hour of nothing, I just typed out a prayer that was more like a plea. I begged for inspiration. I begged for just a paragraph or even just an idea for a paragraph. Something, Please. Amen.
The next day, I returned to the page and I was more mindful in my prayer. I wasn’t begging and pleading like a kid on Santa’s knee. Instead I tried to have a meaningful exchange with the Universe. To ask the Creator for the gift of Creation.
I start my daily prayer with a message of thanks and gratitude. I list all the things that have already been given to me to make this writing possible. When you think about it, we have already been given so much toward this dream. I give thanks for everything– the small writing table, the project idea. I remember that I am grateful that I woke up early enough to get some work in before work, and even that I woke up at all. I give thanks for my mentors. This morning I gave thanks for the cool breeze from the window because my air conditioning is not working and the room was so pleasant for writing.
What I give thanks for changes from day to day, but I always remember to express my gratitude for the gift of writing itself. By gift, I don’t mean talent, but just the joy and possibility writing offers me, as a human being. And then, I remember all of my ancestors and people all over the world who do not have the privilege of literacy.
When I start with gratitude, it reminds me how prepared I am already for this task. How much has already been given to me.
In the second part of my prayer, I ask for the qualities that I feel I lack. I ask for greater focus, discipline, and endurance. I also pray to be rid of toxic thoughts and feelings like ego, ambition, jealousy and fear. I ask to be purged. I ask that the story I am writing serve a higher purpose, that I be given words that will be healing to someone else.
Then, I ask permission to set down my responsibilities for a few hours while I write. I always imagine this plea in an African American vernacular. “Lord, watch my stuff for me. Watch my pocketbook while I’m gone writing.” (Then I imagine myself setting down a very stylish bag crammed full to bursting.)
Lastly, I make myself comfortable in my chair, set my feel flat on the floor, and read the prayer aloud. I close my eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, open my eyes and begin.
Of all the writing rituals, this is the one that is the most meaningful. Since I have added this mindfully spiritual dimension to my practice, I have seen my ailing novel come to life. You could say that it is sprouting tiny green leaves.