Why I Write (Writing As a Spiritual Discipline Series)

We resume our Writing As a Spiritual Discipline series with a post by Anna Gissing, editor at InterVarsity Press and previous editor of The Well. Browse Anna’s other work for ESN here, including one of our most read posts, Grading As a Spiritual Practice. To explore other pieces in the Writing As a Spiritual Discipline series, click here.

I’m not one of those writers who has always known I wanted to write. I don’t have childhood journals, and I didn’t write my first novel as a teen. (In fact, I still haven’t written one).

Nor am I one of those people for whom writing bubbles up inside of me and I have to write to find release.

Yet, I do write.

I believe that we are all part of a huge story that God is writing—that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. I believe that oft-cited quote by Kuyper: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”

But I sometimes forget what I believe. It’s easy for those ideas to stay tucked away in my head somewhere, like sweaters packed in mothballs, waiting for the right time to be brought out.

Writing helps me remember. For me, writing helps me to connect what I’m reading or experiencing with this epic story of God. When I write, I make time to reflect on the ways God is at work in my individual circumstances, in my community, and in the world.

I write to figure out how to practice what I believe—to learn how to live a holistic life where the spiritual part isn’t shoved into one box away from the files for parenting, work, and advocacy. I write to discern how to respond to life amidst the cacophony of voices around me.

If I don’t force myself to write, I can bypass some of this reflective work. I find myself thinking about but not practicing my faith. And I believe that faith takes practice.

Writing is a discipline. This work of integrating my faith into all of life takes intentionality. And my reflective writing can get shoved down to the bottom of the list if I’m not careful. When kids are hungry and the house is a mess, who has time to write?

Writing feels risky—what if it’s not good? What if it’s inelegant, superficial, or— heaven forbid—grammatically incorrect? It’s tempting to just go read another book.

Because I battle perfectionism, deadlines are my friends. If I didn’t have external accountability to write, I’m not sure I’d ever do it. It’s always easier to critique than to construct, and I’d pick holes in someone else’s writing all day if I didn’t have to write myself.

Those who have asked me to write and have given me deadlines have been gifts of God to me. They have pushed me to practice this spiritual discipline of connecting my head to my heart, my books to my life, my story to God’s story. They have helped me to remember what I believe.

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Anna Gissing

Anna Moseley Gissing is an associate editor at InterVarsity Press and senior writing instructor for Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Her writing has been published in Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. She lives near Chicago with her husband and two children.

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