My writing pilgrimage this week has focused on the the third of the four sacred paths of the writer: the mystic journey. I’ve looked at my own limited experiences with the quasi-mystic state often called “flow” and explored what other writers have said about it. I’ve also written about my favorite mystic writer, Hildegard of Bingen. On this Great Stuff for Writers Friday, here are some resources for anyone who'd like to dig a little deeper.
Writing in Flow by Susan K. Perry
As a doctoral student, Perry worked with famed psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, who coined the term “flow” and wrote the seminal work on the topic. For her dissertation on the flow experience in writing, she interviewed more than 75 writers, including former U. S. poet laureate Billy Collins, and best-selling novelists Jane Smiley and Ethan Canin. She later turned her dissertation into her own best seller. Writing in Flow takes a no-nonsense approach, steering clear of spiritual talk and heading straight for techniques that work. At the same time, Perry doesn’t shy away from the complexity of the topic. Flow, she admits, is difficult to describe, tricky to define, and notoriously slippery to invoke. I’ve personally found her book to be one of the most useful on my shelf.
The Writer as Madman and Mystic
In contrast to Perry, Adam McHugh takes an unapologetically religious approach. “The process of writing may very well make you crazy. And it may also make you a mystic,” he writes in this post on crosswalk.com. McHugh is the author of Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He’s also an evangelical pastor—a fact that gives him a somewhat different take from that of many writers on the mystic experience. He explores the ways writing can “run you right off the rails . . . as your hopes, dreams, fears and inadequacies are exposed.” But he also claims writing can turn even an committed atheist into a mystic. “In some mysterious way, the discipline of writing can connect us with outside forces, as our words become channels for other voices speaking in the universe,” he writes. Check out his post here.
The Crooked Mystic
This blog has some interesting reflections on mysticism, writing, and spirituality—my only complaint being that the author apparently desires to remain anonymous as she/he never posts a name (at least not one I could find). That aside, the Crooked Mystic offers a potpourri of reflections, writing exercises, quotations, and suggestions and is well worth checking out for anyone interested in exploring the connections between writing and the mystic experience. Find it at www.crookedmystic.com.
The Life and Works of Hildegard von Bingen
I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to my post on mystic, writer, and Catholic saint Hildegard of Bingen. I wasn’t sure my readers would find her relevant or interesting, but the emails I got proved me wrong. For those of you who were excited to learn about Hildegard or simply glad I was giving her some press, here is more information about her from the Fordham University website.
Next week, I’ll explore the fourth and final sacred path of the writer: the way of the monk. Have a good weekend, everyone.
Like this post? See more at the Writing as a Sacred Path Blog.
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Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...