November 17, 2022
I am a happy woman today.
I will spend a chunk of the day planning two more sessions for the writing group I facilitate at church. Each session I offer some quotations related to a specific theme, followed by a writing prompt.
For example, the theme this month is hospitality. Last week the quotes I presented included:
In your own way, do you keep a lantern burning by the roadside with a note saying where you may be found, “just in case?” Do you place a jar of cool water and a bit of fruit under a tree at the road’s turning, to help the needy traveler? God knows the answer and so do you!Howard Thurman in Meditations of the Heart
The guest in Benedictine spirituality is a visit from the God of surprises…Guests bring the world in, place it at our feet, and dare us to be who and what we say we are.Joan Chittister in The Monastery of the Heart, An Invitation to a Meaningful Life
The quotes may be poems or prayers. They may come from novels, as well as books or articles on spirituality or they may be Biblical passages. The first week we explored hospitality, for example, I included only one quote and that was the Martha and Mary story as told in Luke 11:38-42. Most often, however, I invite exploration of the topic through a variety of quotes–and a variety of sources and writers, balancing men and women’s voices, also.
Sometimes the theme is the result of something I have just read. Sometimes I think of a prompt first and need quotes to support it. No matter the doorway into the planning of a writing session, I love the scavenger hunt for supporting content.
I stand in front of my shelves in the garret and ask, sometimes even aloud, for guidance. What books will have the perfect words for deeper understanding and insight and inspiration? Sometimes the answer is obvious, for there is a specific book that addresses the topic. For example, Invited, the Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness by Leslie Verner or The Art of Gathering, How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. I glance at what I have underlined and I note sources the author mentions. As I immerse myself in the topic, I think about other books within my reach or file folders in my drawers that may have a nugget on the topic. I have a journal of quotes I have read in other people’s blogs and I may page through that, often finding just the piece of wisdom I need for myself that day
I turn to my favorites–Jan Richardson, Christine Valters Painter, Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, Parker Palmer.
I add sticky book flags to pages that seem relevant and begin a stack of books on the top of my desk.
One book leads to another. And searching for material for the current topic often leads to ideas for future topics or for other programs I facilitate. Or for my blog posts or essays I may want to write.
Ultimately, I only use a few of the quotes I find, but engaging with this process, an intuitive and playful process, immerses me in the topic and opens me to whatever direction the participants in the writing group may go with their writing. The process broadens me and deepen my own reflection. It is a process that leads me into a kind of stillness, even as it energizes me.
Moving from book to book I realize this is meditation, this is prayer.
Yes, today I am a happy woman.
Is there a quote in your life that continues to inspire and guide you? What does that quote prompt you to do, to be? I would love to know.
An essay I wrote is featured on the Brevity’ Nonfiction Blog site today. I hope you will read it. Here’s the link: https://brevity.wordpress.com/2022/11/17/to-continue-or-not-writing-the-memoir-that-is/
6 thoughts on “Book Report: Bookshelf Browsing”
I want you to know that your process and all you put into it has been and will continue to be such a spiritual eye opening experience for me. Every week I leave class feeling renewed and more at peace with myself than I was a couple of years ago. Thank you Nancy and all of lovely people that are apart of this group. Gratitude is my favorite word 💜.
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Being with the writing group every Thursday is always a highlight of my week. Such wonderful people. Thank you for being there.
Your weekly offerings are a great blessing of encouragement to me!
Whether you get published……..not as significant as the act of “keeping on”……..day by day, hour by hour, paying attention!
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Thank you–that means so much.
I loved the quote in the blog about your memoir that says writing privately changes your inner world and that also changes the outer world.. That quote will begin my new journal for 2023.