Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fear and Writing About Faith

In just a few days I’ll make the trek to Whidbey Island for my final residency at the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program. This time, I’ll try my hand at teaching as well, collaborating with classmate Cynthia Beach on a workshop— Writing About Faith, Spirituality, and Religion.

Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing series, defines this genre as,

“…poetry or prose that deals with the bedrock of human existence­—why we are here, where we are going, how we can comport ourselves with dignity along the way.”

I carry some fear about writing about faith (see my Feb. 27, 2013 post), and it turns out my co-presenter Cynthia does, too. As we explored ideas about how to discuss these worries, she told me she looked into her box of fears. 

“You keep yours in a box?” I asked.  “What a good idea.”

Next week, we’ll literally pull our fears out of a box to initiate a conversation about what gets in the way of writing about those bedrock issues.

Cheryl Strayed, author of the memoir Wild, tells her writing students, “…the invisible, unwritten last line of every essay should be and nothing was ever the same again. By which I mean the reader should feel the ground shift, if even only a bit, when he or she comes to the end of the essay.  Also there should be something at stake in the writing of it. Or, better yet, everything.”
Scary stuff.  And yet…

I Know No Other Way

Everything I write
is in service
of making sense,
of shining light
on fears, hopes,
beliefs, questions.

I know of no other way
to map my search
than with a pen
on blank pages.


  1. Almost everything really scary is worth doing, Iris :) You are a true ground-breaker to me.

  2. Thanks for sharing that box of fears with those of us lucky to attend your session.

    1. Thanks, Elaine, for your vote of confidence. The workshop went well! Especially important was having participants like Larry - thanks for being there.