As someone who has done some writing myself, I often find writing to be a cathartic, even spiritual ritual. Writing can be a great way to purge a day’s frustrations. So when I saw this title, Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within, I was expecting a book that would help a writer find that connection – to open a connection to the inner-spirit, the soul, in order to free the writing.
But no. This is a religious book, using writing as a means to find one’s way to spiritual enlightenment.
The first part of the book, about sixty pages, is a broader view of writing. Chapters with headings such as “Why We Write” and “Writing as a Spiritual Practice” and even “A Practical Guide to Contemplative Correspondence” give some helpful direction to the budding writer, but it’s not really a very in-depth help. There are SO many books about writing and for the most part, every one that I have read has been a ‘how-to’ based on what has worked for the author of that book. Usually I can find something in the book that is helpful, but this one really seemed targeted to a very different audience than I am used to.
The second section of this book is where the stronger religious aspect comes in. Here we have chapters such as “Writing about Faith” and “Writing about Prayer” and “Writing about Sin” and so on. These chapters offer writing prompts that begin with a section heading called “In Your Own Words.” These sections have a brief paragraph that usually asks a few questions. For instance, on the “Writing About Grace” chapter the section begins with “When has a murmuration of grace, of any kind, swept you up in a moment of weightlessness? Where have you seen and heard grace moving in the world recently?” And after many such questions provides a writing prompt. Here it is: “Begin writing with the prompt below and follow wherever it leads: I heard grace murmuring…”
The book is clearly (in my mind) designed to encourage religious writing and contemplation. This isn’t a general book on helping a writer open themselves up to a more relaxed state and find their writing. This is a book to help a writer find a spiritual/religious connection.
For that target, this is probably a fine book. It doesn’t really speak to me and so it is hard to judge it. I did find that the book is a little … ‘simple.’ I can see where sitting in a room with someone talking about these points might work, and the book has the feel of a classroom lesson plan, but it’s missing that teacher/student connection.
Even quoting one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner, doesn’t help me with this book. I recommend a pass here. Writers looking for helpful and/or encouraging books – there are many of them out there and perhaps it’s best to stick with a tried and true classic.
Looking for a good book? Writing to Wake the Soul by Karen Hering is a writing help book that focus on religious writing. If that’s your interest, then definitely give this a go. But if you want writing help in general, there are better options.
I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within
author: Karen Hering
publisher: Atria Books/Beyond Words
hardcover, 304 pages