The Art of Spiritual Writing by Vinita Hampton Wright is a manual for writers attempting to write about the spiritual life. In the introduction Wright says, “For more than two decades I have advised writers and edited their work for the spirituality market. Now I have tried to distill the best of what I know for those writers who hope to serve people’s spiritual needs.” The best of what Wright knows has proven to be exceptional.
There are many reasons why I would recommend this book to writers engaging in spiritual writing. Here are a quick few.
(1) The book is concise. As an avid reader and writer, brevity is important to me. I love a good long work of classic literature like everyone else. But I don’t enjoy getting bogged down in laborious modern non-fiction. I would rather spend my time writing, or reading compelling fiction. This book was a quick, empowering, practical – yet thoughtful – read.
(2) Wright does not write with an overly religious tone. I appreciated this a great deal and I believe it will make this book relevant to a larger group of spirituality writers. The principles and ideas that Wright discusses are more universal than one expression of faith. She doesn’t shy away from mentioning her Catholic faith, but she also doesn’t feel compelled to convince the reader to believe as she believes in order to discuss good spiritual writing. Too many books, especially in the Christian marketplace (in which I work), suffer because the authors wrote with an insider tone. I’m glad that Wright didn’t do so here.
(3) Chapter 10, “Product is the End Result,” should be read by every would-be author. I’ve encountered many writers that only think of their work in artistic terms. Wright does a great job of helping people understand that publishing is a business and your published work is a product.
(4) Wright’s discussion on the differences between personal writing and public writing (chapters 2, especially 3, and 4) are fantastic. She explains the value of writing – and writing well – things that shouldn’t necessarily be published. Many times I’ve written things that needed to be written but need not be shared. I’ve also met many would-be authors who are writing important documents – memoir, spiritual ideas, theological struggles – that serve them well, but might not serve the public well. Wright helps readers traverse this tricky topic.
There is a lot of information contained in this little book that’s worth reading. Even the bits I already knew struck me in a fresh way because of Wright’s matter-of-fact, yet heartfelt tone. I would recommend this book to brand new writers as a way to set a good trajectory. I would also recommend this book to seasoned writers as a tool for setting your course right again.