Course: Gifts of the Spirit: The Spiritual Practice of Creative Writing (2021)
Lead Faculty/Mentor: Sandra Hutchison
Editor’s Note: This was Ian’s first Wilmette Institute course. What follows are comments taken from his Learning Self-Assessment.
My main goal was to finish a new draft of a story I’ve been working on for a while. In order to do this, I had to develop my use of language to bring the characters to life, sharpen my focus on what I was trying to convey in the story’s plot, and let go of concepts that were holding the story back. Doing the assignments of this course and daily reading were crucial guides in this process. I was also able to incorporate spiritual practice into the creative process by jumping into writing directly after my daily meditation and prayer while in a state of openness and detachment. This helped me to keep up my creative stamina while working on the new draft.
I am grateful to Sandra Hutchison and her feedback on my draft which pushed the story and my confidence to the next level, boosting my self-confidence in my ability to portray realistic and honest stories and characters through lively dialog rather than obscure concepts.
My ability to edit and organize drafts, my openness to feedback and criticism, and all-around detachment in the creative process throughout editing have really improved, allowing me to gain fresh perspectives on the plot and characters as they evolve organically.
During this course, I’ve become much more sensitive to the use of language as it is used to illustrate the ineffable and evoke a feeling, rather than to just relate raw information like an instruction manual. In addition, my comprehension while reading has become more sophisticated, positively increasing my appreciation of literature as well as my understanding of the Bahá’í Writings.
I learned that in writing fiction you really have to give the characters room to breathe and allow them to guide where the story goes. Before this course, I focused mainly on constructing plots and deliberating with myself about social messages, dreams, and abstract concepts. Now I realize that characters really are the heart of the story. Finding the right way to bring them to life through language is a quest that I’m very interested in pursuing.
Throughout this course, I have learned that intertwining daily meditation and prayer with writing, as well as reading every day, are integral to keeping the creative flow going. Throughout the course I was reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Maintaining this balance of spiritual practice with creative writing and constant reading will be incredibly useful in producing future work.