Henri Nouwen on Writing (Daniel)

Henri writing.


It has been a couple of weeks since my last post, and the more I consider why I go for awhile with long absences on this blog the more I come to the realization that much of my writing is influenced by fear. Sometimes I begin to think that there is not much going on of any significance in my world that I should write about or reflect on, sometimes I think that there is someone out there who can better articulate the thoughts and feelings I am dealing with and that the best thing for me to do would be to find that person and listen to them process this world rather than let me stumble and ramble on trying to get my point across. During these times I also believe that other writers do not experience this struggle, that for them writing is of no consequence and it seeps from them naturally so as to not put forth much effort.

I am thankful that I am not the only one to experience this anxiety, to struggle with what it means to write and how to articulate the human experience. I was reading through Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader, and found this quote by Nouwen, who is one of my favorite writers and has been a spiritual guide for a couple of years now. He writes: 

“Writing, however, is often the source of great pain and anxiety. It is remarkable how hard it is for students to sit down quietly and trust their own creativity. There seems to be a deep-seated resistance to writing. I have experienced this resistance myself over and over again. Even after many years of writing, I experience real fear when I face the empty page. Why am I so afraid? Sometimes I have an imaginary reader in mind who is looking over my shoulder and rejecting every word I write down. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the countless books and articles that already have been written and I cannot imagine that I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said better by someone else. Sometimes it seems that every sentence fails to express what I really want to say and that written words simply cannot hold what goes on in my mind and heart. So there are many fears and not seldom they paralyze me and make me delay or even abandon my writing plans.

And still, every time I overcome these fears and trust not only my own unique way of being in the world, but also my ability to give words to it, I experience a deep spiritual satisfaction. . . . What I am gradually discovering is that in the writing I come in touch with the Spirit of God within me and experience how I am led to new places.” (“Reflections on Theological Education”)

One of the things I am learning through writing is how much of a spiritual experience it has been for me. It is a struggle, and there is much pain and much fear that I experience amidst the process. Today I thank God for helping me and meeting me in these places, for the emptiness that I feel and also for the fulfillment that I receive in the writing.  A paradox of course, but that is what faith is most of the time… a paradox.



1 Comment

Filed under Faith, Journey, Story

One response to “Henri Nouwen on Writing (Daniel)

  1. Thanks for reminding me that to write is such a special gift. I can very much relate to the incredible spiritual experience writing is, there are so many life moments and real emotions when you write, fear, confusion, emptiness, at times, but so often surprised by something so cool in the midst of it.

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