The growth of the nonfiction publishing industry has led many authors to see writing as a popularity contest. Authors embark on hours upon hours of researching books that are successful in their niche to find what potential readers like. Then, they write books on those topics rather than ones they really want to write—the ones that are meaningful to them.
Of course, it’s essential to understand and speak to your readers. But too much emphasis on audience lends itself to becoming disconnected from your voice and purpose as a writer.
In many ways, failing to produce a book that reflects your perspective and mission is more worrying than failing to make it marketable. And here’s the thing: putting your heart and soul into your work is precisely what will make your unique book appealing to readers. That’s probably why many successful authors consider writing a spiritual practice in addition to a profession.
It might be hard to put aside thoughts of success and sales as you write. But worry not. You can approach your writing as a spiritual practice and create books that sell at the same time. Here are some tips to get you looking inward and re-orientate yourself, so you write with a strong voice on topics that arise from and feed your soul.
1. Remember why you write.
The core of writing as a spiritual ritual lies in your motivation. Putting aside the issue of selling your book, consider what drew you to it in the first place. Is it because you have a personal experience you want to share? Do you have an interest in finding the answers to questions that others have? Are you passionate about a particular topic and want to discuss it? Do you feel called to write on a topic?
Whatever your purpose, make sure it has deep meaning to you. The meaning you find in writing translates into valuable insights your readers will love. Don’t just write because a random quiz result somewhere told you that your personality would make you a perfect author. Have a real sense of purpose so you enjoy your work and feel deeply connected to it.
If you’re worried you’ll forget why you write, jot your purpose down and keep it visible at all times. You could, perhaps, set your overarching goal (e.g., “helping others overcome grief”) at the top of your manuscript so you see it when you begin to write. Or write it on a colorful note that you stick to your computer.
Focus each book, article, or blog post on a topic related to your purpose. In this way, you’ll produce a body of work that helps you achieve it.
2. Find a time and space to write.
There’s a reason why monks retreat to secluded monasteries to achieve spiritual enlightenment; it gives them the time and space to think, reflect, and meditate. After identifying your purpose and that of your book, create your writing space—both where and when you’re going to work. See your writing time as a mini-retreat you take every day and the place you choose as your sacred writing space.
In terms of where, find a place to write without a lot of distractions. You may not be able to get in tune with yourself in a busy coffee shop with lots of chatter going on around you. That said, the most important thing is that you’re comfortable. Your writing space should make you feel at peace and able to focus. (It shouldn’t distract you.) You may even want it to feel spiritual. You can achieve the latter with candles, crystals, or incense, for instance.
As for when, look for a slot on your schedule that can be blocked off entirely for yourself. Don’t squeeze in a bit of writing whenever it’s convenient, even though that probably feels easiest. Isolate yourself from other tasks and worries. In this way, you cancel out all the voices that drown out your own, thus allowing you to tune in to your thoughts and muse.
Next, commit. Make disconnecting from the outside world a part of your writing ritual. If you do so, you’ll awaken your inner writer and find yourself connected to your voice each time you sit down to write. Return to your space and time consistently. You’ll find your mind automatically going into writing mode, equipped with ideas and words.
3. Write from your heart.
And now we come to the essence of our art: writing. When you’re writing nonfiction, it’s easy to get caught up in the specifics and research and start to second-guess yourself. For instance, as you write, you might find your mind asking, “Are my explanations too dry? Too specific? Is this the right way to explain that?”
To go all-in on writing as a spiritual practice, you’ll need to turn off that troublesome analytical or critical side of your brain. Resist the temptation to be swept up in doubts, as that can and will disrupt your train of thought — not to mention propel you straight into writer’s block.
Instead, adopt this as your spiritual mantra: write first, edit later. Even if your words don’t sound perfect, get them down on paper. Editing is a necessary part of getting your book published, anyway, so rest assured that your sentences will be refined before reaching your audience.
If you’re still struggling to write, consider freewriting to access your creative soul. This practice is especially useful if your book is a memoir. By writing without editing at the same time, you enable your ideas to surface, especially those that come to you subconsciously or from a Higher Power or your Higher Self. At the end of a session, re-work and re-organize the thoughts you spilled onto paper, and voilà! You’ve added a couple of meaningful chapters to your book.
Like most things, writing as a spiritual practice is easier said than done. It takes practice and patience, but the result will be worth your while if you can follow through. You’ll find yourself inspired and motivated when you contact and listen to your inner voice and guidance. Ultimately, that’s the best way to produce a book with personal meaning and that your readers resonate with as well.
How do you make writing nonfiction a spiritual practice? Tell me in a comment below. (And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends.)
About the Author
Emmanuel Nataf is the founder and CEO of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Emmanuel dedicates most of his time to building Reedsy’s product and is interested in how technology can transform cultural industries.