I don’t know whether the American writer and essayist Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) can really be called a contemplative — although she did ask God to make her a mystic. She has been described as a devout believer and also as a “turbocharged Catholic.”
Reading O’Connor’s Prayer Journal, which she wrote in 1946-1947, I was interested in what she says about the intersection of faith and writing. She wrote the journal while studying writing and working on her first novel. In the journal, she begs to know and want God and also to become a “fine writer.” Where do these two desires intersect? In radical dependence on God. O’Connor writes:
My dear God, how stupid we people are until You give us something. Even in praying it is You who have to pray in us. I would like to write a beautiful prayer but I have nothing to do it from.
Dear God, tonight it is not disappointing because you have given me a story. Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story — just like the typewriter was mine.
If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me. Right at present this does not seem to be His policy. I can’t write a thing. But I’ll continue to try — that is the point. And at every dry point, I will be reminded Who is doing the work when it is done & Who is not doing it at that moment.
For reflection: Where do faith and writing intersect for you?