Learning to Pay Attention to God: 5 Spiritual Reasons We Ought to Improve Our Writing Skills, #1
In Psalm 19, David writes, “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands…day after day, they pour forth speech; night after night, they display knowledge.” Similarly, Saint Paul writes in Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
In other words, God is always speaking. He is always revealing himself—and his ways—in the things that He has made.
The question is: are we paying attention?
In her great book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes, “writing is about learning to pay attention.” As you become a better writer, you will become more aware of the things that are going on around you, because good writing is about concentrating, taking a good look at what you see, paying careful attention to every concrete detail, and understanding it enough to communicate it to others. It is—to borrow a phrase from John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body—to put yourself in a position of active receptivity, of dynamic openness to the world around you.
But why would we want to do this? Because the language God speaks is truth, goodness, and beauty. What he reveals is his glory! When we learn to pay attention, to actively receive God’s revelation of his glory in and through the ordinary world around us, it will make us happy. Because that is the result of taking in God’s glory. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “The ultimate purpose of creation is that God “who is the creator of all things may at last become “all in all”, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude.” Or, as John Piper has put it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
Satisfaction comes through experiencing God’s glory. We experience God’s glory by paying attention. And the art of paying attention is cultivated by writing.
This doesn’t mean you have to become an expert in creative non-fiction, in writing essays or memoirs. And it doesn’t mean you have to become a great novelist or short story writer. But it does mean that, at the very least, you ought to try to grab a journal or yellow legal pad, go find a coffee shop or a state park, and write down your thoughts and observations—about the creation around you, about your life, about what’s going on in your own heart.
God is always speaking. Writing is learning to pay attention. Put yourself in a position of active receptivity and take notes on the glory of God.
Trust me: it’ll make you happy.
Posted in The Sacrament of Writing