The receipt of creative inspiration – regardless of source – is a miraculous phenomenon. Recently, I spent time looking through old photos and saved images, the way one sorts through twigs and branches, searching for kindling to build a fire. I was seeking fuel to stoke my creative fire and deepen my writing. In my search, I came upon many images related to writing and creativity.
Writing, or any act of creativity for that matter is a Sacrament of the Spirit. When we write, Spirit merges creative inspiration with our gifts and ideas to fuel the sacred imagination. The resulting artifacts of written words and journal entries (or a piece artwork, or old photos we have taken) are the physical manifestations of the sacred imagination and verdant sources of further creative inspiration and insight.
For more than 20 years, my journal and morning spiritual practices have been a “container” for my sacred imagination. When it’s time to write, I begin by opening my journal, take my pen in hand and set about exploring. I may write about what’s in my heart at that moment, my thoughts and feelings about the people and things I hold in my “intentions,” my reaction to the day’s scripture readings, or my prayers for that particular day. Once I begin writing, I don’t tend to pause or look back. I just let the ink flow as my heart and spirit move together.
Some days, however, if I am feeling uninspired or contemplative, I might page back through my entries and come upon a word or phrase that captures my attention and calls me to go deeper. In fact, it was during my recent “photo expedition” that I came upon an image of my old journals and realized just how many personal journals I have filled in the past twenty years and how much inspiration and creative spirit they contain. When I was writing my novel, Ink and Honey, and then The Way of Belle Coeur, I remember combing my journals for morsels of inspiration to fuel my writing.
This process of looking back to move forward is what it means to a “harvest” the sacred imagination. And much like the original creative act of writing, a regular, reflective practice of harvesting your journal is a sacred undertaking.
The first time I made a conscious decision to harvest my previous writing, I found that after I had worked through one or two of my journals, I was moved to light a candle and offer a prayer that I would be guided to what would be inspirational and helpful to me at that moment. It was then that I knew that Spirit was at work alongside me. With the turn of each page, I felt myself slowing down, as I welcomed the blessing of discovering a found word, a phrase that stirred me, or the long-forgotten idea I’d scribbled in the margin.
During my harvest, I recorded in my current journal the snippets of ideas and insights I had noted years previously that aligned with what I needed to continue my work or inspire me on a particular day. Inspiration was alive in those pages, not because I was so wise and prophetic to have recorded it. Instead through the sacrament of creativity, and through the grace of the Spirit, I was guided to unearth found treasures, fragments, and shards of inspiration within my writing.
The sacrament of harvesting the journal is a way to become the curator and archivist of your life’s journey. It’s a bit like being an archaeologist on a dig looking for the long-lost fragments that when reconstructed yields a map leading to forgotten treasure.
I invite you to contemplate receiving the sacrament that lays waiting when you harvest your journals. Sacred wisdom, creative inspiration, and guidance for your life are there within the pages of old, dusty notebooks stacked on a shelf or buried in boxes in the attic.
In addition to your current journal, gather your old journals and writing notebooks. You might also want to bring collect:
• A highlighter to flag essential passages.
• Page flags/sticky tabs – to mark pages and sections of importance.
• Smartphone/camera – to take pictures of any content you want to remember if you prefer an electronic record.
During your harvest be aware of …
• Themes: What topics are you working and re-working in your journaling?
• Resolutions: How has the passage of time impacted particular issues or challenges?
• Evolution: How have your ideas and perspectives changed?
• Big Ideas: What creative ideas have you cataloged and forgotten?
• Sacred Insights: What holy messages and muses have you captured?
• Dominions & Graces: What nuggets of personal wisdom and insight have you recorded?
When you are ready to begin:
Gather your journals. Light a candle, sit quietly in prayer with a chosen volume in your lap then lay your hands upon it and bless it for the stories it so faithfully received and now holds.
Open your journal with reverence, while you savor and commune with what awaits you, as you harvest the past to inform your present and feed your creative spirit.