Writing as spiritual practice

I'm sitting on a picnic table in a wooded campsite in Delaware, connected to the world by the wonders of technology. This morning the air is still. Thankfully our friends the flies have not yet risen from their slumber, though they undoubtedly will as the temperature rises. It's 81 degrees now, and due to rise to 89. I'm surrounded by birdsong. And I'm writing this blog.
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, in the Apology, said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." His comment became a watchword for philosophers and thinkers ever afterward. A fulfilled life is one with a modicum of self-reflection, thinking through the intricacies and changes of life, trying to make sense of it all. It doesn't mean that you have everything worked out. Self-reflection sometimes leaves you confused. Often, the answers to life's conundrums feel just out of reach—like something on the tip of your tongue, or a memory you know is there, but will not rise to the surface of consciousness. It can be frustrating. It turns up ambiguities.
But here's my take on it. It's not getting the correct answer that counts, but rather the process of self-reflection, life-examination, that makes us better people. Philosopher David Ross in the 1930s said that self-improvement was a prime facie moral obligation. In other words, unless you can find really good reasons not to do it, all of us ought to be engaged in self-reflection to become better people.
For me the business of becoming better than I have been is the core of spirituality, and that makes self-examination a spiritual practice.
Enter writing. For many folk, self-reflection is helped if—besides ruminating in your head—you organize your thoughts by writing. You get your thoughts out of your head and on to paper, or now virtual paper, and it helps you sort through stuff. I don't suppose writing is for everyone, but it's worth a try. With 15 years blogging behind me, I'm glad I took those few tentative steps in 2003. I have now something of a record of my self-reflections over that time. I see change, growth, different emphases now than I had then. It's all been to the good.
Before technology, those who used writing as a spiritual discipline of self-refection used paper journals. (Many still do, of course.) But then came the blog. If you now desire you can share your self-reflection with the world, should the world choose to read it. Lot's of easy blogging sites are available. I use blogger.com. It's easy to use and quite intuitive. You can make your blog site as simple or complex as you like.
My first blog post was in July 2003. A very short affair, and a bit of an experiment. I looked back over the blogs. I was rather inconsistent for the first few years, but soon settled into a rhythm of a blog post every second week. According to the counter, as of today, the blog has been accessed over 95,000 times.
A few tips about blogging as self-reflection:

  1. Don't start too ambitiously. A daily blog will likely prove too difficult to sustain.
  2. But do be persistent. Persistence is part of the process. It's easier to be persistent once a month, than every day—at least as you start out. You can raise your game from once a month to once a week, when you find your feet.
  3. Write primarily for yourself. If your self-reflection is a genuine help to you, it will likely help someone else.
  4. Don't be preachy, as if you know the truth and you want others to join you in it.
  5. Be honest, with a dose of humility.
  6. Have focus and a theme. My focus is quite simply philosophical and spiritual reflections on life.
  7. Don't write too much. 500-750 words is a good short read. If you've more to say, save it for another blog.

Self-reflection through writing can be fun. Enjoy!
+Ab. Andy