A recent Thought Catalog article dished out some research about writers. They're depressed people, awful lovers, overly thinky, and largely unhappy.

As a writer, I should recoil at these words. I should get nervous about statements like:

Writers think a lot and people who think a lot tend to be unhappy. Add to that long periods of isolation and the high levels of narcissism that draws someone to a career like writing, and it seems obvious why they might not be the happiest bunch.

But alas, I know it's true.

I think a lot and sway unhappy, so this characterization of writers actually comforts me. Finally, some reasoning behind my abhorrence for those spiritual disciplines so many writerly thinkerly types love: the hush-hush of silence and solitary prayer and activities like quiet walks through empty canyons.

More often than not, my writerly head's too busy for those kinds of things. I roll my eyes when these come up as the surest way to hear God's voice. When "stilling" our souls and minds is a must to grow spiritually in this noisy world. When sitting lotus position before a cross and a candle in a tan-walled room is seen as the holy posture de jour. When I just can't get seem to make any of that work.

For most of my life, I thought this was a problem. I couldn't stop the stream of thoughts and ideas—during church, during prayer, during Bible reading. I'd scold myself for having stop 30 seconds into a "quiet time" to jot down a story idea for later; for spacing out mid-prayer, wondering suddenly about grocery lists; for not getting one sentence in to a Bible passage without asking, "Wait. What?" and spending the rest of my time Googling.

I thought this happened because I was spiritually weak or—to be honest—because I was mad. Turns out, this happens because I'm a writer. (The other two options may still be true.) Researchers found writers "cannot focus on one thing quite like the average person. Essentially, their stream of ideas is always running — the tap does not shut off — and, as a result, creative people show schizophrenic, borderline manic-depressive tendencies."

Sure enough, this "inability to suppress the precuneus [the memory-retrieval and self-consciousness part of the brain] is seen most dominantly in two types of people: creatives and psychosis patients." Again, strange comfort indeed. But any time we discover or get one step closer to the why of our difficulties, we're also a step closer to combating them. If deemed fighting for, at least.

I suspect that if centuries of faithful— if troubled—souls like myself have bothered to practice silence and solitude and highly focused prayer, then I should figure out how to make it work as well. That's what a friend of mine—one expertly trained in these disciplines—advised me when he balked at my excitement over this article. "It's why they are disciplines," he said. "Silence and solitude are hard for everyone.'

Writers and creatives aren't exempt from the rigors of certain spiritual practices or the disciplines. (Writing also makes me super snacky, for what it's worth. Fasting is a real bear.) But when silence and solitude feel oppressive, when prayer feels more like work than worship because the idea stream does not quit, when we end up frustrated or doubting or thinking we're on a fast-track to hell or to Bedlam, we might consider a new view.

After all, God knit our brains together, he juiced up that precuneus, when he made writers. It's not that sin hasn't affected it or that we should always give in to the thoughts that flow or that take us "away" from God. But God speaks in these thoughts. God works through these seemingly random ideas that bolt through our brains even mid-prayer.

God stays with us—even when we wander away from him (in mind and in soul, in theory and in practice). It's the Holy Spirit in Muse form who whispers, leads, prompts when we sit down to write sense of the thoughts that have swirled and pressed and popped up from nowhere. And it's God's very Creator image we bear when a story or even just a point emerge from that mess.

It might not be silent, but our ideas can be worship. Thoughts can be prayer. The time spent inside our heads can be solitary. Right? Right.


There's this little voice, these random thoughts that keep poking through even this writing, reminding me of those centuries of folks who've practiced silence, solitude, who've gotten up at dawn, sat cross-legged in rooms, who've built up their stamina. There's the Scripture—from one of my favorite chapters—that keeps circling through my mind. The Message translates this bit from Lamentations 3 this way: "It's a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
… When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear."

Surely the Lamenter had as writerly a mind, as unceasing a precuneus as anyone. And yet, in practicing what I resist, he discovered those fresh mercies and the great faithfulness of our God. Definitely something to think about.