What-Why-How #MyWritingProcess

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

The blogging about #MyWritingProcess appears to have begun in 2011. At least that’s as far back as the thread for this hash tag goes. It’s a wonderful insight about other writers and how they do what they do.

It’s my turn to step into the pool and swim, thanks to Nancy Ward’s invitation. 

What am I working on?

If you are reading this you already know that I write for Patheos. The blog includes prayers, contemplative pieces on nature, and practical gardening tips. I also write a monthly column at CatholicMom.com, and just finished a feature article for Catholic Digest. The presentations on building prayer gardens for this spring are over, unless I get a call from another group.

My main focus is currently on the first round of edits that came this month from Bob Hamma at Ave Maria Press for my new book. I love what he’s done with my (now our) manuscript and am embracing his challenges to improve the work. The launch is set for spring of 2015. Being a gardener I deeply appreciate and enjoy (love!) working with editors. They take my meager efforts, offer their insights, and my work grows in a way I had never thought possible.

I have twelve other manuscripts in progress—gosh, that sounds arrogant. They cover a wide range of topics from saints and soups to retreats and evangelization. They are all garden related, and that would be stretching it a bit when it comes to the memoirs of a gardener.  

What makes my work different from other gardening writers?

My Catholicism. All that I write is from my faith as developed in the Catholic religion. The gardening themed manuscripts are focused on learning about the Creator through his creation. The nature reflections are fleshed out in Adoration.  

Why do I write what I do?

Writing came about by default as I struggled to accept physical decline and associated depression. I struggled mightily with losing my identity as a gardener. I didn’t know who I was if not part of the earth, digging in the dirt, hugging trees, and touching flowers. I prayed desperately to God to be open to his will as my life took a turn, for what I thought was the worst.

What I gradually realized was that I could share with others how God is present in the garden. I brought this new awareness to Adoration, and while there came to embrace the fullness of God’s created beauty. I felt compelled to share this insight with other gardeners and to offer them not only the why but the how of glorifying God with his gifts from nature. 

How does my writing process work?

I am a very slow writer and must work at staying disciplined. I was not an English or Journalism major in college—failing an English class twice! What I’ve learned about the writing process, and am still learning, came by way of Ann Margaret Lewis and the Catholic Writers Guild, and from the writers group I attend.

Notebook: It’s more like a small journal that accompanies me everywhere. When an idea comes—I call them seeds—I write it down. There are a lot of one or two sentence entries. The majority of ideas come during my morning prayer time when I reflect on activities, people, and Scripture. Other ideas come when I am outdoors walking, gardening, or simply sitting with creation.

Adoration: These seeds of thought are taken to the Adoration chapel and developed. The dear women who attend to the altar placed a long narrow table at the back of the pews. It is there that I set my portfolio of notes, papers, articles and books. After offering my prayers and petitions for others, I ask Our Lord to fill my emptiness with his desires…and then write longhand. Sometimes for 15 minutes, more often for over an hour.

God’s Writing Time: The writing that occurs in Adoration takes place independent of this, though that work is always incorporated here. I am graced with a single life of solitude and friends tease me about living in an “upstairs hermitage.”

After morning prayer, with a second cup of coffee, I go to my desk and write for an hour and a half, minimum. Nothing interferes with God’s writing time. Well, maybe if the dog has to go out… When I say I write, it also includes researching of information pertaining to the topic. Sometimes I will return to writing in late afternoons, though my best work is done in the morning.

I call it God’s Time because of the Rule of St. Benedict: nothing comes before the Work of God. I don’t answer the phone, crawl around Facebook, read emails, clean house, etc. Sure, St. Benedict was talking about the Work of God being prayer, and for me writing is just that. I try to honor God’s gift, in answer to my prayer, by prayerfully offering whatever words are written for whoever reads them.

Steps: I make a rough outline, go back and fill it in. If I am working on a manuscript I consider each main topic a chapter, each sub-topic a section in it, and can usually write 3,000-4,000 words for a chapter. I try to write a rough draft of a whole chapter in one sitting.

My rough drafts are really ugly with all sorts of mistakes and incomplete thoughts. BUT the thoughts are all there. I rework it as best I can. Then take it, piece by piece of about 500-1000 words, to the writers group who are wonderful at teaching me how to make it better. For my blog, when I don’t know what is wrong with my piece, I reach out to CWG members for editing. Did I mention how much I love English  and Journalism majors?

I rewrite as directed. I believe nothing is ever perfect and that’s perfectly fine with me. I’ve written my best and leave the manuscript in the hands of whatever publisher is willing to take my workand then it is no longer mine but ours.

Query Letters: I just don’t fuss over them. I’ve done what I could, offered it up, and leave the rest in God’s hands and God’s time. My goal has never been to get published, but to serve Our Lord in whatever small way I can—to which I am still striving.

 Sometimes I feel terribly intimidated when I read the powerful words of other Catholic writers. The words I am given are simple and I try to remember that not everyone seeking God seeks him in theology. For this reason I wrote the following prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me to trust that the words you encourage me to write meet the needs of those you guide to read them. Let me continue to delight in the beautiful words written by others and not despair in the simplicity of my own. Help me remember always to thank them and encourage them in their work. Guide my thoughts and my hands to express your desires for our lives. Allow me to follow your will, to trust your ways, to be unconcerned with how I write but that I write in the light of your Light. Lord, send me peace of heart so that envy and disparaging does not constrict my work for your glory.


I am tagging a Christian friend, Lynn Eckerle who writes a cooking column for several newspapers and has a wonderful cooking and photography blog.

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