As a writer of fiction, I battle two maladies on a daily basis: (1) imagination fatigue and (2) “selfish ambition and vain conceit,” as Saint Paul put it so well in his letter to the Philippians. Gratefully, my yearlong immersion in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius offered remedies.
First, my tired imagination was revitalized. Ignatius invites us to “enter into the vision of God,” and imagine what our life and world might look like from the Divine Author’s perspective. He also gives us permission to place ourselves fully within a story from the Gospel, using all five senses to become immersed in the scene. Through the power of imagination, the Scripture came alive to our group as we traveled with Jesus along the dusty streets of ancient Israel. Freedom to imagine in my spiritual life spilled over into my creative work as well.
Secondly, being a writer in the age of social media mandates a level of self-promotion that seems to collide with the self-denial required by Jesus. The Ignatian exercises trained me in the daily practice of paying attention to my emotional life, noting when I experienced consolation and desolation. This reflection inevitably led to the confession of “selfish ambition and vain conceit” in the safety of a listening, praying group. These habits of reflection, paying attention to my emotional life and attitudes, and confession and repentance help me to visualize a narrow way forward in my vocation.
Our group of “exercisers” continues to meet once a month even three years after completing the course. I’m seriously considering taking it again. No matter how out of shape we feel spiritually, spending a year with St. Ignatius is bound to make us more fit for the journey of faith.
Mitali Perkins is the author of numerous books for teens and younger readers, including Monsoon Summer, Rickshaw Girl, and Secret Keeper.