Too Attached to Words

It isn’t as if it is entirely news to me… but a recent round of being edited for publication has really rubbed in how attached I am to the sound of my own ‘voice’.

I’ve been working with Philip Endean, SJ, editor of The Way, to get an article ready for the latest issue and I realise I’ve been a difficult author. I’ve been adapting a piece given orally at the Loyola Hall Seminar on Spiritual Accompaniment into something that can be read off paper. My written style tends to the oral anyway, which stands me in good stead for preaching but makes me awkward on the written page. And this piece I wrote deliberately densely, playing with the weight of words, to evoke a feeling, a memory, an experience. Philip’s admirable outlook is that if a sentence takes two readings it needs editing. He has his readers to think about but I have been more wedded to the words than the communication. Every cut and every elucidation I’ve taken personally–I want it to sound like me.

The end result is, in fact, much clearer than the original talk ever was–both in the quality of communication and (I hate to admit it) in the clarity of the ideas. Philip is very good at making me realise what I want to say when it turns out I’ve been mumbling about something altogether different.

The title of the article is ‘Id Quod Volo: The Erotic Grace of the Second Week’. See what I mean about obscure density? The second ‘week’ in question is a phase of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Someone praying through the Exercises as part of a retreat spends the Second Week (just to confuse matters it is usually about 12 days long!) alongside Jesus in imagination as he grows from a twinkling in God’s eye to become a man with a mission. Each ‘week’ of the Exercises has its own ‘grace’, the gift or outcome a person might look for, ask for, and expect. ‘Id quod volo’, Ignatius called it–that which I desire’. The Second Week grace is ‘a growing felt-knowledge of Jesus, so that I might love him more deeply and follow him more closely’. How that grace gets given in each concrete case is fascinating.

Desire plays a large part in the Exercises and my article explores the Second Week grace as something irreducibly erotic in nature. If you want to find out more you’ll have to check out The Way online.

4 replies on “Too Attached to Words”

  1. A few years ago I started writing for an industry publication and got my first experience with an editor – I had many of the same feelings you describe here! It was tough, but my writing was better, and has become better, because of it. It just takes a while to learn to let go of some things and find a balance.

  2. I’m reading about Ignatius’ life and I’m at the part where he was thought to maybe be an illuminati 🙂 – interesting to see the influences that went to making up the Exercises.

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