Responding to the Religious Impulse of a Star

I’ve been in the throws of a creative trip for the past two weeks, one that took me away from my home, my husband, and my regular routine. I’ve been up into the wee hours of the morning, surrounded by creative people and business people, technicians and office workers, trying my best to tap into the source of my creativity — the Awen — and to discover how to give my voice a place to live in the world.

In addition to the late night work, I’ve been using NaNoWriMo to speed up the process of writing my book. Currently, I’m about 5,000 words behind.

Oh – I’m taking a correspondence class though Cherry Hill Seminary.

I’m strapped. A little crazy, perhaps, for taking on so much in one month. Do I feel worn out? Yes – it feels that way sometimes. More than once in the past week I’ve sat in front of my blank computer screen, juggling in my mind the perspectives of a blogger, an author, a lyricist and a businessman, and I’ve wondered —

Why do I do this? Why do I write?

Star Foster posted a moving essay on the Patheos Pagan Portal today which asks the same question. From her perspective, as a staff writer and editor for, and as a respected voice in the Pagan community, writing has become somewhat of a burden, and she’s having a hard time remembering the way it feels to write from the heart; to write without fear of judgment.

For a blogger, writing is not simply expressing your ideas and opinions; it’s engaging the entire world in a conversation. And if you’ve spent any time reading through the comments of blogs across the web, you know that people can be pretty insensitive in comment threads. They engage with the text as though there isn’t a person standing behind it, and their criticisms can hurt. Sometimes they miss the text altogether and go straight for the writer, which hurts even more.

I’ve been fortunate on my blog, and have been spared much of the vitriol that exists out there in hyperspace. The comments from my readership have been, by and large, enriching and not destructive.

But the bigger issue at hand is not the way a blogger engages with their audience; it is how the writer engages with her heart, her mind and her life.

More Than The Sum Of Her Words

“I write because I have a religious impulse to do so. Everyone has their own gift, and unfortunately this is the only one I have. Writing is all I’ve got to give. I am not a brilliant teacher, nor a gifted ritualist. I’m not an inspiring and dedicated activist. I’m not a wise elder, nor even a good student. I’m no enchanting musician, talented visual artist or helpful mentor. I’m not even a supportive lover, or raising up the next generation of Pagans. I’m someone who chews through words and ideas, who worries a concept until it makes sense to her and whose tool is the written word. In the larger picture, it’s not a very useful gift.

To the bolded text I say — hooey.

Star’s gift is a tremendous gift. To write is no small thing. To write is to help facilitate others to think. It is to draw connections between seemingly disparate ideas, and to show the ways in which the world, with all of its tragedies and sorrows, is undeniably magical. Writing can be, as I feel it is for me at times, a form of ministry (and you read here about what that word means to me).

To write about a spiritual life is especially valuable, and this is where Star’s work is connected to something truly great. Star, and all those blogging on matters of the heart, the spirit, the powerful invisible force that connects me to you, you to me, us to the dirt and the sky and the water, we’re preparing each other for moments of transformation. We’re preparing each other for living with deep presence, deep awareness, and a willingness to be authentic. This is big work. This is meaningful.

This is what Star does. This is what I seek to do. This is why I write. I write because I am alive, and because I believe that life is a mystery, and an explosion, and a song. I understand Star’s “religious impulse,” because I share it. It is scary and overwhelming at times, but it serves a real purpose.

To All The Stars Out There

Writers write about what they know — the good ones, at least — and if you’re a writer who has discovered that her well is running dry, then you need to dig another well! You need to get out there and live some.

Cultivate the parts of yourself that are less than brilliant. Polish them. Sit with them. Then, write about that experience. Be flawed, and write about it. Be funny, and write about it. Be willing to take risk of living a full, bold, bright pink life, and write about it.

Let your religious impulse to write be transformed into a religious impulse to live.

I strongly encourage you to read Star’s post in full. Then, feel free to share it, as well as this post, with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Then, do some writing of your own.



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13 responses to “Responding to the Religious Impulse of a Star”

  1. Moma Fauna Avatar

    I don’t know where to ask this question, so my apologies if this is the wrong venue. As a newbie to Pagan internet culture & the blogging thing, I have a question about this statement:

    “For a blogger, writing is not simply expressing your ideas and opinions; it’s engaging the entire world in a conversation.”

    Like Aj/Melia above, this was one of the benefits of a blog that I had hoped for. Something to help get me out of isolation & bounce thoughts/ideas/whatnot back
    & forth with others. I enjoy reading blogs & comment when I can (& it is fitting). I love the blogs where there is some conversation, it feels like visiting someone’s kitchen or living room for a chat. In my very brief experience, it seems that people are reticent to comment. I know I have readers & sometimes people will email me w/thoughts or comment in Facebook, but I haven’t yet had a real sharing of ideas on the blog itself. Did you find this to be the case when you began writing?

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for your comment, Moma Fauna. I’m glad to hear from you. 

      It sounds like you know what kinds of blogs you like to read, and you know what kind of conversation you’re looking to have with your audience. That’s a great place to start.Yes – when I first started this blog I ran into the same challenges that you’re facing. It’s taken time to learn how to expand on my ideas while still leaving enough room open for people to share their own thoughts. I’ve found that when I take a risk and say something bold — even if I know that using more nuanced language might be more accurate — my boldness can lead to more engaging conversation. I give myself permission to make “this is how it is for me” statements, with the occasional, “this is how it IS” thrown in for good measure, and what I find is that people are willing to tell me – “Actually, my experience is like *this*,” or, “No – that is NOT how it is.” I also find it useful to engage people in dialogue at the end of each post. If there’s something I’d like to know from my readership, I ask. Literally. Scroll back through the posts and see how my prompts engage my readers in dialogue. It’s a great way to start. Just ask people a question that follows the subject of your post, and you may discover that people are willing to pick up from the conversation from there.Good luck! Let me know how if any of these ideas work for you.

      Bright blessings!

      1. Áine Avatar

        One of the things I really appreciate about your blog, Teo, is how well you engage with your readers in conversation.  I really enjoy the way you follow up on comments by drawing the commenter into deeper conversation, even when they’ve been less than pleasant.  It’s very inspiring, thank you.

        1. Teo Bishop Avatar

          Thank you, Áine. I do my best. I’m glad you keep coming back. 🙂

      2. Moma Fauna Avatar

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. I will most certainly work with the ideas you shared. In thinking about your suggestions & looking at how you have written, I realize that some of the silence is probably because of a project I have been doing that isn’t very conducive to discussion. It’s a personal journey, if you will, so I think when I am done with it I will have more latitude to use questions, bold statements, more engaging topics, etc. I look forward to having a place for discourse in the future, my own internet kitchen. But I realize also that I need to keep it in perspective — when I look about at the blogs I am discovering (daily — I am really new to the blog thing) I see many are several years old. I have some growing to do!

        I thank you again & look forward to reading more of your blog (which I also just discovered, thanks to an experienced friend).

  2. Emily Townsend Avatar
    Emily Townsend

    Why we write, why we make art, why we add our thoughts and feelings to the world can be an ongoing question. . . .I think Flaubert has something in this response:  “As if the fullness of the soul did not sometimes overflow in the
    emptiest of metaphors, since no one can ever give the exact measure of
    his needs, nor of his conceptions, nor of his sorrows; and since human
    speech is like a cracked tin kettle on which we hammer out tunes to make
    the bears dance, when we long to move the stars.”
    –Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Wonderful quote, Emily. Thank you for sharing that here.

  3. Shauna Aura Knight Avatar
    Shauna Aura Knight

    I definitely resonate with this. As a creative person, I struggle a lot with writing. I sometimes look with awe at the folks who seem to blog such elegant posts, so few words, so prolific. And then there’s dealing with the negative comments. I suppose it’s particularly disheartening when most of my blogging and podcasting is around the Work I feel called to do, in other words, sharing tools for Pagans to become better ritualists and leaders, and to build stronger healthier community. As an event organizer, ritual leader, and writer, the negative response within our community (or the utter lack of any response at all) is often disheartening. Those of us who write books and blogs and articles are doing a great service.

    Now back to writing on my novel, NaNoWriMo calls 😀

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      What do you do, Shauna, when you find yourself disheartened about the negative response, or lack of response from the community you’re seeking to serve?

    2. Teo Bishop Avatar

      …..and don’t you dare stop writing your NaNo to respond to my comment!

  4. Aj / Melia Avatar

    “For a blogger, writing is not simply expressing your ideas and opinions; it’s engaging the entire world in a conversation.”
    Yes.  This is why I blog.  Otherwise, I would write in a journal.

  5. Stephen Clark Avatar
    Stephen Clark

    I write poetry and post it to a blog. I found a book and downloaded it to an eReader: “Poetry As Spiritual Practice” by Robert McDowell. I write to express that which I have a difficulty giving voice to. I, too, am doing NaNoWriMo and I am further behind than you are, but know we will both keep writing. One of the greatest compliments I received about my poetry was from one of my online Grove Sisters: “His poetry makes me laugh…makes me cry…makes me think…makes me wonder.” I agree with you that Star’s gift is a tremendous gift.

    Brightest Blessings on your book,
    The Renegade Poet

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you, Stephen, for your comment and your blessing. I hope that NaNo goes well for you, and that you continue to grow in your writing and spiritual journey!