Naming Chaos: Memoir and the Theopoetic Exchange


The main focus of this workshop is the idea of ‘writing that inspires more writing’: the believer’s invitation and responsibility (and ability to respond), to make a contribution to the Great Conversation of literature.

The exchange of ideas and building of collective understanding is the essence of what it is to be human. We need to understand each other, and we need to be understood. We have been working on this since the beginning of time. The survival of our race hinged on the ability of our ancestors to communicate successfully: where to find water, which berries to avoid, how to skin a wild boar etc. The urge to understand and to be understood is still here to help us to negotiate life on earth. To put a name on a need, an experience or a feeling is to organise it, to diminish its unknownness and confusion, and bring it into order. In the Bible it is one of the first jobs that God gave Adam and Eve:

name everything. As a memoirist, I wonder if this was not so much about letting Adam flex the muscles of his new dominion over creation, but more about giving him the mechanism for coping with the strangeness in which he found himself. Give it a name, then you can tell someone about it, this will help. Give it a name, then you will know what people are talking about when they say it, this will also help.


The first third of the workshop is a reading and short lecture that will include: The Confessions of Saint Augustine, and the start of a genre; and Leo Tolstoy’s aesthetic theory on art being a form of infection from artist and audience, from his essay What is Art?

The second two thirds are an opportunity for participation in two writing activities. While not everyone is called to be the writer of Belles Lettres, intentionally reflective writing does offer benefits to all: from simple writing practices that promote self- awareness to freshly activated engagement with life as a subject that inspires creative expression and thus falls nothing short of an act of worship directed at the Creator himself.

Exercise #1 Free Writing
The aim is accumulating word count that acts as both a valve for the release of unwanted tension or distraction, and a tap to encourage the flow of ideas whilst strengthening the writer’s sense of voice.

Exercise #2 Letter Writing
Inspired by Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim by the Rev. Peter Owen Jones. Letters will be written but not sent.

  • The optimal size of this workshop is 15 people or less.
  • Participants will engage in creative life writing skills in addition to the theoretical

    knowledge described above. Reading to be done in preparation can be provided if appropriate.