Writing Lessons from Pope Francis

Regardless of an individual’s religious affiliation, Pope Francis’ visit to the United States had to resonate on some level with just about everyone with even half a soul. His inclusive words and actions — whether speaking to a divided U.S. Congress, meeting with the homeless or making an unscheduled stop to bless a boy in a wheelchair — transcend Catholicism and reflect how all of humanity can join together to make the world a better place.

Will that happen? The cynic is me says it won’t. But the writer in me realizes that the Pope’s influence also can take the form of small personal improvements in our own lives — including how we write. Regardless of whether you’re posting an online update, composing an email to a colleague, writing a blog post or working on that novel, a little inspiration based on three practices embodied by Pope Francis certainly can go a long way.


1. Face your fears.

Writing can be scary, which is one reason so many people hate to do it. Sure, a comment on Facebook or a quick email at work doesn’t require much effort or increase the stress level, but writing anything longer than a paragraph petrifies some people. The Pope challenges us to ignore our fears and embrace people different and less fortunate than us. If the worst thing you have to do today is draft a proposal or type a blog post, consider yourself lucky. Write it and move on. Fear conquered.


2. Be honest.

When the Pope speaks, people listen and believe. “It is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” he often says. Just as savvy voters can see through the phoniness of politicians, so too can readers tell when a writer doesn’t stand behind his or her words. If you listened to Pope Francis speak during his trip to the States, he doesn’t deliberately say anything he doesn’t absolutely mean. Why write something if you don’t mean it?


3. Inspire others.

Great writing doesn’t just happen. Usually, it requires effort — and plenty of it. Jorge Mario Bergoglio didn’t become Pope Francis without lots of effort. The Argentinian son of Italian immigrants was ordained a priest in 1969 and put in decades of service before he was elected Pope in 2013. Today, his words inspire Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and atheists, young and old. In fact, you could argue he’s the closest the world comes to a universal rock star today. With confidence and conviction, your words can do the same — perhaps not with the same magnitude, but every little bit helps.