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Author Spotlight: Robert J. Wicks, Author of No Problem

June 30, 2014

This week's author spotlight is on bestselling author Robert J. Wicks. Wicks has been an Ave Maria Press author for nearly two decades with more than 200,000 copies sold. As a part of this summer's Book of the Week series, we asked him to share some insights into his latest work, No Problem: Turning the Next Corner in Your Spiritual Life

1. You have been a very prolific writer over the years with more than forty published books. What inspired you to get started as a writer of spirituality books?

Psychology was wonderful but it didn't address the whole person or the Source of what I felt was truly good in life.

2.  Your newest book, No Problem, offers readers an “inner workshop” for moving forward in their spiritual lives. Where did the idea for this new book come from?

Gabriel Marcel once wrote, "Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived." I think we often see the "spiritual life" as if it is a problem and see God as a manager or boss instead of the loving source of life that is calling us to be all we can be without embarrassing us that we are where we are. No Problem was written with these two points in mind. 

(Also: since the young people no longer say "You're welcome" but instead "No problem" when we thank them, I thought surely this title will be easily remembered.)

3. Could you give us some insight into your daily spiritual practice? What kinds of things do you do on a daily basis that helps you turn the next corner in your spiritual life?

I try to practice an informal and formal "rule of prayer" as the Desert Fathers (Abbas) and Mothers (Ammas) of the fourth century desert did. It started years and years ago when I was sitting with Henri Nouwen in the little kitchen of his apartment right off Harvard Square. We were discussing a book I was writing at the time and reflecting a bit on my own spiritual life which was quite undisciplined. He suggested I start each day with reading the scripture readings and then take a bit of quiet time to let them form a nest in my heart for the day. Following doing this, I began to realize that if we mean well but don't provide a structure to meet God every day, then the Divine sense of life which makes it truly full and meaningful would be absent.

Following this I also added the following elements to my "rule of prayer":

  • Taking advantage of the crumbs of silence and solitude that were already in my life
  • Taking a breath and becoming more aware or mindful by being in the present with my eyes wide open to what I was experiencing rather than judging myself or others
  • Getting into a spirit of Intrigue about all that came to mind to find out what God was trying to teach me about myself and the Divine rather than getting caught in the 3 cul de sacs of arrogance (projecting the blame on others), ignorance (unduly picking on myself), or discouragement because I wanted immediate results
  • Formal prayer such as reading psalms or reciting the Rosary or saying the Lord's Prayer slowly also centers me
  • Have a circle of friends who inspire me by their attending to what is important in life

All the above and a bit more help move me away from Chronos (secular values such as success) toward Kairos (the true source of peace and joy in life).

4. Among many other concepts, you invite readers once again into the “desert,” a concept you described in and earlier book, Crossing the Desert. What interests you the most about the desert?

Crossing the Desert is a book I continually thank God for the privilege of writing. I wanted to be able to share with readers what I felt was the heart of the messages and life of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. I also wanted them to begin to value what I call a contemporary "desert apprenticeship" a bit more. By this, I mean to see themselves as role models for others--not simply in what they say but how they live and treat others. Furthermore, I wanted them to find formal and informal mentors in their own lives--even if it be ones encountered only in books.

I enjoy studying other religions. When I saw how Buddhists really were aware of the need for "alonetime"--time in silence and solitude or reflectively in oneself even when in a group--I returned to my own Christianity and asked, "Where is that in my own tradition?" In response I found it in the practice and lives of the Desert Fathers and Mothers and realized as both Merton and Nouwen did in their own lives and writings that these lessons had great import for us today. 

I must confess, I really packed in a great deal of information in this book via quotes, personal stories, and ways to implement past wisdom into our daily routine.

5. As such a well-published author, what advice do you give to new writers just starting out in their careers?

Take a theme that is truly of great value, ask yourself: "Can I address it in a slightly different way that will help people?" and then find a title that will inspire you. Once you have the title, ask what ten or so points do I want to make given this purpose and those will be your chapter headings. For each chapter indicate what five or so points you wish to make and the illustrations and quotes that would make sense given them. 

Finally put together a proposal that includes: brief description, tentative length, similar books and how yours is different, audience you are directing this at (professional?  people in the pews?), an introduction, and a sample chapter or two. If there are things about you to indicate you already have an audience (platform) because of your role, a blog you have, etc., include that as well because publishers want to know they can sell a minimum amount of books so they can stay viable as a company. After you do this, have people review it so it can be as perfect as it can. Once this is done, then send it out to several publishers and see what happens.


About Robert J. Wicks

Popular Catholic author and speaker Robert J. Wicks has been helping people take greater stock of their lives for almost forty years.  He is professor emeritus at Loyola University Maryland, has taught in universities and professional schools of psychology, medicine, nursing, theology, education, and social work, and has a consulting practice.

Wicks, a Queens, New York, native, received a master’s degree in clinical psychology in 1973 from St. John’s University and a doctorate in psychology from Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital in 1977. In 1996, Pope John Paul II awarded Wicks a papal medal for his service to the Catholic Church. He received honorary doctorates from Caldwell College and Georgian Court University, and in 2006,  the first Alumni Award for Excellence in Professional Psychology from Widener University. He is also the recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American Counseling Association’s Division on Spirituality, Ethics, and Religious Values in Counseling.

He has written more than fifty books, including No Problem, Streams of Contentment and bestseller Riding the Dragon. Wicks gives presentations throughout the world and in 1994 was responsible for the psychological debriefing of relief workers evacuated from Rwanda during the country’s genocide.

Wicks and his wife, Michaele, have a grown daughter and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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