Creative Problems, with Some Tangents on the Subject of Owls

“All spiritual problems are creative problems, and all creative problems are spiritual problems.”

-Carey Wallace, “On Discipline” (Comment Magazine)

Late last winter, I wrote an essay for NicoleDieker.com (a daily blog about the art and finance of creative life that I enthusiastically recommend). The piece is called How to Look for Owls. It’s about the rituals that sustain creative practice, and the location of that fine line between spirituality and art.

At the time, I thought it was a beautiful mess, with something important to say but not much focus. I wandered around in it talking about how much I love my QWERTY, personifying poetry as the loud friend who brings wine, asking what the heck is meditation, and yes, literally going outside in the pre-dawn darkness looking for owls. My “conclusions” were about transition, ambiguity, and trust (which some people like to call faith.) I stated right up front that I had no idea what was going to come of it by the end, and by the end, I still did not.

I’m re-reading How to Look for Owls today because of another post at Nicole Dieker dot com, in which Nicole highlights a 2011 essay by novelist Carey Wallace called On Discipline. Nicole’s returned to it many times, and I can see I’ll be doing the same.

Wallace’s point here–at least the one that sent me searching back through my beautiful mess of owl-related ritual thoughts–is this: “All spiritual problems are creative problems, and all creative problems are spiritual problems.”

And in that light, my wandering essay’s “lack of focus” suddenly makes clear-water sense.* Art (life) is complex, back-folded and intertwined with everything else in ways that hard to parse and impossible to untangle. I was trying to square and subdivide that beautiful circle–which only proves, in retrospect, how cohesive, and how essential, that circle is.

I’ll stop talking now and let you read them both, if you like, and draw your own conclusions. (How) do art and spirituality intersect in your life?

How to Look for Owls

On Discipline


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