Amy Lyles Wilson lives just over a half hour drive away from my home in Middle Tennessee. Our paths never crossed until we arrived at Kanuga Lake in Hendersonville, North Carolina as new students in the Haden Institute Spiritual Direction program. We were assigned to different cohort groups, but when she introduced herself during our first gathering as one whose call is to "work at the intersection of creativity and spirituality" I knew I needed to get to know her better.
Can you describe how you understand the relationship between creativity and your spiritual life?
I believe it is the sharing of our stories that saves us, and I see it borne out over and over again when I lead writing workshops or work with individuals one on one through creativity coaching or spiritual direction. The intuitive, life-giving act of putting words to our experiences does many things: reminds us we’re not alone; gives us the space to take a deep breath and carve out a sliver of objectivity; connects us with other fellow pilgrims out there who have something to each us; and inspires us to take that next step toward healing or growth or change or acceptance or understanding or….
I used to scoff at the people who parsed the words “religious” and “spiritual,” as in, “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual.” At fifty-five, I get that now. For I find the more deeply rooted I become in the contemplative life, the less I need institutions and groupthink to guide me.
I need individual mentors, yes, and time in silence, and connection to kindred spirits, and learning. And I need myself, my personal, one-of-a-kind, connection to the Divine.
Writing invites me to honor that connection and share my discoveries with others, all the while enabling me to survive this thing called life with as much intention and emotion as I can muster.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t feel they are talented enough to explore creativity as a spiritual practice?
Telling your story is as hard and as simple as “just write it.” Some people had their work critiqued so harshly along the way that they stopped even trying to speak or write their truth.
It pains me when I hear from clients that they’ve wanted to write since they were in high school, but now, in mid-life, they don’t feel they have the skills or the talent to pull it off. Maybe a teacher criticized their grammar or a friend said she didn’t think their work was publishable.
I tell them they can, indeed, write, for what is required is not literary prowess but a willingness to trust the words. Which is asking a lot, I realize, because I am asking you to trust yourself and not listen to the outsiders who haven’t had your experiences, haven’t been affected by life as you have, haven’t walked even a quarter mile in your shoes. Just as in living a life of the spirit, when writing one must keep going even when the “payoff” might not yet be evident.
Amy Lyles Wilson believes it is the sharing of our stories that saves us. Toward that end, she works as a writer, teacher, and spiritual director to help people tell the stories they need to tell.
A native of Mississippi who now calls Nashville home, Amy Lyles has thirty years of professional experience in the world of words. Recently she received her certification in spiritual direction from the Haden Institute in North Carolina and trained as a SoulCollage® facilitator.
She has been a magazine columnist and blogger, and has co-authored or contributed to nine books. She holds degrees in English, journalism, and theology. Her essay “The Guts to Keep Going” was featured on National Public Radio.
Amy Lyles has taught writing and served as the writer-in-residence at the Earlham School of Religion, and led workshops across the South, as well as at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. She serves on the board of the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss, the Contemplative Outreach of Middle Tennessee advisory committee, and the board of Women’s National Book Association’s Nashville chapter.
Visit Amy on the web at www.amylyleswilson.com.
As I walk my own path of spiritual growth through creativity, I’ve met many kindred spirits along the way. In the Conversation is a series of interviews with these soulful voices who I believe exemplify what it means to be a creative contemplative.