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Go Down Deep: Exploring the Spiritual Essay

  • Iowa Writers' House 332 East Davenport Street Iowa City, IA, 52245 United States (map)

When: Saturday, December 7, 2019; 1:30pm-4:30pm

Where:  Iowa Writers' House, 332 East Davenport St

Cost: $75


“To get up to the joy you have to go down deep.”  — Laurence Cole

Writing about our spiritual experiences may involve stepping outside the ordinary into deep mystery, or simply finding enchantment in the everyday. Just as some spiritual teachings prompt us to look within, to embrace stillness, so good writing calls us into direct experience, or communion, with reality, so that we can see things with new eyes. 

This short class will explore ways we can sink more deeply into our writing, offering practical techniques for accessing inspiration. With a focus on the genre of “the spiritual essay” (though these techniques can be used with any form) we’ll ask, where’s the juice, the energy, the heat, in your writing? What is it about these moments that cause them to light up? What prompts us to be seized by certain moments, to experience what James Joyce calls ‘aesthetic arrest?’

Responding to provocative prompts, and using pointed questions to deepen our writing, we’ll generate several short new pieces of writing, which can be expanded upon post-class. We’ll also look at what yoga philosophy has to say about creativity and discuss the question of when non-attachment can be useful in your writing life. And we’ll practice a short meditation exercise, and explore writing from that meditative state.



Andy Douglas is the author of The Curve of the World: Into the Spiritual Heart of Yoga. He was born in Brazil to missionary parents, and travel and spiritual practice have shaped his life ever since. He has practiced yoga and meditation for thirty years, and lived for seven years in various countries of Asia. After returning from Korea in 1990, he worked as a journalist and public radio announcer, before receiving a bachelors’ degree in Anthropology from the University of Iowa. In 2005, he received an MFA in Creative Writing, also from the University of Iowa, where he was the recipient of the Marcus Bach Fellowship for Writing about Religion and Culture. His essays, stories and translations have appeared in Mary, New Renaissance, J Journal, Fogged Clarity, Nimrod, Pisgah Review, Bayou, and The Examined Life. He received a full fellowship for residency at the Vermont Studio Center, and has also had residencies at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and the Prairie Center of the Arts. He’s active in peace, economic justice and prison issues, and sings in a choir with prisoners. His partner, Lois, and he both live in Iowa City, Iowa.


In a world filled with static and distraction, good writing is one way we can reach through the fog and touch each other. Spirituality is another. I want to drink more deeply from the well of being, still my mind and experience a sense of wonder. But I’m also interested in the creative act, and the interplay - sometimes tension - between the effort required to create beauty and clarity, and the impulse to seek peace.


All course information is sent to participants upon registering, including confirmation of workshop times, location, and materials.


Earlier Event: December 2
December Writers' Circle 1
Later Event: December 11
December Zen Write Night