Carey Wallace is the author of The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, which tells the story of the invention of the typewriter in 1808 by an Italian count for a blind woman so that she could write him letters. It’s a love story, but it’s also about the imagination and how it fails us. Patti Smith, one of Wallace’s heroes, called it “exquisitely written” and “a jewel.”
Now Wallace has trained her focus on artistic inspiration, both how it is historically discussed in relationship to artists, and how we as contemporary working artists might honor, cultivate, and capture it. She taught a workshop called “The Discipline of Inspiration” at the 2019 Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, and she’s working on a book of the same title. Wallace is particularly interested in how spiritual disciplines like silence, rest, and living in community map onto the artist’s life.
She wrote in an essay for Comment:
“All spiritual problems are creative problems, and all creative problems are spiritual problems . . . an artist’s failure to work is rarely mechanical—fingers that fail to curl around a pen or a brush—but spiritual: a fear that has rendered them artistically blind or deaf. The solution to them all is to draw closer to God, the source of all order, rest, and freedom, and of every image, sound, and word.”
Wallace sat down with Jessica Mesman at the Glen to talk about “catching” inspiration, cultivating community, and how our creative power grows when we discipline our artistic and spiritual lives—and begin to see them as one and the same.
- Carey Wallace
- “On Discipline” by Carey Wallace
- Patti Smith on The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace
- More on setting boundaries and making friends, via Brain Pickings
- The Glen Workshop
- Original music composed by Sister Sinjin
- Episode produced by Cassidy Hall
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.