What is The Art of Paying Attention?

The Art of Paying Attention is rooted in a core conviction. The poet Mary Oliver said it well:

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” -Mary Oliver

If you prefer a different poet-prophet, perhaps the actor in the iconic film Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure will work:

“The simple act of paying attention can take you a long way.” -Keanu Reeves

Paying attention is every humans “endless” and “proper work” and like Ted, I mean Keanu said, “attention can take you a long way.”

The Question

The question then becomes: what are we paying attention to? Maybe I’ll frame it another way: what needs my attention? What is calling out from inside that needs voice, expression, or action?

Our culture clamors for our precious attention. Some have even called the current state of things “the attention economy.” A world where everyone is vying for our limited attention but sadly in ways that are often destructive, isolating, and soul sucking. 

The Art of Paying Attention is my half-baked attempt, in my little corner of the internet, to bring beauty, goodness, and truth amid the noise. I’m looking for a community that perhaps feels something is off in the waters of the culture. Like there is a lot of noise, but it never seems to deliver on its promises. 

I’m searching for a community that has something to say, but isn’t sure how to say it. A community that knows there is more to life but isn’t sure where to find it. I’m searching, dare I say, praying for a community that wants to run away from cynicism and complaint, and move toward wonder, beauty, goodness, and truth.

Maybe what I’m trying to say is I’m in search of a community that desires to reclaim and capture some of the beauty and joy and grace of being human and alive. 

This has everything to do with paying attention... 

What will we do?

I have some ideas but want to hold things loosely. My hope is the community will dictate some of the direction of this experiment. But, I’ll give an appetizer of what The Art of Paying Attention will include:

  • Essays: on art, creativity, spirituality, and living a deeper life. 

  • Links: to helpful articles, books, podcasts, and other resources around these themes. 

  • Personal updates: share some of my own poetry, art, designs, updates on books and projects, and some personal family stuff (try to make the internet more human).

  • A Podcast: I’ve been doing a podcast for the last six years I’ll be bringing over shortly. Some slight changes to the format.

  • Q and A, discussions, community engagement: I don’t want to be the only voice here. I want to hear what you’re paying attention to, what you’re making/creating, what your soul is saying, where you are challenged, and where you are walking with joy. 

  • Chat: there is a cool feature in the Substack app for private chatting. Our community can converse around various subjects. Get the app, and see if I’ve posted anything, and join the fun. What a great idea!

  • Some fun stuff: I’m a silly savage and run on dad jokes. I love to share things I find in our absurd culture. Maybe you’ll share the same sense of humor… with less Dad humor.

I will find a consistent rhythm for sending out posts and newsletters at some point, but for now, I want to be open to the winds of the Spirit. 

Why subscribe?

Why do anything? Isn’t that the question of all questions? 

Why fall in love? Why make art? Why start a business or podcast? Why start a faith community or nonprofit? Why get married or have children? Why care about climate change, rampant injustice, or clean water in Africa? Why believe in a Transcendent Divine Being, Jesus, Buddha, science, or anything at all? 

Why start a newsletter?

Why wake up early to write, paint, draw, run, walk the dog, or meditate? Why take risks knowing this thing might not work? Why pursue love after getting your heart trampled more times than you can count? 

Why do anything?

But for some mysterious reason, we keep asking the questions, and we keep moving forward, and making, and loving, and getting crushed, and doing it all over again. It’s like we have to or something dies in us. We keep creating, risking, loving, and caring as if there’s more going on here. 

You know the feeling? 

If these foundational questions are of any interest to you, please subscribe. Let’s get to the bottom of these desires together. Let’s make some great art, and great art with our lives. 

Other Benefits:

Okay, there are some other benefits for subscribing to The Art of Paying Attention:

  • Never miss a newsletter, post, podcast, or community interactions. Each post delivered to your inbox.

  • Get informed, encouraged, inspired, and occasionally entertained. Who can put a price tag on that?

  • My ego. Every subscriber makes this insecure and afraid little man feel better. Not true, but kind of. Help a brother out!

Who is Ryan J. Pelton?

A guy, a human like you. I have dreams and goals and wounds and relationships and work and a family, a dog. I’ve accomplished a few things, and failed more than I’d like to admit. Thankfully, I believe the whole thing runs on grace. That’s what makes us more alike than you think. 

If you care, I’ve started a couple faith communities, written some fiction and nonfiction books, I help creative people do better work, and live a better life through my podcast and courses, I also run a custom apparel shop, the rest is details. 

In the unlikely chance you care about all the happenings here are some highlights:

All the Things

If anything, I’m a work in progress, like everyone. Learning to pay attention. Learning to see with fresh eyes all the awe and wonder of life under the sun.
I'll take this incompleteness, and with grace and Spirit, hopefully become a guide with incomplete thoughts on life, creativity, art, and spirituality, helping others see, perhaps, for the first time that there's a lot more going on here.

Maybe... I’ll help you pay attention to the things that matter most... which, like Keanu said:

"… paying attention can take you a long way." 

What’s next?

Subscribe below and join the fun… Or don’t. We’re all adults here. 

Subscribe to The Art of Paying Attention

I write about the art of paying attention. Poet Mary Oliver said, "Paying attention is our proper and endless work." I also interview interesting people, doing interesting work in the world, helping us pay attention to the most important things.


Ryan J. Pelton

I make things with words, and other materials, and believe the whole thing runs on grace. I'm also a former Junior Fencing Champ. Not to brag.