Have you ever stopped and noticed that your art is more than a static, outward thing? It’s dynamic, and it is connected to you in ways you may never fully figure out. Think about it. You pour your heart and soul into anything, and it’s bound to reflect you to a certain extent. Or at least a facet of you. God made man in His own image, and while we are now imperfect, we seek to create, and oftentimes we will unintentionally create in our own image.
This really hit home to me during my April writing project. See, I had no plans of doing Camp NaNoWriMo during April. I had already signed up to write a poem every day that month, and offered to lead a series of poetry workshop/exercises on a forum for young writers. Yes, I tend to reach for the moon on occasion, but I do have at least some sense of decorum and plausibility. (Those of you who know me, quit laughing. You know I do every once in awhile.)
And then I bought a new album of music and heard this song. I’d heard it before when a friend first recommended the album (it’s a fabulous CD, by the way, I highly recommend it), but suddenly I was really hearing it. And BAM! A newborn story sat there on my desk, gazing up at me with this smug little “I know you want to write me” look on its face. The trigger for all this? Two words. Ice Pirates. And then this mental image of a ghost ship made from the timbers of wrecks and held together with ice and mist. I sat there and thought about it for a bit, and jotted it down in my idea folder, but it wouldn’t go away. It wanted to be written.
I kind of shrugged it off and tried to go to bed that night. Haha. By the time I actually managed to fall asleep, I had the main character, three side characters, the villain, and the entire plot figured out. It had changed a bit from the original idea, but it felt really strong. Seriously, I don’t think I have ever had a story come together that fast. It was like it had to come. And, interestingly enough, it did.
Come April 1st, I plunged into writing, and I kid you not, I was able to average almost 2k a day – and one day I actually got in 7k. (For the record, I never want to do that again.) And then, a few days in, I had a revelation.
Pieces of the last six months that I haven’t been able to process were suddenly appearing on the pages. Not the events themselves, but this creative mirror had caught my struggles and was gently tossing them back in my face and saying, “Here. You need to deal with this.”
What tipped me off? Well, I caught myself trying to manipulate scenes within the novel to keep a certain character from making (what I considered) poor choices, or getting too crazy with excitement. Seriously? I knew I struggled with wanting to control the people around me, but I’d never seen it in that light before. (And I am not condoning just letting the character do whatever they want. There are certain standards that each writer needs to set for themselves and their writing. I mean more like, “Whoa, dude, you’re seven, don’t try to flirt with that lady shopkeeper.”) And then, when I had somewhat recovered from that (and started addressing it in real life, because, hey, I don’t actually know how everyone should behave all the time), I discovered I had to write a very hard scene in which a side character dies. That in itself was doable. But I cried while writing — which I never do.Then everything came to a screeching halt. I literally couldn’t work on the story again that day, or the next. I had to talk it over with a friend before admitting that I was still struggling to properly grieve the death of a family friend. I think writing that scene gave me an outlet to express, but it dug a little deeper than I wanted to go.
And now I’m facing the end of the novel. It isn’t written. I don’t know what happens. I don’t even know which way the main character (Cabernet) is going to decide when he’s presented with some choices. And, for the first time since I started writing (sixty-thousand words ago) I am stuck. Really stuck. Its paralyzing. And no matter how many times I tell myself it’s just a first draft and can be changed, it’s like pulling teeth to put word after word on the page. I find myself retreating to the craft attic to work on a quilting project because I can follow the pattern and cut little squares and arrange them exactly the way I want. I know where it will end up and when it will be done. (Anyone else seeing between the lines here? I’m a twenty-something year old with little-to-no idea where the future will take me, and I struggle big time with any story coming to an end — be it fiction or life.) No matter how much I try to ignore the lessons I need to learn, they keep popping up. Even on the pages of a novel about a little boy who no one remembers.
Sometimes it’s a fight to continue the words on the page when the words in my soul need help. This is the time where completing my art calls for discipline, supplication, and a whole lot of prayer. And I have to ask myself whether I’m willing to grow through the process. I see the image in the mirror. I see its flaws. But I also see the opportunity to grow and change. And, Lord willing, I will take it.
Now, if you’re a little concerned about me seeming to use what I create as a guide to life, let me hasten to reassure you. Scripture is the best mirror of all, because it comes from God and isn’t nearly as confused or broken as we human beings are. But the artwork we create can be a powerful snapshot of how we really are, beneath the facade we like to put on. And sometimes, through it, we see what we are struggling with, or how we really feel on an issue. Then we can take it to God and ask for help in processing. Sometimes the act of completing the art through the struggle is enough to begin a work of change.
What has your art been reflecting?