My husband gave me a book to read called Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking. The introduction of the book states that “it is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work.”
That brings up an interesting and bothersome idea: that God works through us. Does that mean that what we do is really God’s doing, or our own? What does it mean exactly when we say that we have a gift from God? Is He the one who expresses the gift? Of course not: we’re not automatons who are set in motion and robotically churn out works of art (or good deeds). We do have Free Will. Which implies that we can shirk our duties and ignore our gifts. I guess the real point is: how do we get ourselves to 1) recognize our gift(s); 2) accept our gifts; and 3) use our gifts to the best of our abilities? (A synonym for “gift” is “talent.”) Maybe #4 would be to dedicate the expression of our gifts to God. It might be that on our side all we need to do, to be in the will of God, is to work as hard as we can to bring our gifts to fruition. So, if I think that God has given me the talent of writing, a gift of communication, don’t I owe it to God as much as to myself to really work at it? What that means fills countless “how-to” books; it is up to us to adapt the advice to our own situations. While it is good advice to say that I should write every day, only I can decide when I write and for how long (or how much). If I had my way, I would write all day long, off and on. It never feels like work to me. It’s now 3 pm and I’ve been writing in here for at least three hours, maybe four. It doesn’t look like it, I know; I’ve been putzing around doing other things now and again, but the main reason I’ve not showered or dressed yet is because I keep turning back to the keyboard and trying to say all that I want to say today.
That’s probably what motivates me to write: I have things to say. And I want to write every day to find out what it is that I wanted or needed to say that day. Often I have no idea until I start writing. Oh, I’m thinking stuff all the time, but it doesn’t really coalesce until I try to put that “stuff” on paper/computer.
Who’s to say that my desire to write on any given day isn’t God pushing me to use my gift? All my life I wanted time to write and now that I have as much as I want, I find that it’s still not enough. I would spend every waking minute on the computer, writing, except when I’m reading.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) there are days that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t write. But when it’s going well, when the words are flowing and I can even type fairly quickly, I just want to go on forever. Maybe I ought to cut myself some slack and recognize that this is one of those days and that days like this make up for the days when I have zip to say.
The authors of Art and Fear write that “It’s easy to imagine that artists doubted their calling less when working in the service of God than when working in the service of self.”Yes, but how do we know the difference? Is it working in God’s service only when we paint religious paintings or write devotions? Or does any use of our gifts qualify as serving God? We would all draw the line somewhere I think, but where? Is it different for each person? Does it depend on our motivations?
Another point made in Art and Fear is that “the flawless creature wouldn’t need to make art.” Does that mean that the only way we can even hope to compete with God is through artistic expression? That making art makes us like Him? After all, when we make art we are participating in the job usually reserved for God: that of the Creator. Could it be said that it is exactly our imperfections that give each of us our distinctive voices? We are limited in what we create only by what we can imagine but we are limited in our imagination by what our life experiences have been and how we came into this world? We are not all created equally. That doesn’t mean that some people are better than others; rather, it means that we are all different.