Whatever fills up your time, there you will find art. Only in the West where we measure artistic success by the number of Twitter followers or likes we get do we believe that real art only happens when it’s celebrated by thousands. I say find art in everyday life and you’ll begin to speak miraculous and beautiful things on behalf of everyone else who has felt or experienced those same things.
The artist’s task is not to be exceptional, but to exceptionally beautify the unexceptional. Finding YOU in the everyday. Be patient with the art of your full-time life. Apply yourself and you’ll be mesmerized by what you come up with, and others will be too.
—Stephen Christian, “The Art Collective” podcast
Last weekend at my grandparent’s quiet home in the peaceful paradise of the prairie, I lounged on the recliner on their back porch for four hours straight. I laid out with my notebook, pencil, water, and Red Vines as I did nothing but watch the moving sprinkler slowly roll down the hose. All I could see were pine trees, prairie grass, and yuccas, and it was the most inspired I’ve felt in a long time. In a place so deprived of internet connection and cell service, I felt a different sort of connection: a connection to my soul, to my inner workings and thinkings and yearnings, and I especially sensed that thing I so long and pray for as a writer: inspiration. Writer’s block is so painful. It has got to be one of the most annoying and frustrating things for anyone who wants to be creative. But eventually you come out of it, and it is like seeing the world again for the first time.
These past two weeks I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about the creative process and where inspiration comes from. I’m wondering: Who am I to call myself a writer? All I do is weave together shabby, unconventional, and confusing sentences made up of my feelings and ideas. I’m lame and antisocial and desperate for that little sputter I get in my heart when I feel inspired. I love being creative, but it can be so utterly hard. It comes in waves, and sometimes in the middle of night there’s a tsunami and you must, oh you must turn on your light and write down everything in your mind (precisely why I keep a journal beside my bed at night). Writing is my greatest joy and most absolute torment. I understand on a deep level all my artist friends who struggle with being creative and the torture that comes with it. Creativity is a rich, dense, sparkling breath of air, it makes your heart beat faster and your mind expand and dance; but experiencing it and finding it in everyday life requires the artist soul to really unearth and discover its own self in a new way.
What I’m beginning to see is that it doesn’t take an introspective, museful mind to unmask the hidden layers of creativity and art in the mundane cycles of our everyday lives. If it invigorates, excites, confuses, disturbs, heals, humors, even bores—it is art of the everyday. So far in my writing “career” I’ve felt like I’ve needed to fabricate something exceptional and profound every time for it to be considered art. I would use extravagant, richly adorned metaphors and language to feel like I was bring original, a “true” writer. Well, my purpose as a writer, as I’m beginning to see through outside influences and prayer, is not to be lavish, melodic, or beautiful. My writing does not need to be mind-blowing or bizarre or blindingly fantastic. No, my writing needs to be authentic, and that is that. I have pulled inspiration from so many writers, songs, and people I talk with to be 100 percent “original.” Everything I write is made up of bits and pieces of others’ works and ideas which have inspired me to write or think the same things in my own way. And maybe that’s okay, maybe it’s all just a different chord to the same song, the same story told a thousand different ways by every human heart.
When I get caught in measuring up or being better than other writers and bloggers, or heck, even better than my own previous writings, I lose the purpose of why I write in the first place: to capture this beauty, to understand this world, and to feel and understand myself. That’s why I have to write everything on paper before I type it up because I know I write differently on a keyboard than with my journal and pencil. I have to be raw and instinctive first, then I can begin to make sense of how I feel. I can’t not write. I’m addicted to the therapeutic and exhilarating sensation it gives me. I feel it in my soul, one of the few things besides singing or praying that I actually feel in my soul on an earthly, deep level that leaves me refreshed in the mind and heart. Refreshed, and a little bit more wild.
Most of my writing no one will ever see and I will probably never read again. But the fact that it is there, that it exists, shows that I am always attempting, and that those words have filled me with deep wonder and sense of self. They have helped shape me as a woman and teller of stories. And I embrace my femininity whole-heartedly as a writer and human in this world. My innate desire to love and care for is what brings me so much inspiration and heartache, but also intimate joy.
“Dear artists, you well know that there are many impulses which, either from within or from without, can inspire your talent. Every genuine inspiration, however, contains some tremor of that ‘breath’ with which the Creator Spirit suffused the work of creation from the very beginning. Overseeing the mysterious laws governing the universe, the divine breath of the Creator Spirit reaches out to human genius and stirs its creative power.”
—Pope John Paul II in his letter to artists, 1999