Saturday, February 02, 2008

When art becomes bigger than its subject

I have always loved writing, as far back as I can remember. I essentially had a reclusive disposition, and I found writing to be a very enjoyable and satisfying way to express myself. Of course, I didn't think about it like that back then. I simply wrote and I had great time doing it!

As a child I would write one or two paragraph stories. In high school, when it came to writing essays, I didn't necessarily enjoy writing about subjects that didn't interest me, but yet I was still good at it (at least I got good grades). And when it came time to pick my own subject or to write about a pre-chosen subject that interested me, I never had a hard time using my imagination to come up with material.

I've always enjoyed writing poetry and song lyrics (although I have no musical sense whatsoever, as far as writing music). One of my favorite things that I used to do all the time was to take existing songs and rewrite funny lyrics for them. That was the "Weird Al Yankovic" in me. :) I also remember being at parties in my late teenage years, and I would sometimes sit down and write a funny story or poem and end up passing it around and watching people get a kick out of it.

(By the way, I'm getting to something here... eventually...) ;)

I wrote both to amuse myself and to amuse others. I wrote for my own benefit - for the purpose of being able to express the "story" that I had going on in my heart - and also for the purpose of sharing that story with others.

Today, I still write for the same purposes, although the content of what I write has changed over the years. What I write is simply an overflow of what's in my heart. I love writing. I love sharing my heart with others through writing. I've got about 350 blog posts from the past year and a half if you need proof. ;) Not only that, but I used to spend hour upon hour in online chat rooms and forums, discussing things that were in my heart. And if you think any of this is too much, I've got notebook upon notebook with page upon page of stuff that I've written over the years that no one but me has ever seen. Not to mention all the Word documents on my computer. It's almost as if "I write, therefore I am." Haha!

Writing is my "art," so to speak. I didn't say I'm the world's best at my art! But someone who paints or someone who sings doesn't have to be the best at what they do in order for it to be their thing.

They just do it, and it just is.

What is your "art?" Dancing? Painting? Drawing? Speaking? Administration? Organizing? Giving? Encouraging others? Tenderness? Showing up to help? Being there for others? Any of a trillion other ways of expressing what's in your heart?

As someone who loves writing, writing is naturally where the overflow of my heart is often expressed. It's usually not a "performance-based" thing for me. I don't do it to please anybody or to prove anything to anybody. I don't do it so others will focus on me as a writer. I do it so that the story (whatever story happens to be in my heart) gets told.

But I readily admit that there is definitely a temptation - sometimes a very subtle one - to change the angle of the spotlight that I'm supposedly shining on the the subject of my art more towards myself. See, I don't want the telling of the story to outshine the subject of the story. Yesterday I read a very humbling blog post that was a great reminder to not fall into that very temptation of making the art (or the artist) bigger than its subject.

The blog post, entitled Why Do I write?, explains this temptation very well I think, and succinctly. It's written by one of my brand new MyCCM Peeps (similar to MySpace Friends), Mark Geil. He draws upon a section of the C.S. Lewis book The Great Divorce. I won't give it all away. Just read it!  It's a great read - well worth it no matter what your particular "art" in life is.  (Update: "MyCCM" is no longer available, and so the article is also no longer available).

By the way, I don't mean to downplay art at all. I don't mean to say that we shouldn't enjoy art nor the artist. The artist's own personal expression of the story - or subject matter - can be a great big part of the enjoyment of the story! Each person's unique personality can add a certain "flavor" to the story. And different people who behold the art may have different tastes and may enjoy the very same stories being told according to those different flavors. Does that make sense? Anyway, I'm just saying that as artists - and I can't repeat enough: whatever your particular art is - it's good to keep in mind that the very reason we're creating art, even in our own unique ways, is to shine the light on something else, not ourselves.


  1. Hey, this is Nicole, I was just wondering if you have written any books or anything?!? My mother is actually an artist at heart, she isn't exactly a writing artist but she loves to paint and do some crazy looking design stuff, do you do anything like that?

    Just some quesitons!!!

    In Freedom, Nicole!

  2. Oh, I just noticed that you used to write for a congregation magazine or something like that, what was that like? Did you enjoy writing articles?

    Some more questions!

  3. Hi Nicki,

    Good to see you over here.

    Joel, I know you said that you've been thinking about writing a book. I'm looking forward to the day when that's finally done. You've got a lot of great things to say.

    I like what you shared. Yesterday, I was listening to an old Growing in Grace podcast. I believe it was #37 - Walking in What God Has Already Given You. I'm travelling with you through those archives too.

    Your podcast partner, Mike Kapler, made the comment that he asks Father what had Father already given him that he wasn't doing. That struck a cord with me. Because our church system tends to promote a passive lifestyle, I believe the majority of believers are not using their gifts and talents. They may not know what they are and even if they do, they may be clueless as to how to use them in the real world.

    I don't consider myself a writer. My gift is my mouth. I love to talk and I love to talk in front of people. Since I'm not part of the system, that automatically limits my opportunities to share what's in my heart. Sometimes, I feel like I will burst if I don't get to share what Father is teaching me.

    That's why online communication has been for me a wonderful way to express what's on my heart. It also gives me an opportunity to express my thoughts so that they take on greater life and really become a part of who I am.

    As I said, I don't consider myself a writer but online friends have told me that I'm good at it. A friend that I met online about two years ago has been telling me for some time that I have a knack for writing but I just blew that off.

    That's one reason why starting my own blog is a major thing for me. When I started it, I sent the link to some friends. Another friend who has written and published two books told me that he was impressed with my ability it write.

    Anyway, even though I don't see it, apparently others do. In the podcast, you made the comment that in our involvement with other believers they can sometimes point out talents that we're unaware of. That's been true in my case. Because of your encouragement as well as Bino's and my other online friends, I've been willing to step out beyond my comfort zone and do a new thing.

    Like your friend, Mike, I want to know what are those talents Father has given me that are I'm not using and I want Him to express Himself through them.

    I didn't mean this to be so long but once I get on a roll, it sometimes just comes gushing out.


  4. Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for coming by! As Aida mentioned after your comments, it's been on my heart for quite some time to write a book. Maybe I'll get to it sometime before I die. LOL Seriously, though, I'm trusting in Christ's life in me to make the dream a reality in His timing.

    I truly did enjoy writing the church publication articles. I've thought about also finding out how to get published in other types of magazines. Getting started in the church magazine came unexpectedly quickly and easily - I saw an ad in there, asking if anyone was available to volunteer to help out with the publication itself (content, editing, etc). I sent an email and said that I'd be willing to write a monthly article if they needed someone to do that, and within a few weeks I got started. I have a feeling it might not be that easy with a major publication, but I know it's something I'd like to look into.

    Anyway, thanks for your questions and for the thoughts they've sparked in me. :)

  5. Aida,

    Thanks for taking me down memory lane with my own podcast. I remember us talking about those things on our program. It's so true that it's often through other people that we realize our gifts.

    Four years ago I was in a small group that did a 'survey' to figure out our 'gifts of the Spirit.' Now, I don't really go for the notion of finding out our gifts through a survey (a whole 'nother blog post), but it was the discussion and mutual encouragement that took part in our group afterwards that I think helped various people, including myself, to realize things about ourselves that we hadn't really seen. After the survey "revealed what our gifts are" (ahem, cough), we read ours out loud and we went around telling each other which of those things we really do see in each other.

    Some of the discussion was more like a confirmation for me in certain ways, but other parts of the discussion were revelatory to me, as others pointed out things I either hadn't seen or had simply shut out for various reasons.

    For example, the "gift" of pastor. "God called some to be... pastors..." I know that I would never be able to be a pastor in the way that today's church system sees it, and I've always laughed at the idea of "being a pastor." But my friends helped me to see some characteristics and passions in myself that I've essentially put a lid on. Really, these "characteristics" are simply Christ-in-me, working His way out and, and I found that I could enjoy and embrace what He's doing in me now that I've realized that I don't have to "do it" in a traditional sense.

    Anyway, all that to say that I think we all need mutual encouragement and that none of us can live alone. Through interacting with each other we do indeed help each other in their own walks with Christ. We are a body and each part supports the rest of the body in one way or another.

  6. Hi Joel,

    Even though I've only known you for a short time, I definitely see pastoral characteristics.

    Now, don't you go and start a church. LOL


  7. LOL

    I think that if I were part of an assembly in which I were a pastor, most people wouldn't recognize it as "church," at least not in the traditional sense. I know for sure the focus wouldn't be on what we do during the times we meet together. I think the assembling would be important, since we all need to encourage one another often in the truth, but in the end the assembling is not nearly as important as going out and living the life God has given us. :)

    I'm 'preaching' to the choir here, I know. :D

  8. Preach on, Brother, preach on!

    I wish that on Sundays, when I take my usual spot on the same pew and enjoy the back of people's head, I would hear as good a sermon as you just preached. Sigh!!