What not to write about

I won’t lie. Sometimes writing about art and creativity, and especially faith and art, can be frustrating. One is never sure of making a difference or that anyone cares. Indifference is the artist’s worst enemy. You would think it would be detractors. It isn’t.

Although, when people activley, even aggressively, DON’T care, that (for me) creates a different set of problems. It’s frustrating enough when people seem to miss the point, but some aggressively miss the point. I don’t mind that, but it puts me in a spiral of getting stuck with how well I may or may not be communicating. All the same I do love hearing from people, whether or not they agree with me or like what I have to say.

I also hate repeating myself. I hate writing about the same topic without at least some new perspective or information (or using the buzzword du jour, “data”). A lot of people make a pretty good living writing the same book several times. Even some of my favorite writers (I’m looking at you Guy Kawasaki!)

Sometimes withdrawal is necessary. There is a lot of value in Sabbath. Sometimes it is good just to observe for awhile—hear, see, or read what others are thinking.

So along the lines of my recent Sabbath I came across this article on Medium asking, Must artists suffer for their art?. A good article examining suffering spurred by an interview with Tom Waits, who is also one of my favorite artists.

Here is my response you can read in the comments to the article:

I think the suffering Waits did at first was more about pressure for the art to be something before actually creating it. A lot of artists do that. The art should come from the suffering (or the questioning or the tension or the release). Trying to figure out what to create should not be the cause of suffering. Trying to ensure that one only creates great art is a lot of unnecessary pressure. Just create, a lot. The great will show up when it is time.

Sometimes artists think they need to create great art from the start. You still have to put in your 10,000 hours. Don’t hold off until you “figured it out.” Figuring it out is part of the 10,000 hours. It only comes from creating things. It does not come from worrying about what to create.

In one respect, the type of suffering in discussion is not really suffering. If that is the only suffering the artist is experiencing, then they have a pretty good life. In reality, imo, this is worrying, not suffering. It is worrying that they cannot create unless it is important or will have some predetermined affect on the world, or at least the viewer. Of course, worrying is not a great impetus for creativity. So the frustration will only increase in a feedback loop.

I remember back when I was playing guitar a good bit, I felt like I hit this plateau in my technique. Not matter how much I practiced or played I felt like I wasn’t getting any better. It was frustrating beyond measure. I couldn’t play as well as I wanted to. I went back to an old teacher/mentor of mine. It only took one lesson. At the end of the hour he just looked at me and said, “Remember. You are doing this because you enjoy doing this. You get pleasure out of playing guitar.”

I don’t know if I actually got any better at playing after that. But I do know I started enjoying playing again. I built this false… something… I can’t even put a name to it. But it was getting in the way of my creativity and enjoyment of creativity. Once I was able to put it aside, I could play again.

I think we do the same with our faith. We put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves, a lot of unachievable expectations on what it means to be a person of faith. It frustrates us. We try harder to learn the rules, to practice the rules. And then it becomes even more frustrating.

Sometimes we even start to expect as much from others, often because we expect so much from ourselves. Then that creates even more frustration, sometimes even broken relationships.

Not always, but at least sometimes if not most often, we create our own dark nights of the soul. Sometimes we think this is what it means to be a Christian. This is what we have to wear. Just like some artists think being an artist is something you “wear”, certain words you say or how you speak or the clothes you wear.

The proof is always in the pudding, so to speak. Being an artist is about creating, not about how you look as a creative. Being a Christian is about loving people. Not because you were told to love people, but because it is the only way we can live and enjoy living. Which is not to say there won’t be suffering. But it is how we will make it through or sort out the suffering.

And we are to love God because he first loved us, not because someone told us to. Because it is a genuine response to his love, not fear of reprisal. He doesn’t hold back his love until we love him, or only after we say “the sinner’s prayer”. He doesn’t wait to love us. He already does.

There is probably more to say about all this. Hopefully you can come up with some of it yourself, whether about your art or your faith or both. Hopefully I have given you enough to spark your own thoughts.

I know the title probably doesn’t make sense. But it is my own struggle when writing, what to and not to write about. Sometimes we should just write and not worry about what to write about.

Thanks for reading.

Joe

 
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