Being an artist means. . .

Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

-Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet

I am a pretty patient person.  I usually don’t mind the periods of waiting when it seems like nothing is happening, because I know the fullness of summer is usually not far off as Rilke says.  It is probably why I am so comfortable with the landscape of winter. And yet lately, I been starting to hear that awful little voice in my head that sometimes decides to speak up and says I am not  producing “enough.” I have been writing and taking photos, but not feeling quite the same creative surge as I usually do and not feeling like I am moving any closer to finishing some projects I would like to complete, trusting that I can’t force it along any faster than its ready to come.  The other voice that also makes it hard to bring a project to completion is my perfectionist side, because there is always “more” that could be done.

So last night I pulled out my carving tools that have sat in my drawer for too long and worked on a simple piece about waiting and receiving, being inspired — a word that finds its roots in the drawing in of breath and Spirit — I posted a print of it above.  I like what emerged from this time and it seems to have shifted something inside of me, something that tells me it is okay to keep being patient and allow the work to unfold as slowly as it needs to, but also a feeling of inspiration to finally bring the project to completion and treat my perfectionist side lightly.  So I am holding both of these today in loving tension.

Have you tended to your creative energies lately?  Have you been experiencing the fullness of springtime or the waiting of winter?  How do you allow yourself to be in relationship to these energies?  Do you ever wrestle with the voice that asks what is “enough”? How do you respond?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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6 Responses

  1. Greetings dear friends, thanks for all the thoughtful replies!

    Bette, I agree about deadlines and often experience that same tension. When I am producing for someone else, those deadlines often help me get it done.

    Lucy, I really appreciate your images of side trails and digging in the dirt. Your digging post got me to thinking about how I dig into what is most real and may post about it in a dayor two.

    Tess, I love the images you share of what beckons your muse to come out and play, so very incarnational.

    Welcome Kazi, and thank you for your lovely comment, I love your mantra. For me, I think often my blocks come when I am pushing my body in ways that are not as healing for it.

    Thanks you Suz!

    Blessings to all of you!

  2. Christine,
    I love your new woodbock…such movement!

    And thank you, Kazi, for your note as well. I am in a hard situation and you offer some good suggestions.

  3. Hi, I have recently joined your webring my site is creativedetox.com. I follow your musings dearly and found your latest post significant to me. Creative tension arrives for me, when I am in need of a spiritual tune up.

    It is essential that I tend to my creative energies daily with meditation and prayer. These mystical tools keep my creative channel flowing, they keep me in line with what John O’Donohue refers to as the secret signature and light of our own nature. I maintain my spiritual alignment with this mantra – “God, how would you have me be today”.

    When the voice of “is it enough” or “is this good enough” becomes louder than divine instruction, I can guarantee there is spiritual work to be done. Usually I find that my meditation and prayer have waned and as a result self will sets in. Self will has me focused on output rather than the nourishment of the creative process.

    My most valuable lesson: when a project is blocked or there is no completion in sight, it is a spiritual indication that I am heading in the wrong direction, either the project or the way I am approaching it, is not in line with what God would have me do. I respond with …. more meditation and prayer, until the path is revealed to me.

    You site is a wonderful inspiration for me – thank you Christine.

  4. Yes, it is a beautiful image.
    For me, my creativity is a shy little wraith, always thinking that the artistry of others is greater. She peeps out from between the trees if I am quiet enough and still enough. That’s where my “enough” comes in.
    And sometimes if I busy myself in the stillness with something else: the earth of my garden, the purring bodies of my cats, the heft and weight of a favourite book, she will come right out from between the trees and pick up my pen and start writing.

  5. i daily wrestle with the voice that asks what is enough!! often my creativity feels like alice chasing the white rabbit, but it is often in those “side trails” that i find the most meaning.

    lately, i have just been going out and digging in the dirt :-) and there i have met the stirrings and shiftings of God in ways I could not begin to imagine.

  6. This is a deeply beautiful carved image. It shows the stillness of your spirit and the movement of Nature. The breath of God stirring and shifting. Very nice, Christine.

    Your reference is interesting – ‘that awful little voice’ and ‘I am not producing enough’. As an artist, I too feel that tension and resistance often. Sometimes its my spirit crying out that I need art to express and other times its the pressure of deadlines that causes me to resist expression of art. Funny how deadlines can put such a damper on creativity – like taking the cake out of the oven before it is done.

    Yet, when I am under someone else’s very strict deadline and not my own, I am able to produce, sometimes up until the very last minute, but it gets done.

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