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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