On Being an Artist and Identity

So here's the thing. 

Being creative, for a living (and really just in general), is scary.

And yes, I just saw you all give me a huge eye roll, but hear me out.

Being creative and an artist, at its core, is a commitment to growth. A commitment to evaluate your work, to keep creating. A commitment to learn and communicate your heart. And if that's not scary, I don't know what is. Basically, just go ahead and tell everyone exactly what you're feeling in a beautiful way and people will decide if they like it or not. NBD. For someone who is artistic, this is the dilemma: I want to create and explore and be brave with what I'm making and creating, but is that valuable to other people? Will they understand? Will they pay $100 for this? Or $800? Will they pay for this at all? What do they think? Am I good enough? Do I have meaning? Who am I?

It's like, some mornings my to do list is as follows: wake up, shower, coffee, answer emails, start commission piece, address envelopes, MINI EXISTENTIAL CRISIS because I want people to like every single thing I ever do, finish addressing envelopes, finish draft for client, work on commission piece. 

I heard about John the Baptist from Jeff Heine at Redeemer yesterday. We read John 1:19-34, and one of the questions that the story makes us think about is: who are we? That's what my fear boils down to when I create something. That's what plagues us as creatives (and humans in general). Who am I? How am I significant?

 If you're a creative and a perfectionist like me, or even perhaps if you're not, I find myself trying to define myself and my work in this way: I am messy but in an acceptable way. Like in a relatable, hey we've all been there, you go girl, kind of way. (also I think that's the first time I've ever said you go girl) Well, here's the thing, that's not true. I'm not messy in an acceptable way, I'm messy in a really, truly broken way. A way that is painful and fraught with self doubt and self pity and selfishness. Deep in my heart, I want my life and art and social media feeds to make it look like, yeah sure maybe she didn't take a shower today, but that instagram she just posted was pretty cool and she pretty much has it together. And I definitely don't. 

 I often find myself wrapping my identity up in my work, in what I do, in the way I am perceived. The beauty of the Gospel is that my identity is not in those broken and unsatisfying things. It is in a perfect Jesus. I can rest in that. I can create and dare to fail, dare to let a piece be meaningful to just me, because guess what, if no one else likes it...so what? My definition and meaning aren't wrapped up in that (someone quote this back to me when I insist that my meaning is wrapped up in that)

I don't have it all worked out, but for me, it is comforting to know I was made to create and reflect, but I don't have to worry about that defining who I am. I can be free to create things, to do strive to do good work, to create beautiful things. At the end of the day, good work doesn't define me, beautiful work doesn't define me, and my efforts don't define me. My perfectionism and neediness don't define me. Only the work of Jesus defines me, and his work is just way way better than anything I've ever done or will do. 

I'm just a human, and you're just a human. We create, we dare to fail, we fail sometimes, we grow. And that's a beautiful thing. 

Beauty & Terror (and also Beyoncé)

Two things about this week:

1. I received this card from my friend Leslie and Y'ALL it's true. The struggle is real.

2. I also worked on this piece. I've been really inspired by the human body lately, and I've been inspired/carried by this Rainer Maria Rilke poem for a long time. Life is fully beauty and fully terror. 

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Will you move me to the valley?

Todd & I have recently joined Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, and we've been going through the book of Exodus. In general, I've been thinking quite a bit about death & grief, listening to Sufjan Steven's new album (Carrie & Lowell). (Also I'm not always this morbid. Sometimes I'm even inspired by mermaids! I promise!)

Exodus has made me think about death, sin, grief, and mainly, God. How are my emotions so fickle? Why is life fully beauty and fully terror? Why am I in a constant circle? What is most clear to me is that I am human, and God kindly waits for me to cycle back to Him.

The questions that came up as I was trying to name this piece:

God, will you move me to the valley like Moses?

Why don't I trust you to care for me?

Will you walk me home?

Amethyst and flowers on the table, is it real or a fable?

Still haven't decided on a name yet.

Babies and Mozart


To be honest, I've avoided starting a blog for while. It's easier to not write things you look back on years later with regret if you don't have a journal for the whole internet to see. My hope for this blog is that it will be visual, a place for me to share inspiration & beauty, and perhaps a little of my work. 

For now, I will leave you with the wise words of Anne Lamott (queen of the universe // advisor to my artistic soul):

All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.


images via my Pinterest