The Heart of An Artist

Hands of Businesswoman Using LaptopWe think, we feel, we bleed on the page. We’re sewers of words, stitch by stitch until our heads unravel fuzzy.  Hey, are you talking to me?

People don’t always “get” us, and we’re okay with that because we already know we’re a bit strange, no shocker. Our dearest people love us anyway.

We writers draw boundaries and let our voice mail field calls. We plop our rears on chairs and pop up prayers and Advils and away we go, ready to transport our readers.

A thousand distractions call, but we have a dream-scream and God put it there. And if God put it there, nobody can take it away. And who needs to clean her house anyway? We have books to write.

We’re emotional creatures, God bless us. We’re well endowed with feelings. We love and hate our emotions with a passion. We get a high when we make readers laugh, cry, and get angry, boom-boom-boom, sometimes all at the same time.

My husband wipes his eyes as he reads the fruit of my year-long labor. He’s lost in the part where Ema McKinley swallows her grandsons into a hug. It’s her first hug since the miracle. And as Ema absorbs the feel of those boys, my husband sniffles and I swell. Swell with the joy of the craft and the miracles and the emotion-packed words.

Jesus had emotions. Remember how he wept? To love is to feel, and when Lazarus died, Jesus felt what we’d feel. In love, He felt for us.

We feel for our audience when we write, and this is our love gift.  We want to love them closer to something. Just like Jesus, the Living Word, wants to love us closer to Himself.

Hey, big-hearted artist, what do you love most about writing? What drives you to do what you do?

Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the king, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet. Psalm 45:1

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On Becoming an Artist

“Red boathouse at sunset” by Karen L. Macek

Last year, I realized something that changed the way I look at myself and my writing.

I am an artist.

Over the course of my writing career, I’ve called myself many things: journalist, essayist, columnist, editor, reporter, researcher.  (I’ve also called myself other names at times, like stubborn, stupid, crazy, and masochist – especially when I’ve struggled to meet writing deadlines.) When I began writing fiction a few years ago, I added the descriptors of novelist, author, plot architect, and starry-eyed dreamer.

But artist?

Not in a million years.

For me, ‘art’ always referred to visual or performance genres. Art is the domain of my sister when she paints beautiful marsh landscapes in oils on canvas. Art is my daughter bringing a character to life on the stage, or playing haunting melodies on a flute or piano, or throwing clay on a wheel to transform it into a smoothly shaped bowl. Art is the creation of something new and tangible, and though I produced countless pages of words, I just never felt it rated as ‘art.’ I didn’t use paints, or clay, or costumes or musical instruments; my tool was a word processor, and my product was all in my head. And, with any luck, the heads of my readers.

Galley material, yes, but gallery worthy?

Not even close.

As far as I was concerned, writing was simple information management – collecting information, fitting it together (coherently, hopefully), and passing it on to readers. Whether it was just reporting the facts or organizing disparate information into a mystery novel, it was all about language skills and communication. Not Art with a capital “A.”

But then one day I was helping my daughter fill out a personality inventory, and I came across a section that listed occupations. I looked for the usual category of ‘Writer,’ but couldn’t find it in any of the traditional places I expected to see it. Instead, it was lumped under the category of “Art.”

The longer I thought about that label, the more I realized that what I do when I write truly is Art. Like any painter or musician or sculptor or actor, I look at the world around me and then translate my own experience of it into a new form, a personal, one-of-a-kind articulation of what is, or might be. I have a vision of life that ‘colors’ my representation and allows me to penetrate the surface of what I see to get at the heart of what lies beneath. Maybe my lens of choice is humor, or inspiration, or romance, or fantasy, but whatever it is, it helps me bring a freshness to my subject that is the essence of artistic endeavor.

I create with words, and not only is it my calling, but my sacred trust.

And now that I understand it that way, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m an artist. After all, my Father is too, you know.

Do you consider yourself an artist?