Called

I am reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water again. This is my third time studying this book (I say studying because it’s so much more than a book that one simply reads), and I can not recommend it highly enough for those of you who struggle with what it means to be a Christian and an artist. While I would love to claim the title of artist/writer, it’s an area of my life that I’m still attempting to define. It feels, I don’t know, presumptuous? Inflated? False?

I don’t have this issue in other areas. I call myself a runner. I have the unnaturally tight hamstrings to prove it. I call myself a mom. In fact, there are three little people who also call me mom. Incessantly. I call myself a Christian, although judging from some of my behavior, this could sometimes be up for debate. But artist? Writer? Those are slippery words that I can’t seem to pin down.

In her book, L’Engle quotes Jean Rhys from the Paris Review, ‘All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake.’

I realized yesterday that I am nearing my 500th post. And while most of what I’ve done here is record rather than write, I want to believe that it’s adding up to something bigger. I’ve written for other people’s blogs, the paper, a magazine, and once a hand delivered birthday letter to Nelson Mandela. (For which my husband took credit. For which I will always be bitter. For which we need another post.) My words float here and there like the letters in a bowl of alphabet soup, and still, I struggle to own it. Perhaps if I learn to see them as drops feeding the lake, a contribution to the greater work? I am no river, no creek, no stream. I am a drop in the vast body of water that feeds souls. Might that be enough?

Are you an artist? A writer? Musician? Chef? Stylist? The next Martha Stewart? How do you claim your place in the great lake that is your art? When did you begin to think that you might, maybe, in an ideal world be an artist, and when did you truly believe it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  • I feel very much like a drop in that same lake. I can’t really call myself a writer, an artist, or perhaps a Christian the true sense of the word, but I aspire to these things. Thank you for introducing me to “Walking on Water” I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s books as a child and forgot about her as I grew. This will be on my reading list in the coming months.

  • I just spotted that title on my bookshelf and may pull it off for a little midwinter artist’s encouragement.

    I guess I use a simple definition: I write, so I must be a writer.

    I don’t know that I think of myself as an artist simply because much of my writing is about clear communication and less about making art.

    You’ve posed interesting questions.