I feel as though many people write things for the wrong reasons. Heck, people do a lot of things for the wrong reasons… but particularly in writing. There’s some kind of strange allure that comes with the title of “blogger” or “writer”, as if by doing so, you’re overcoming the insurmountable social norms that are set in place. Like, if you possess even the slightest inkling of creativity in putting words together, you’re worthy of being one of those paid bloggers or writers that doesn’t have to have a job because of your overwhelming sudden success. I’ve never actually met one of those people, and I’m no statistician, but… I’m gonna guess that that sort of wild success doesn’t happen often. Especially to the seemingly average person, with seemingly average words to share, in the seemingly average medium of blogging…
But perhaps those people do exist. They probably work way harder at it than you and I do in anything. Like, anything at all… and I’m sure they’re consistent and tireless and relentless in the pursuit of “making it.” But because it’s not a glamorized subject (unless it’s the topic of the blog…), the discipline and grit of the process are overlooked and the prize of fame becomes widely sought after. The dollar signs and easy of lifestyle convince many people that perhaps, if they do the same thing, they can be just as successful, but without the grind of it all.
Almost every time, whether we’re talking about the innovative musician, the culinary artist, the struggling business major, or the average joe, there is some form of miscommunication that happens. One starts down a path that is expected to yield something beautiful, something productive and exciting that is the sheer product of one’s soul. The artistic expression and masterful ideologies combine in an exquisite cocktail of creation, exploding into something worthwhile. We’re made for that, y’know. Making things, in every regard of the act, is something that we’re intrinsically good at. But somewhere along the line it gets messy.
The goal isn’t the problem, but the process.
We’re told that if we do something well, for long enough, eventually someone will exchange the crop of our creative juices for dollars. Honestly, who wouldn't want that?! To have a person take care of the needs that you inevitably have, and give you the liberty to solely focus on the thing that makes you come most alive? Huzzah! I would love that. That very idea makes me light up and grin, even as I write this. But you see, that can sometime be the very problem that we encounter… we prematurely allow external forces to mastermind our making.
In his book, The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse, Michael Gungor sums this idea up splendidly:
“The more successful the work, the more people will step in to try to influence and manipulate the work for their own benefit.”
As we “practice, practice, practice!” our crafts, there’s a certain amount of sheltered-ness that needs to be present. That doesn’t sound very exciting, does it. But the idea is something that can be proven in any area of life: You are either influencing or being influenced. There is nothing neutral about our existence. And when you’re doing your thing, putting in the work, and creating that thing that you are meant to create, the stark reality is that there is no such thing as neutral creation. The only combatant to this fact is being exceptionally guarded in the process. Take inventory of the “voices” in your life that you subscribe to, and take a whopping dose of courage and sort through them. This doesn’t just apply to making things… cause your friends matter. SO MUCH. But that’s a subject for another time. But in this manner, be brutally honest with yourself and see what’s really been creeping into your art.
At this point, if you’re anything like me, you’re analyzing all of the things you’ve ever made and wonder if any of it is really, actually authentic. Like, if it’s influenced by 12% parents opinions, and 22% of the music you listen to, and 63% anxiety about how others will like it, and only like 3% is genuine creating. We allow the opinions of others to infiltrate the caverns of our souls, the place where no person should be present. The only thing that belongs there are the innermost parts of who you are: your character, your conscience, the values that you adhere to. And the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit that guides you and reminds you of your identity in the moments that you forget. Man, I’m so glad that nobody else lives there unless you invite them.
While criticism and change are absolutely necessary to the creative process, not yet. They have their time, but they’re often eager to be preemptive to their approach. They wanna sit on the beanbag chairs in the studio of your soul, where your creative process resides, making comments like, “Ehhh, I dunno about THAT choice of colors in this design… they kinda clash.” Or, “Dude, this song you’re writing sounds like seven other songs that have already happened… you should just stop now.” And at the end of the day, you don’t really want them to leave, because you know that down the road in the process, they’re gonna be super helpful. You need those annoying friends in the process. But up until the point where their usefulness is made manifest, they’ve got horrible manners. It’s up to you to teach them some etiquette.
More than anything though, the chief motivator for making that quickly becomes idolatry is the desire to please people.
The saddest part about this to me is that at its core, this is such a heavenly mindset. We’re meant to be making solely for the approval and honor of our gracious Father, who delights in the creations of His children. But because of our selfishness, we’re without that motive by default. We know that we’re meant to “show off” what we’ve made to someone, but without the eminent presence of an eternal being, we succumb and settle for the meager opinions of our own kind. How fickle and underwhelming is it to think that our souls wanna show the very Creator of all, the thing that we made, but instead we timidly put it at the feet of humanity to be smashed and torn apart.
That’s pretty depressing, isn't it?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By the very awareness of the animosity that occurs on the daily in the realms of artistry, we’ve become better. By taking note of the things that destroy, we can take every precaution to avoid them!
So, make on, you makers. Do your thing, so blindly focused on making something freaking awesome that you forget the very presence of the critics and the haters altogether. Make things and lay them at the throne of the King, instead of your peers — I promise He’s gonna like it a whole lot. Ravenously pursue that thing that makes you most alive, because it’s the what you’re made to do. Keep moving forward with a lightness in your step, knowing that the light-maker Himself is proud to know that you’re fulfilling your purpose, just as he intended.
Whether you knew it or not, and whether any of this mattered to you in even the least bit, these very words were my own test of this mantra. I’ve thought of writing a blog-like thing for the longest time, pouring out all of the ideas and thoughts and frustrations and insights and failures and stories that make up my life. But for the very aforementioned reason, I did not. Every time that I sat down to rhetoric it up, I became crippled by even the very notion of what I was writing for. I wanted people to like what I had to say, and that poisoned my art. That unholy, gruesome feeling of insecurity slithered its way into my keyboard, and each letter typed was like a sting that took the poison a little deeper.
But not anymore.
This is for you. This is for me. This is for my King. I make things — words, music, photos, coffee, and everything in between — all because I can’t not do those things. As the person that I am, I simply must. These very words are so life-giving to me in this moment, because I’m proactively saying that: 1. I can freaking do it, 2. It doesn’t matter what you think as I make, and 3. The only thing holding me back from doing anything is my self. Perhaps you resonate with that feeling. All of that to say, this is only the beginning. Big, grand plans and all, I know that these are the humble beginnings. These are the days that I’ll look back on so dearly, not because of their greatness, but because these are the first fearless steps in the right direction.
I pray that in this day, you’ll know the immense value that you have. Without your art, without your talents, and without any carnal addition, you are still the most valuable thing that the Creator ever made. I hope that hits you right in the heart and makes you smile a little bit. I dearly pray that you’ll believe in yourself just a little bit more in this day, and that that first noble step in the right direction. You can do it. And I beg of you, never stop doing the things that make you come alive. This world wouldn't be the same without you. Keep moving forward, and keep your head up.