Monday, December 28, 2009

Which Came First?

If you are a writer, painter, musician, sculptor, or involved in some other form of art, have you ever wondered just who is in control of the creative process, you or the work? I have. In fact, there have been times when I was sure down to the bottom of my soul that the story I was writing already existed, in some form hidden from my eyes, and what I was doing was not so much "making things up," but uncovering the bits and pieces--much as an archaeologist would uncover the site of an Iron Age village on a hilltop in Wales, piecing together a picture of lives lived long ago, bit by bit uncovering the mystery.

Those are usually the days when the muse is cooperative and nothing too terribly important is distracting me from the process. I'm feeling well. The dog lying beside me isn't dreaming noisily of chasing squirrels through the woods. Other times I'm sure it's me behind it all. Just me--and my piles of research books, and my fragile imagination.

So which comes first, the story or the storyteller? Perhaps it's a little like predestination and free will. While not understanding exactly how it all works, I believe both are working out simultaneously, one outside of time, one confined within it.

It takes faith to push ahead with a story, especially in the beginning when I see so few of the pieces. Just a row of bricks poking up from the dirt. A potsherd a few yards off. A bit of bone, a pipe stem, a rusty nail. The deeper I dig (carefully, no rushing!) the more I will find. The clearer the picture will become.

I love this quote by the insightful Madeleine L'Engle, and because it's appropriate to this time of Incarnational Promise, I wanted to share it before this present season is past.

"Obedience is an unpopular word nowadays, but the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, "Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me." And the artist either says, "My soul doth magnify the Lord," and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses; but the obedient response is not necessarily a conscious one, and not everyone has the humble, courageous obedience of Mary."

I wish you the obedience of Mary in your creative birthings this day!


  1. Oh, Lori! That was absolutely beautiful. You are such a lovely person to hold all these thoughts dear. Your analogies, the quote, all of it.

    Over the past few weeks parts of my current WIP have been playing out in my head. It is almost like someone is telling me the story, or if it is a memory that someone is recalling. I don't really feel like I am writing it at all. The story is telling itself to me. It is such an amazing process and feel so blessed to be able to take part in it. It is not me, but from our Creator, the imparter of gifts.

  2. Carla, Thanks so much for posting. It IS an amazing process, and a gift. It blesses and frightens me at the same time. A shadow of what Mary must have felt, in the days after the angel appeared to her with his astonishing news. I feel such a responsibility to "enflesh" this story world. Not because of anyone else's expectations. To the work itself. To do it justice.

  3. Great post, Lori. Isn't our creator amazing in letting us create in turn? Obedience isn't always comfortable as the writing process is often a difficult one. But obedience always brings blessing and joy and that comes through in our writing, I think:)

  4. Laura,

    Being made in His image, it's no wonder we are creative beings. I'm comforted in knowing He understands the impulse. Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like to have a craft talk, face to face, with the ultimate Creator? Will things like that happen across the river, do you think? I hope so!