Sometimes I get pretty philosophical here…hoping you’ll bear with me today!
Making art is a challenging business. I know my fellow “makers” relate to this: we spend a lot of time, usually solitary time, piecing together the ideas in our heads, separating tangled threads and weaving them into something we hope will connect with someone else. We often have a picture of the ideal creation, the dream. As we’re putting the words on the page, or the notes on the staff, or the paint on the canvas, we know we can’t shape that perfect piece of art, because we’re not perfect ourselves. Still, we’re going to do the best we can. And maybe, when we’re finished, we’ll look at what we’ve made and feel proud.
Often we do. When I finish a draft of a writing project, I usually go through a phase of “oh yuck, what is that??“, but after a little time, I can see the beauty in it. Sure, it’ll never be “perfect.” When I wrote Fourteen Stones, I could imagine a story that was breathtakingly lovely, so powerful it would make a reader laugh and cry and fall in love with the world and the characters the same way I had, and when they read the last page and put the story down, they would never be quite the same again. I could imagine all that, but I knew chances were, it would never be as perfect and beautiful on the page as it was in my head. Still, I gave it my best, and when it did get done, I was pretty proud.
We all know how tough it can be to take our art out into the world and share it. We open ourselves up in a way that, since we’re often such solitary people, can be terribly uncomfortable. Of course we’re scared of failure – nobody likes it! – and I think sometimes we’re also a little scared of success. What if everybody sees it? What if they’re all staring at it? At me??
That’s one hazard of making art. Another, which I’ve been running into a lot lately, is that “so what?” thing.
If you’re a “maker” too, I suspect you know about that. So what if I write this story? Who needs it? So what if I bust my brains making this piece of art as good as I can? It might go out into the world, sure, and people might even like it, but really, is it doing any good?
For me, it can be overwhelming to look at all the dark and terrible stuff in the world, and then look at myself as a maker of things. I’m not out there doing much of anything to solve the world’s problems. I get involved when I can, as much as I can, but there’s always that sense of being one tiny person, and a pretty impractical and super-introverted person at that. I desperately want to wave a wand and fix things, but what I have to offer feels so very small.
In those times, I try to remember that when we make something of beauty – even if it’s small – and when we share something of ourselves in the world, we do make a change in it. Maybe a very small one, just in our individual corner. But nobody else could make that piece of art we made, and we never know how it might touch someone else.
Someone might smile today because of your piece of art: and maybe they needed that smile, maybe they couldn’t find a whole lot to feel glad about, but you showed them a reason. Or someone might stop a minute in the middle of a stressful time, when the dark feels heavy and thick around them, and take a breath of fresh air because of that work you created out of your mind and heart. It might only last a moment, but in that moment, you’ve made a difference. You’ve done something no one else could have.
If you’re wondering what all this has to do with hummingbirds, here’s the connection. Recently, I was introduced to the video below. The message in it resonated with me: that even if what we have to offer feels small, we can always choose to do what we can. For me, that’s telling stories, sharing stories, helping other people tell and share theirs. What is it for you?
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