I had an art teacher in elementary school named Mrs. Barnhorse. Actually that probably wasn’t her name, because Barnhorse? Really? But that’s how I remember it.
She always took great care to explain our next art project, moving methodically through each step, explaining all the details. The only problem was she waited until the end to tell us what the final project was supposed to be.
My sister had the same teacher and now as adults we remember art class in elementary school with no small amount of anxiety – Just tell us what we’re making!! We wanted to know where were supposed to end up before we got started.
To this day, whenever we hear someone give details before they give the big picture, we call them Mrs. Barnhorse.
But maybe Mrs. Barnhorse was on to something good.
The thing about creativity is you don’t always know where you’re going even when you think you know where you’re going.
In art class, it’s annoying or exciting depending on your personality.
But in life, it can be terrifying.
When we first brought twins home from the hospital, I couldn’t believe the doctors and nurses allowed me to take them home. Shouldn’t a responsible grown up be in charge of these little tiny people? But I looked around and my husband did too and all we saw was each other.
There wasn’t a how-to book no matter how much we tried to turn Baby Wise into one. There wasn’t a life map or an insurance plan or any kind of guarantee that we were doing this right no matter how much I wished for one.
When life becomes overwhelming and unpredictable, those are the moments when I am most likely to try to live like a technician rather than an artist.
Creativity isn’t just for art class. In those moments where I recognize my lack of control, choosing creativity often means admitting I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know what’s coming next but I’m going to move ahead into the mystery anyway.
I choose wonder. I choose trust. I choose to live an artful life even in the midst of insecurity.
It doesn’t matter if your art is a relationship, a job, a hobby, or some other desire of your heart, when it comes to doing creative work – whether that means writing a book or parenting with grace – fear of the unknown is part of the package.
I used to think the answer was to get rid of the fear by trying to figure everything out but I know better than that now. When it comes to creativity, fear can be a valuable teacher and I don’t want it to go away. The goal isn’t to push fear away forever, it’s to refuse to be pushed around by fear at all. We have to remember that if we avoid the fear, we miss the art too.
In Mrs. Barnhorse’s class, the word create carried a certain amount of anxiety along with it – I don’t know where I’m supposed to end up! But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. In fact, maybe that’s part of the point.
Today, the writers at Living the Story are excited to give away Emily’s new book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live to three lucky people who leave a comment. And if you are a blogger, link up your posts on our theme of the month: Create. We’re anxious to read your stories. Book winners will be announced on Friday.
“choosing creativity often means admitting I don’t have all the answers
and I don’t know what’s coming next but I’m going to move ahead into the
mystery anyway.” love this – i’ve been working on getting rid of the fear to keep doing just this – think i might be continually working on it actually & that’s okay – the journey seems the richer for it. Emma
that’s what tugged at my heart, too, Emma. and i love your words, “the journey seems the richer for it.” yes.
Kelli, you won a copy of Emily’s book! My kids picked your name.
Such a good and beautiful reminder. I’m a play-it-safe girl and tend to stay far away from the cliff edge. But creativity isn’t safe, and I really wouldn’t want it to be.
Thank you for this, Emily.
I sure can relate to being the “play it safe” girl, Christie.
I’ve let fear push me around. I love your reminder to use the fear, to harness it and allow it to work in our favor. I like to know where I’m going, but as I’ve begun to explore creativity more and more, I’m learning to enjoy the journey, even with all of its unknowns–maybe even because of them. Allowing myself to embrace my creativity is deepening my faith and teaching me to trust. Thanks for this, Emily. You are such a sweet inspirer!!
I hear that, Kris. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive to live this way – not carelessly or irresponsibly (as I know it can be mis-interpreted that way) – but to live holding plans loosely, to live in such a way as to cultivate a light heart, to make friends with the mystery rather than always trying to figure things out.
Yes! For so long I lived according to how I *thought* I “should” be/act/do, never knowing exactly what that meant, and so “chasing the sun,” according to Solomon. I am stepping into LIVING art, as I was created to be. It’s messy yet unique. And this, I am realizing, is true worship.
So messy! But yes, worshipful too. Love the way you say that, Amy.
“I used to think the answer was to get rid of the fear by trying to figure everything out” — oh, how I can relate to this Emily. This is such a great rendering of helping us to think differently about our fears when it comes to creativity. We are so thankful to have you here with us. Look forward to the launch of your book tomorrow.
Loved that creativity is not about knowing where you’re going. Being both insecure & fearful to just “go” creatively is something I am learning to do. So grateful for this post & for the opportunity to win this book. Would love to read this one!
Learning to trust myself has been challenging for me. So your message about fear and trust helped. If God trusted me by giving me the gift of creativity; shouldn’t I trust myself in using it?
I so appreciate what you have uncovered here, Emily. Especially : “We have to remember that if we avoid the fear, we miss the art too.”
That really speaks to the reason that I often avoid getting mixed up with things I can’t control — fear. Thanks for the insight!
Congrats Kathy! You won a copy of Emily’s book. Please email me at email@example.com with your address.
Thanks, Shelly (and Emily!) I’m excited to read Emily’s new book! I was hoping to win a copy! 🙂
Creativity is one of my favorite topics … can’t wait to read Emily’s thoughts.
As a writer, I struggle often with fear and insecurity with what I do. I can’t wait to read Emily’s book, and be reminded of the ways we all make art, in many ways!
I use art journaling to tap into my creativity – playing paint and glue and paper re-energize me in ways nothing else does. I love to take what I am studying and meditating on in Scripture and work it into my art journals. It helps the Word permeate into every area of my life. I am in full time ministry and choosing to take time for art keeps me balanced and focused and helps me keep burn-out at bay.
Grateful to have you here with us today, Emily, and excited for the release of your book! What encouragement you’ve given to embrace the mystery, to be a “Barnhorse.” 🙂 My journey of exploring creativity has been an intense practice ground in truly trusting God and his goodness. As I further release my controlling grip, I see the good he longs to create in this world, particularly through human places of weakness. It’s amazing how he invites us to partner/co-labor with him in this and also to let go so he can live out through us the work we couldn’t imagine, plan or strategize. A great post, Emily. Thank you!
Congrats Ashley, you won a copy of Emily’s book!
This is what I remember about my art teacher: her breath smelled of coffee and cigarettes. She was very short with very short hair and when she talked to you she slipped way too far into your personal space. I took art for three years and I don’t remember learning much except how to draw perspective 🙂 I really want to be creative and I am looking forward to reading more of what you have to tell us about creativity. I always want to know where I am going… yikes..
My art teacher really did have a compound-wordish name. Hart-sock.
I was such a rule-follower in art class. And that’s what gets in the way of my art and my creating more than anything even now — this sense that I have to follow certain conventions.
oh man. i HEAR you, Jennifer Lee. wow wow wow.
Thank you for your words. Oh so good. Wonderful encouragement. Thank you 🙂
If I avoid the fear ~ I’ll miss the art. I want that to sink in.
Emily, thank you, I am taking this with me today:”The goal isn’t to push fear away forever, it’s to refuse to be pushed around by fear at all. We have to remember that if we avoid the fear, we miss the art too.” I am also learning a little fear means I am on a “growth edge,” so if I want to grow then I need to learn to be okay with a little fear. Thanks again 🙂
LOVE this, Emily. Thanks so much for visiting this space and sharing your words of grace and hope. Many years ago, I used to be a T.A. for the preaching class at my seminary. And I always encouraged new students who told me they were terrified at the prospect of actually preparing and delivering a sermon – in front of a video camera, no less! – with these words: “The day you’re NOT terrified at this whole business is the day you need to step down from the pulpit for good. It’s scary stuff, it’s holy stuff and holy fear is a good, good thing.” I think this applies equally well to any creative endeavor – if it’s scary. . . good. You are recognizing the holiness of the call, the task, the journey. Amen!
I’m learning to jump in head first more and more. This was an encouraging read.