Unpaid Artists, Unplugged Souls

Aspiring artists (or artists who don’t make a living from their art) know the dilemma:

Make Art  

or

Pay Bills

I’d rather spend 40 hours a week writing than offer my body on the altar of physical labor, but I can’t spin words into money at the moment; I’m not Stephen King.

We only have a limited amount of space at the Table of Priorities, and our job, family, friends, bills, and responsibilities get the seats.

Our artistic pursuits get the crumbs. 

This is not a complaint, but a fact of reality; we artists must work with it. If crumbs are all we get, then that’s what we get. Sacrificing aspirations for “adulting” is a hard lesson, but it’s Lesson One. 

Still, imagination tears our minds in two. We have a vision of what we want to create, and any creative will admit the NEED to make it a reality. But how do we compete with our other, more important demands? Is time management a solution?

Wisely managing time is a virtue, and it may sound noble to discipline time in a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps method, but it struggles when it’s done alone because it places faith in the method and our own abilities. For example, whenever I “manage” enough time to write, my precious leftover crumbs fail to produce the words I need. My best intentions can’t make up for a lack of vitalityMy soul itself feels drained, and a tired soul loves distractions:

I need to clean the house before I can concentrate.

Wait, did I pay those bills? It’ll bug me if I don’t check. Maybe I should set up autopay.

Now I’m hungry. Any pie left?

Oh, I forgot to make coffee…

When I finally sit down to write, a blank page stares at me, so I stare back with a blank mind. I’m too busy creating an environment for productivity that I waste the opportunity. Stress and frustration reign. At this point, I just take a nap because it’s more productive. 

Time management can’t vitalize my soul, and if my soul suffers, so does my writing, which is why Jesus’ words are critical: “…Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5b).

This applies to every aspect of life; God is first, then everything else falls into place.

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.” ~Psa. 127:1

When our souls fail, God does the work:

“[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

We must plug in to God:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (John 15:4-5).

This is why our art should reflect God:

“What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:5, 7).

Paul’s thorn-in-the-flesh (12:7-8) may have been an obstacle for him, but it was a tool for God. Likewise, when tempted to discard our crumbs of energy, assuming they’re too small to sustain productivity, we must remember the God we serve. If we’re disillusioned from all our failed attempts at creating our vision, thinking stress is all we’ll reap from sowing crumbs, we must remember the God who works wonders with the smallest faith (Matt. 7:20).

The art we make is for him. We love everything he is, and we rejoice in our ever-growing knowledge of him. No matter how much time we have, how much art we get done, or how weak our soul feels, we worship God by offering him art.

And no matter what we want to do with our creativity, whether it’s just a hobby or prospective career, God’s will is what matters, so it’s best to first plug in to him. If we do, then it won’t matter if we ever get paid for our art because it ceases to matter in light of the God it illuminates.

(And yes, sometimes we just need a nap; we’re frail jars of clay, after all).

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