If you're reading this, I am thankful for you.
(Now pass this link along to someone that you're thankful for)
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, God led the Israelites through the desert and into the promised land. This was a journey that none of the Israelite people had ever gone on before. After hundreds of years of slavery, Egypt was all they knew. The desert was completely unknown territory to them.
To make matters worse, God didn’t give them a map, a GPS, a compass, or even an estimated time of arrival. God placed a cloud in the sky by day, and a pillar of fire by night, and he asked his people to follow it.
A lot of times, starting a project of your own feels a lot like being caught in the desert. You’ve never written a book, started a business, or planted a church before. You don’t have a map you can follow. Your only guide is the vision and passion that God has placed on your heart. That vision is your cloud. That passion is your fire.
This is the life of the artist. The artist sets aside her fear of the unknown to pursue the calling and promise that God has placed on her heart. To everyone else, the path she has chosen seems ludicrous. That’s because they’re all carrying a map. There’s nothing wrong with a map. But be warned, it won’t take you anywhere new.
The artist is interested in new territory. New heights. New depths. A land, a reality that has not yet been seen, but only promised. And she knows that the only way to get there is to follow the cloud. Follow the fire.
I almost NEVER do this, but when I think of the handful of books, essays, and little bits of media that have most heavily influenced me as an artist, this commencement speech is near the top of the list. So I wanted to share it with you all today. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.
Last weekend, the midwest, and many other parts of the United States got dumped on by the first winter storm of the season. We here in Chicago got about 5-7 inches on Friday night.
When I woke up on Saturday morning and looked out the window, I began to have a debate with myself.
“Is it still snowing?” I thought. “Or is the wind just blowing around snow that has already fallen? Is this fresh powder? Or is it just gusted leftovers?”
If you create things for long enough, it sometimes gets hard to come up with something new and challenging. It’s much easier, and much more tempting, to just rearrange something you’ve already done and make it look new. It worked before, why wouldn’t it work again? This approach is “safe” certainly, but it won’t help you grow as an artist. And eventually, the wear and tear will begin to show. What was once a pure, white, clean creation, now looks like a pile black sludge.
The artist continually challenges himself to create freshly fallen powder.
After all, cold as it may be, there is nothing like untouched, freshly fallen snow.
With Thanksgiving coming next week, I thought it might be the right time to talk about God's opinion on thankfulness.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m writing the same thing on my blog over and over and over again.
“Don’t wait for someone else’s permission”
“Creativity is more than just art”
“Don’t let excuses or fear keep you from starting”
As I scroll through, I find that a lot of my blog posts have very similar themes. Even beyond that, in some of them I’m pretty much making the exact same point, just saying it in a different way. At times, I fear this to be evidence of laziness, or my inability to craft and original thought. However, upon looking at my own life, I’m not so sure that’s true.
Just because you’ve heard doesn’t mean you’ve learned.
Just because you know doesn’t mean you’re going to act accordingly.
There is an inherent gap between hearing and learning, and the only way to cross it is by reminding yourself of the lesson over and over again until it finally sinks in.
So maybe I’m not repeating myself, maybe I just haven’t learned these lessons yet.
The nice thing about the drawing board is the same thing that makes it scary.
This means there’s an infinite number of possibilities for what you could fill it with. As soon as the marker hits the board, the ball gets rolling, ideas start flowing. You might not hit a goldmine right away, but you’re certainly headed in the right direction. And it’s a whole lot better than staring at that endless white space all day.
The drawing board continues to remain scary only as long as it’s blank.
So start filling it.
People say, “That’s great, Jon that you’ve found the writing and the Anima Series thing. But I’m still figuring out what I’m supposed to do.”
Here is something that may surprise you: So am I!
I’m still figuring out my precise mission, or calling, or purpose. I’m just not waiting until I have it all figured out before I start something. Long ago, I learned that if I can’t find the courage and discipline to start now, then I certainly won’t find it once my calling becomes clear. I’m beginning now, and figuring it out as I go. This is a process that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who wants to be a doctor or a commercial pilot (I’m not looking for my surgeon to figure things out as she goes) But I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to create art.
The hope in doing this, is that once you do finally figure out what you’re “supposed to do” (if you ever do), that when that time comes, you don’t have to start from scratch. You’ve already build a network, a body of work, a following. You already have experience and leverage for the journey ahead.
Waiting until we have it all figured out is just another excuse that the bum uses and the artist shuns. Be the artist. Start now.
I am terrible with grammar.
Yet, I've written three books, and have a fourth one coming out within a month.
How did I not allow my lack of grammar skills to keep me from writing?
Simple. I'm not trying to be an editor, I'm trying to be a writer.
Often times, what we think is an obstacle between us and the thing we want is actually an obstacle between us and something different altogether. Often times, the only reason that the obstacle is between us and the thing we want is because we chose to put it there. We choose to put it there because it's much easier to have an excuse than to actually do the work.
This blog is about learning how to notice, make, and share your art