3 things to do when they don’t like your art

“Unless you’re running for something that requires a unanimous vote, it’s a mistake to focus on the frowning guy in the back of the room…You’re on the hunt for sneezers, for fans, for people willing to cross the street to work with you. Everyone else can pound sand, that’s okay. Being remarkable also means being ignored or actively disliked.”

Seth Godin, on his blog

Sometimes your art gets rejected. And that’s good, because all art isn’t for all people. If it were, it wouldn’t be art, it would be Wal-Mart. For example, sometimes people stop reading this blog – I don’t just say that because it’s obvious, I say that because it used to be that every time an email subscriber unsubscribed, I would get an email about it. The subject line would say “Unsubscription Notification for Chatting at the Sky” and then it told me the email address of the person.

I don’t get those notifications anymore, but the first time I got one of these, I felt totally rejected.

What am I doing wrong? Why are they going away?! And then I was tempted to email them and ask. And then I started to rationalize it. Oh, they’re just streamlining and decided to read in Google Reader so they unsubscribed to the email. Or Maybe they decided to read directly on the site now. Those things could be true.

But what is probably more true is that for some people, their time is better spent in some other way. And they don’t care so much what I have to say. So what do I do about that?

Actually, nothing. Or everything, depending on how you look at it. The job of the artist is not to convince people to like what they have created. The job of the artist is to create.

Your creation could be words, paints, crafts, music. But your art is in no way limited to those things. Your art is any work you are passionate about. And your job is to be passionate, not to convince someone else to like you.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be personal. I can make it personal, and I did at first. And they may even mean for it to be. But the great thing about having a mind of our own is we get to decide what we let affect us. Instead of taking it personally, see it as a refining. The words I put out are an invitation to receive what I have to offer here. When people stop reading, it simply means they aren’t looking for what I have to offer. And that’s okay, because there are others who are.

If I try to cater to a broader audience, then I am in essence trying to please those who have already said no thank you rather than serve those who are wanting more.

Work like an artist, but think like a hostess. When people don’t like the art, the artist keeps creating. She doesn’t change what she makes and what she loves just because someone doesn’t like it. She can’t change how she works, but she may have to change how she thinks.

A hostess serves the people at her table. She looks them in the eye, she meets them where they are. She doesn’t spend her time distracted during the party in the next room, calling the people who RSVPd no. She issues the invitations, and then serves those who show up.

And since we’re doing this, if you are one who likes what you see here and want to make it easier to read, you can click here to have new posts from Chatting at the Sky delivered into your email inbox. If you sign up and then change your mind and unsubscribe, I won’t take it personal.

wake up and dream

Do you know you are brave and beautiful? I don’t usually begin posts that way, but you spoke your fears out loud–you who are made to create–and I am overwhelmed with your confessions. They are my confessions, too.

Fear of failure, of rejection, of working hard and risking vulnerable  just to say what someone else already said better. We are a scared bunch, aren’t we? Longing to be seen but feeling safe when we’re invisible? Waiting for permission to create for real because what if? and what about? and what will they think?

I hope you are diving into the deep, sweet place of authentic this week. And I don’t mean climb into your quiet cave and wait for the Muse. No, I hope you are swimming around in the living; seeing the art in your husband’s eyes, delighting in the way her freckles are sprinkled just about her nose, feeling the warm sun on your back even in the bitter cold. It’s all art. And when we see it, we can better make it.

Wake up and dream to life those things that seem far off. Live the art you dream about. Embrace the ones you have. And then? Sit down and get to work. Because no truth is new truth, friend, it all belongs to God. Your voice is just one, and that makes it unique. You may not be the first to say it, but your saying it may be the first time we hear.

You need to live the art, and then you need to keep on making it. For you. And for us. Will you?

your ego is a burden anyway

One of the biggest things that gets in our way when it comes to making art is our own ideas about it. We make it so mysterious, so ethereal, so other-than us. And it is, in a way. But if you keep it there, it will continue to be too big to touch. You fear you’ll wreck it all up if you dare to reach for it. So you leave it up there in the clouds, sparkling just out of reach. And it looks pretty and you cower beneath it all helpless and victimy.

Today is the day to reach your grubby hands up high, grab that sparkly dream off that too-high shelf and roll around in the mud with it. It is not as delicate as you think. It will not break and shatter. And neither will you. Well, you might. But that’s okay because your ego is a burden anyway. It is keeping you from the risk, and you can’t afford to live a life risk-free. It isn’t what you were made for.

“God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.”

2 Timothy 1:7, The Message

And so you (and I) operate on this level of constant self-editing, and so our creativity is polite and linear. And then we are discouraged. It’s no wonder. I’m not saying publish a blog post filled with raw rants, or put your first crack at your art on display. But I am saying you have to have a first crack. What do you have to lose?

No really, what do you have to lose? I want you to answer that in the comments, because sometimes just naming the fear sets us free. Here, I’ll go first.

If I create the art that really means something to me, people might not like it.

(I feel better already.)

5 ways to know if the art has to wait

We’ve been suffocated with snow days this week: four days in a row. We’ve gone from the exciting first day (No school!) to the shoulder-slumped fourth day (*sigh* no school). Even the kids are ready to get back. I’ve had to be flexible and gracious with my time. Sometimes I haven’t done such a hot job of it. And it’s made me think about the art we’ve been talking about around here lately. Because some of you are artist who are creating. And some of you are artist who are waiting.

There can be great frustration for those who long to create but aren’t. Maybe you have babies around who need stuff and things – when the twins were born, I was too busy picking dried-spit up out of my hair and staring out the window during my free time to think about any kind of art. Maybe you are taking care of aging parents. Maybe you are in the process of moving and your house is filled with boxes and packing tape, or  you work full time outside of your home and your job responsibilities don’t allow for much else. If you home school or are the president of the PTA or are remodeling your kitchen, you may not see a place in your life for the art.

All of these things could be reasons why you have to wait. BUT (and I’m going to be very bold here), they could also be excuses. It is important to know if you are waiting because of wisdom, because it truly isn’t the right time. It is also important to know if you are waiting because of fear. Here are some ways to discover the difference.

Ask your people. My people would be my husband. For you, it may be other family or even kids. When the twins began to get a bit older, I went a year or so where I felt a pull to write, but I didn’t really tell my husband. What resulted from that was frustration on my part because I was trying to squeeze writing into a schedule that wasn’t allowing it, and also frustration on my husbands part because he didn’t understand how important it was to me. Get your people behind you. The idea of creating in isolation may seem romantic and artsy, but it isn’t.

Adjust your expectations. It doesn’t have to be I’m either going to write a book, or I’m not going to write at all. If you have the idea that you have to finish an entire book or else it doesn’t count, you could be waiting forever. Thirty minutes of writing before the kids wake up still counts.

Art and margin must co-exist. If pursuing your art does not also allow for some white space in your schedule, it could mean that now is not the time to pursue your art. But be honest about this. Decide which things in your schedule you value the most. You may discover huge chunks of time that can be replaced with creativity. Tsh’s book, Organized Simplicity, helped me as I thought about this in my own schedule.

Consider the beginning. If you pick up the Bible and start on page one, the first thing we see God do is to create. It was priority number one. It was not an afterthought. He had a purpose and a vision, and he made it come to be. If you tend to see creating art as a luxury, or if you feel guilty about your creative self, I want to urge you to reconsider. You were made in the image of Someone who places a high priority on creativity. To deny that part of yourself is insulting.

Find the art in the living. I know it may seem like I am contradicting myself here, but if you insist on compartmentalizing your art from your living, you may never find the time to pursue it. The more I see myself as an artist, the more my art spills over into my life. I begin to see meal prep as an outlet for my creative side. I use my writing as a gift by sending a long note to a friend instead of jotting a quick thank you out of obligation. If you can’t find art in your living, keep looking. I promise it’s there.

Three years ago, as I prayed about what 2008 would hold for me, I sensed the Lord speaking these simple words into my heart: It’s time to write. He didn’t tell me what to write, when to write, or how. I had to sort of figure that part out. But I had a clear impression as I considered that the words were from him. As you think about your own art, I want to encourage you to lay it all out there and ask him about it. Because when he calls you to something, I promise he will provide.

how to be an artist

Piano was my major until my sophomore year of college. That was when I quit. Required practice and theory classes and hours upon hours in fluorescent lit rooms with Chopin and Czerny did not bring out the art in me, it nearly made it die. I quit simply because I wanted to love it again. It’s the same reason why I will probably never be a real professional photographer. The art of it doesn’t outweigh the responsibility enough, and so I continue to learn at my own pace and in my own way. I take pictures because it helps me see. And that is all.

For a long time, writing was private for me. Over time and through this blog, writing has become something different. Of all the art there is in the world, writing is the art that brings the most satisfaction as well as the most fear. I can avoid the piano for months at a time. But if I don’t write, there is a distinct possibility I might not exist. I know that isn’t actually true, but that is how it feels.

I write for pleasure, for remembering, for learning, for listening, and for money. I can write in the early morning hours as well as late at night. I squeeze it in ten minutes before it’s time to get the kids and quick while the water boils. Unlike piano or photography, the art of writing outweighs the pressure and expectations. For some people, the art of making music is worth the fluorescent lights with Chopin. For me, the art of writing is worth the fear, the risk, and the isolation.

Because I believe I’ve found the art that is also my worship, it is important to me to use it. To practice it. And to share it. When I played piano, it was always really difficult for me to play for people. I was nervous, embarrassed, and tried to avoid it at all costs. If I would have decided that was the art I wanted to pursue, I think I would have gotten better at sharing it. I would argue that unshared art is still art, but it feels more like a hobby. When you invite others to enter in and receive your creativity, then you are doing something holy, worshipful, and also terrifying. And that is the life of an artist.