how to be kind to an artist

Be Kind

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Yesterday we looked at one word you are using that is sabotaging your living art – the word just. Leave out just, and you might begin to honor and respect the work of your ordinary days, no matter how small it may seem. It’s a way to be kind to yourself.

It’s true for the ordinary movement of keeping a home or running a business, but it’s also true for the secret dreams and timid desires we carry deep within.

The event planner who knows planning parties makes her come alive, but in her moments of discouragement she thinks, but it’s just a party. I’m not changing the world or anything.

The baker who knows making treats for people to share brings her great joy, but in her moments of discouragement she thinks, but it’s just sugar. I’m not feeding the homeless or anything.

The writer who feels compelled to write a curriculum for her small group, but in her moments of discouragement she thinks, but it’s just a pamphlet. I’m not Beth Moore or anything.

The photographer who comes alive photographing babies for her friends, but in her moments of discouragement she thinks, but it’s just a picture. I’m not a professional or anything.

These artists stand on the line of risk, willing to move one baby step at a time into what they believe might be a small expression of their truest self.

When we encounter someone moving into the mystery and taking the risk even though it might not work, please let’s choose not to ask them about their art by calling it a “thing.”

Here’s what I’m talking about:

So tell me about that party thing you do.

You’re doing some kind of thing with cakes?

I hear you’re working on a thing for your church group.

So you’re like, doing a photography thing now or something?

Thing is a word we use when we don’t know what other word to use. It subetly implies worthlessness and casually dismisses what they’ve worked hard to build.

Even though it isn’t our intention, using the word thing when we’re talking about someone’s work or art feels disrespectful to them.

I know this  might sound picky and maybe it is. But people who are trying something new already fear this attempt is risky and potentially a waste of time. They already are justing their way through.

So when they are just-ing and we start thing-ing, well.

It’s a hot mess is what it is.

I know, big girl pants.

I know, don’t assume everyone is so sensitive.

But maybe it’s better to err on the side of kindness and curiosity. Maybe it’s better to assume our fellow image-bearing friends and family members are more scared than they are letting on.

Maybe one way we can support and respect the pursuits of others is to enter into conversation with them with a spirit of curiosity rather than assumption, no matter how much we may not understand what they’re doing.

When you talk about your own work, don’t use the word just.

When you ask about the work of others, don’t use the word thing.

It’s one way to be kind to an artist. Since we’re all artists in one way or another, it’s also a way to be kind to yourself.

Today is Day 11 of 31 days of Living Art. You can see a list of all the posts in the series here.

Today is the last day to request a sponsored book for the Bloom book club. Visit my sister for a 20% off code if you buy the book from DaySpring. That makes it only 7.99!


  1. says

    You’re speaking to me here. I don’t know how many dozens of pursuits I’ve reasoned away with the “but it’s just x, y, z…I’m not saving lives.”

    I like you. I like the way you think and process and write about it. I like that you give us permission to be okay with being sensitive. I like the call to curiosity over presumption.

    And I really like your new book. 😉

  2. says

    Emily, you GET it! Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us all of these things the Lord has been teaching you. :)

    It is “scary” to jump out there and TRY something new or TRY to do something we’ve already been doing in a better or different way. We do need to see it for what it is. We do need curiosity and support from those around us…

    AND, everyone we know needs to know we’ll stand by them, with them, and for them while THEY attempt something new or attempt to improve in the area sticking out to them.

    No more just-ing. No more thing-ing.

    Just love-ing and ask-ing! :)

  3. says

    I have always thought that trailing ‘thing’ at the end of a hobby, craft, or job that someone has is disrespectful. It’s almost never someone’s intention, but it’s so true how the language can lessen it somehow.

    I am so enjoying this 31 days of art (and following 31 days of travel on Tsh’s blog, too) two topics I love to read and write about myself.
    I might be missing it, but did you mention that you had other people following along on their own blogs of 31 Days of ___? I’d love to find others and read what they have to say. I can’t find that on your site, though maybe I’m imposing it in my brain without it being an actual memory! :)
    Sarah M

  4. says

    In my mind, “thing” implies popularity and insinuates it’s somehow less authentic. So, yes, kind of disheartening!

    Just got your book in the mail – can’t wait to read it.

  5. says

    Oh how thankful I am for you, Emily! That you dare to share your thoughts and what you’ve learned and are still learning here in this space and in your books. HE is using you to speak to me in a powerful way and I know that these posts are just a snippet of what’s tucked inside A Million Little Ways. I. have. to. get. this. book. Thank you!

  6. says

    Yes. You’re right, there are already so many voices in our heads as artists. We are already beating ourselves up, telling ourselves that we aren’t real. It’s a gift to have someone we care about talk about what we’re doing (pouring our heart and soul and time into) with respect.

  7. says

    I have been feeling depleted and was unsure why. This post has exposed my hurt it was being told my thing is not working and it is time to go get areal job. My thing I have spent 5 months cultivating and nurturing my thing that brings me so much joy. My thing.
    The tears slowly slide down my cheek, sadness for my thing and I.

  8. says

    oh my, emily.
    it feels as though
    everything i do is “just.”
    i respect what others are doing and encourage them …
    but me? it’s “just” ….
    just painting, just sewing, just cooking, just laundry….
    even just photography and just blogging/writing my heart.
    a man from a long-term, previous relationship continues to remind me
    that it’s all “just” … because these things don’t create income ..
    so they aren’t worthy, important and valuable.
    tough stuff. thanks for the food for thought
    and encouragement.
    thanks for letting God speak through you
    of value, worth and the reminder that
    creativity and service
    are more than “just” idle movement. … *tears*

  9. says

    Oh my goodness YES. I’ve been hurt by the lack of curiosity extended by others. I SO track with how “thing” diminishes a person, their art, their heart. Just YES. Thanks for your insight Emily.

  10. says

    Thank you for reminding us to be kind to ourselves and the artists we know. From our youngest who is 10 to our oldest, (my husband) we all create in our own way. Having a safe encouraging environment to create is essential.

  11. says

    Thank you, Emily. It’s interesting how seemingly innocent comments can affect us. I have well- meaning and well-read friends who have asked when I’ll start writing books for adults. What I hear is my work or children is just practice until I mature enough to tackle adult fiction. But why wouldn’t children deserve my best?

    And within the writing community I know many of us struggle with being commercial enough, literary enough, recoginized with starred reviews or awards. It is an unkind way to think of our own work.

    Let’s declare a truce on how we speak of others’ art and how we think of our own.

  12. says

    I was asked “Why are you taking time for THAT?” soon after starting a blog this summer. She couldn’t understand why I’d take the time in the midst my overly busy life. It’s hung around in my head & I need to let it go. Words & thoughts of my own – as well as others – can truly influence my desire to create. I’m really looking forward to participating in the Bloom book club for A Million Little Ways.

  13. says

    What a gift your book is for me right now. I can’t help thinking of who I was at 21 and how much I needed to hear your message. I still need to hear it now, but I am so happy that there are young women who can learn this even while young.

    Today’s post made me think of a family member, whose response when I started my photography business was, “Who knows, maybe this could lead to something real.” I don’t think her intention was to sting me, but that word “real” has haunted me every since…is what I’m doing real? Is it the amount of money I make that determines how “real” my work is? Your book is helping me finally put those questions to rest. My work is my poem, my way to give glory to God for his wondrous creation. I can’t tell you what a gift this perspective is!

  14. Diane Scott says

    This so hit home for me. Thanks for speaking out what’s buried in the hearts of many. Someone once spoke disrespectfully about a water colour I once did and it was over 20 years before I picked up the brush again. Silly really, but at the time, it hurt.

  15. says

    You did it again. With just one word you explained how we can hurt and be hurt.
    Why does thoughtless come naturally and considerate still requires a mindfulness about my word choice? I’m embarrassed about a thought process that ever selects such a vague, lazy, and you are absolutely right, demeaning word as thing.
    Loving every day of your thoughts on living art.

  16. Bonnie says

    I want you to know that the last few blogs have moved me to get back to painting, painting the abstracts that I love to do, and always wondered if I should ‘waste my time’ on them. I love to do them, so I will. Thanks for the encouragement. I need all I can get.

  17. says

    The above photography blog is my heart for Jesus. It is most definitely my “thing”, but oh I love how you advise others not to ask me about my “thing”. It is cradled gently in my soul and I leave the results to HIM. I wanted to give others a place in the crazy/wild cyberspace that is all about self promotion, stats, comments, likes, etc. etc. My blog is a gentle stopping place for whoever HE sends my way. Yes, it is listed, and every once in awhile I post on my Facebook page a link. Usually, I leave it to the Lord to bring whomever might need a gentle place to sit, rest, pray, smack in the middle of craziness. I had another “friend” who basically thought I was nuts to want to do this. She knows every stat on her numerous blogs, is detailed to the max and that works for her and hoards of others who follow her. That, however, does not work for me…..I am a gentle artist, finding the beauty in every day life, in simplicity in soft romance. I have comments available, but never give the impression one cannot stop by without having to say “something” before moving on. My blog is like a little chapel I visited in the heart of the Ozarks in Arkansas, right there in the middle of nature. When I post, it is as if I am sitting in that chapel, just me and the Lord. I believe your words are precious to any artist, gentle, self-promoting, bold, shy, each of us will always have our moments when we wonder. You have a gift for writing, for reaching out and grabbing hearts and holding them close and then staying with us through the day, the weeks, the months to follow. Your words pop to mind and I smile. Funny, thing is, I love your writing, yet don’t stop as often as I would like because I get so into my “photography”. Yet, your words have stayed with me, as this post will. Artists, share themselves, give of themselves and we certainly are not “things”. We are HIS workmanship and precious in His sight. Thank you!

  18. says

    Yes. Thank you for writing so bravely about this. I “just” myself into paralyzation all the time. And, I’ve found myself referring to my writing as my “thing”, and I’m realizing how insignificant I make myself out to be.

    I’ve been hurt by the lack of interest or support from others, and I guess we all have protective walls we construct…mine is a wall of “it’s no big deal” and “I’m not really a great writer anyway”. Oh, how I want to love myself the way the Lord loves me, and to see my gifts as art. To not see myself as “just” or my art as a “thing”. I guess it all comes with learning to love who I’m created to be.

    Thanks for a safe place to reflect. xoxo

  19. Karen says

    Eugh. And DON’T ask how their little business is going. LITTLE business. It may well be the start of an empire – and even if it isn’t, it’s not [just] a little, insignificant, time-filler hobby [thing].

  20. says

    “But people who are trying something new already fear this attempt is risky and potentially a waste of time.”

    That is the line the zinged me. . yes, I am terribly afraid of wasting time. How can I get over that? I mean I know in my head. . just as my money is the Lord’s, so is my time. But I hold onto time so tightly. . .I am afraid to write the ebook or book proposal for fear is will be a waste of time. . .yet, I know in my head the Lord could use the process to teach me something. I know in my head that the Lord is more concerned with my heart and character than the “success” of my writing. . . .I don’t know. I am a jumbled mess :) Thanks for a blog post that got me thinking.

  21. says

    You are so wise. I refer to my art as “just this” or “just that” all the time. It’s taken me a long time to refer to myself as an artist, as a writer and still the thought of it makes me cringe sometimes. I cannot wait for Bloom to start so that I can begin reading your book, which I know I will absolutely love!

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