we will make art

“Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five. In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

As the glitz and glitter of a tired December settles right behind us, it feels big and brave to write down a list of goals under a heading of 2011. And January comes with a gumption-filled heart, and I look at her both with narrow eyes and the tiniest glimmer of hope. We tend to dream big but live small. January is for dreaming, and it feels brave and right, because we glimpse our potential and we dare to believe in a God who can do big things through us.

But then the living barges in ruining all our good intentions. And so we settle. It’s because there is fear in art. But if we live to avoid the fear, we miss the art, too. Despite what I always believed, the closer you get to finding your art, the more fear will hound you.

Annie sent me an email on New Years Eve. It was an email of support and of love. And at the end, after she said some stuff and some things, she said this: “2011. We will make art.” Fear showed up when I read her words, but not the dark kind with the big teeth. Instead, I was backstage with a puking Henry Fonda, ready to head out on Broadway. The fear was big, but the art was bigger. He wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else. And of course, neither would I. What about you?


  1. says

    A lady I mentored under once told me that fear and excitement are physiologically the exact same thing – it’s just your perspective that’s different… That’s really helped me to not see fear as the big dark kind with teeth, but as something thrilling to be embraced. As for my dreams and art this year… well, I finally started that blog I wanted… and am trying to figure out how to listen to God when scared to hear what he might have to say. Ironic, given the quote that started this whole comment! 😉

  2. says

    Ugh. I am having such a difficult time being optimistic about 2011. My husband is in the military, and he has a year filled with schools and deployments and lots of time away from home ahead. I am having a hard time seeing anything BUT the bad in it right now. I needed to read this tonight.

  3. says

    Oh how I’ve missed your writing. Perhaps a temporary “fog”-lift between book writing, but I’m loving it. And this I loved: “January comes with a gumption-filled heart, and I look at her both with narrow eyes and the tiniest glimmer of hope. We tend to dream big but live small.” Especially the narrow eyed look. Laugh out loud good. And hope is that good.

  4. says

    Beautiful!! Stepping out in faith in the midst of fear!

    God is soooo stinkin’ good!

    Happy Birthday Em!
    (I say that as if i know you… the whole shortened/nick-name thing… sorry)

  5. says

    i love this because it makes it ok for me to be afraid. and i love that you call what we do making art. it sounds so fun and quite beautiful. who wouldn’t want to make art even in spite of the fear?

  6. Cheyenne says

    Oh i love this!! You have a way with writing that just resonates with my heart! I feel like we could be kindred spirits. I love that you said January is for dreaming. That makes me so excited. And I appreciate the ever present challenge of moving forward with faith despie the fear. love it!! Thank you so much.

  7. says

    Well, I’m doing two things this year that scare me to death…going to Blissdom and running a half marathon. Out of my comfort zone, I’ll definitely have to stretch myself but I’m doing it and there’s no looking back! I HEART Henry Fonda, what an amazing guy. Ever since I was a tiny girl he reminded me of my adorable dad…still does. Happy New Year and I look forward to meeting you at Blissdom!

  8. says

    “…the closer you get to finding your art, the more fear will hound you.” Wow.

    I am strangely encouraged by this sentence because I have lived much of my life in the comfort zone and I am slowly being peeled up out of my comfy couch. When fear creeps in, I will draw on these good words and keep digging for my art! Thank you, Emily.

  9. says

    i love this. very encouraging for those of us trying to make art in the everyday. so much fun to see you and your sweet fam yesterday. i posted about how i ignored the how old are you question! lol!

  10. says

    LOVE your blog, Emily! And comforted to read your post on fear. It will help- me and many others- in the days ahead, I’m sure. A great start- on making art:)

  11. says

    We will make art. I think 2011 has found its perfect theme. It is – on the surface – so simple, but it is also confounding and complex. I am quite certain beautiful things will come of it.

  12. says

    Emily, What a beautiful post. I am committing myself to facing my fears in 2011 because as big as I make the fear, I know that the art if bigger. :) Your post so resonated with me, I can’t wait to read more of your writing. (Just found you and read 3 of your posts this morning before work.) Thank you for your inspiration!

  13. says

    YES!!!!!!!!!!! That is my goal for 2011… ART…
    I love this quote from Ann Voskamp’s Relevent Keynote:
    “Do you know that in Scripture the word for service, art, worship is the very same word: AVODAH…”

  14. says

    From beginning to end, I love this post. What a fabulous tidbit about Henry Fonda. Completely inspiring.

    In the next few months I am will be attempting to book my first Meet the Illustrator elementary school visits. One of my main challenges for the students is going to be “Never stop dreaming, creating, or learning — even when you’re afraid.” I plan to talk about the fear that grips me each time I stare at a blank piece of paper that is waiting for me to begin a drawing. “What if I can’t do it? What if it doesn’t come?” …and the joy that lies on the other side of the fear.

    But at the same time, I am completely frightened at the prospect of getting up in front of hundreds of little faces and falling flat. I guess dreams are often equal parts fear and excitement. You re-inspired me to let the dreams and excitement outweigh the fear this year, and to make those phone calls…

  15. says

    I feel like I’m holding my breath to keep a secret that is so *right* and yet so deep. I’ve got a treasure for this year I’m having to live for a bit before I can talk about it, before I get to see it in writing and share it with my friends. It’s just the time that is holding me back, and the little things in front of it all, but the fear isn’t here today. It’s delight. It’s passion. It’s alive. *I’m* alive.

    Girl, you’re gonna make art this year, and those squinty, narrowed eyes are gonna get real wide with wonder when you see what He does with you, when you realize that the thing you do was so much bigger than you expected. Happy New Year, friend. I can’t wait to see where it takes us!

  16. Tricia says

    Thank you for this post. I need to print it out. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who encounters those feelings.

  17. says

    Ps. I gotta say. Reading this in the wee-middle-night hours last night all sleepy-slanted and through my own groggy fog, I felt hope. HOPE. All white-horse-like Hope and my heart surged up in excitment for new beginnings, again. I love how we encourage eachother onward….

  18. says

    Some of the most inspirational words I have read in this bloggy world. “Writing as worship” and “fear in art”.

    I am grateful for what you have written. Grateful that I got to read it. And I’m reminded fear is not the lack of courage, but rather the decision that something else is more important than fear. That God is more important than fear. That his will is more important than mine. And I desire that will – and all else is fog and mist.

    Write as worship and deal with the fear in the art. Thank you Emily. God Bless.

  19. says

    I’m with you Emily (perhaps peering out from behind the curtain.). I love the art. The fear comes when I somehow manage to scratch out something someone finds worthy. How will I ever be able to do it again? It is tempting to take a final bow and quit while I’m ahead – but I am compelled to do it all over again.

  20. says

    love this post emily. i love your words about how january makes us feel. you’re are so right. i’m planning to link up with you tomorrow too, if the opportunity for a tuesdays unwrapped presents itself!

  21. says


    I just loved this so much! Fear is one of my biggest enemies – I’ve let it stop me from doing many things. I’m tired of all that. So, I guess that would put me in the puking crowd! I’m ready to go on stage…I’m going to make some art~

  22. susan says

    Beautiful. I’ll hopefully be puking with you soon. I need to find the guts to get that far. But this is the year for things to change–for the better. It has to happen. I can’t do the “slide” anymore. It isn’t who I am. Thank you. Love the quote, it’s a noodge I needed. And I wish you the joy of heading out on that stage after you’ve splashed a little cold water on your face… -s-

  23. says

    have you been reading my mind?
    i’m in full-on dream mode right now…
    and that dream has to do with making art.
    happy 2011, emily!

  24. says

    “The closer you are to finding your art, the more fear will hound you”.

    This is so true! Thank you for writing this. I am working so hard to step out and do what I feel I am supposed to be doing, but it is from pain and suffering that this art is being birthed from, and I am afraid. I am afraid to step out into the light. But God is there, and He is calling to me and I am trying so desperately to listen and hear His voice leading me!

  25. says

    I’m realizing that the fear I had for so long was that my art wouldn’t be recognized, so I fought tooth and nail for it to be so. Yeah. That’s not exactly what God had planned for me. My art is, turns out, not what I had planned for it to be. And I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m trusting Him to give me “the desires of my heart,” meaning I want HIM to give me the desire for what HE wants my art to be. And to run headlong into His arms when the fear threatens to derail me.

  26. says

    Fear will always be present. No matter what decision we have in life, we will always feel that way. It’s just a matter of us how to handle things. Personally, I just make sure that every decision I have right now will always be connected to my ultimate goal. In that way, I can prevent myself of getting too worried about things that might happen in the future.

  27. says

    wow. on the same wavelength. there is a small, but ever-growing group at our church that has been feeling this draw over the last 6 months. we call it “the REnaissance project”…we are dreaming and taking steps to educate ourselves and move out to reach our city through the gifts we’ve been given from our Creator. on the 20th, we will gather for a “charge” from our pastor. exciting, scary…i can’t wait to see what He has in store!

  28. says

    Fear has been a constant companion of mine during all of our big moves. But it has always been worth it to see, learn and discover more of this world and experience more of what life has to offer. And I too am ready to make art!

  29. says

    So much truth in this post! And beautifully written, too. Hope you have a 2011 full of art … and fear (since that means you’re getting closer to finding your art!).

  30. says

    I’m brave enough to make art because I know when it gets really hard, I can call you and cry with fear and you’ll say, “come stay with us, you’ll be fine.” And I will.

  31. says

    Fear is licking my heels these days and knocking down my back door. I needed these words a lot today, Emily. Just this morning I sat on the couch feeling all insecure and down about writing, wondering if I should change my style, make it fancier, more poetic, more lyrical — basically more someone else and less me. Man, the comparison game can get you down on the art, eh? Anyway, thanks for this. Your timing is excellent indeed.

  32. says

    Decades ago, I made a decision, a choice if you will, that I’d believe God. Some days I believe Him a few and some days a few dozen but I believe. He’s able, He’s willing, He’s waiting and all I have to do is step up to the plate, carrying my bucket…myself… and He fills it…me… to overflowing. He fills it…me… so much I’m breathless and totally in awe and amazement at what He’s doing and what He’s doing is a smidgen of what He can do.
    When I choice to believe, I concentrated on those Bible verse that would propel me forward and keep me from heading backwards. His plans for me to do good, that fear is not of Him; you know the ones, I’m sure.
    Yes, some days it’s difficult but not as difficult as not making that choice and then living that choice.
    So, make art. The alternative isn’t worth the thought.
    I think I’m visiting from Dawn but the days are a trifle confusing so…my apologies if I’ve gotten it wrong.

  33. Claire says

    Today’s post led me to this post, lest you think I am strange for commenting on an old post. I LOVE this picture. I think it is one of most favorite of your pictures. I don’t know why. I just love it. Thank you for your blog. Not only is your writing appreciated, but your photography is as well.

  34. says

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