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Making Art For and With People You Love

I’m often tempted to be envious of friends who make music in community. The harmony on display is so attractive. I have friends in Nashville who have the kind of creative community people like me dream about. Also, singer/songwriters perform regularly and get instant feedback. They might hear clapping and see smiles the day after they write a song. It’s an endeavor closely connected to community.

By comparison, making a book is a solitary act—countless hours spent on writing, rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting. It’s an insane amount of alone time.

I always knew it would be this way. Solitary.

Except when it isn’t.

In my journey toward the publication of my first book, my eyes have been opened to just how much it involves others. I could never have done this on my own. If I tried, it would have been an awful experience.

One of those people who helped me tremendously was Helena Aman (Sorensen). She is an incredibly gifted writer, songwriter, singer, and on and on. She spent a lot of time editing my manuscript (and yelling at me in all caps to BE BRAVER). Recently, she and I were discussing the often disappointing world of publishing, and she said something that stuck with me. She said, in all the disappointments she has had, all she wants is to make art for, and with, people she loves.

Yes. That’s it.

In the old world of publishing, you begged and waited to be picked by a gatekeeper (publisher/agent) and you hoped they would care. There was no other way. With the flattened world of the internet, connections are available everywhere and finding your audience is now possible in new ways. Not easy, but possible. Connecting with those people you feel called to love and serve with your creative work is available if you have the passion to work at it and the luck/grace to be given lots of gifts along the way.

I have been given so much. The Rabbit Room community? My goodness, what a gift. Story Warren’s little tribe of families fostering imagination? An incredible gift. Facebook has connected me with old friends from my little high school in Huntington, WV, and the other high school I attended: Hoerskool Ferrum in Newcastle, South Africa. Amazing. Because of the era we live in, it really is possible to make art for, and with, people you love. Of course it always has been.

“You don’t have to change the world. All you’ve got to do is show up,” sings Jill Phillips.

You don’t have to change the whole world. You can start with your “little” one. Little is the new big. You don’t have to be a NYT best-seller to change your world. Your world might be three little kids, or a small school, or a rural community that church-planting books don’t talk about.

The internet does provide a vehicle for expanded connection that I’m grateful for. I’m afraid of what we sometimes trade when we look for intimacy on-line that’s designed for true incarnation. “Flesh and blood needs flesh and blood,” as Johnny Cash sang. But that’s not to say that the internet can’t be a launching point for incarnational endeavors, including art.

There will always be people who don’t care. You can tell by how quickly they become disinterested when you stop talking about their money, or their pleasure, or their pride. The texts/emails stop being returned. There’s a transactional nature to relationships that’s hard to avoid. We’re all guilty of using relationships for our own ends. It’s lousy but it’s true.

But what a pleasure it is to have the chance to connect with people you love, to serve and be served in some creative endeavor. I am astonished and grateful at the chance I’ve had through publishing my first book to be on the receiving end of all kinds of loving community. It’s something new to me. I feel like I was given the chance to make art for, and with, people I love. Is that really rare? It feels like it is. I feel spoiled. I feel special. I feel deeply loved.

I’m probably a little naive. But with as little innocence as I feel like I have left in life to experience, I’m going to try to enjoy this.

And I’ll keep on working toward projects that allow me to do this again.

Because no matter what changes for me, more or less readers, more or less money, I think what I want most of all is what Helena said.

I want to make art for, and with, people I love.


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