November 24, 2004

An Artist in Winter

It's a frustrating time for an artist when he lacks inspiration.

With that line, you may be amused or saddened. Amused, because you know me and you probably don't consider me an artist. In truth, it's probably only a self-attributed deception that I consider myself some kind of artist, but I like to think that sometimes I can write a decent song. And I love it when I get to glorify God through my creations, since ultimately He's the real artist, not me.

All the same, those of you who are saddened to hear that statement have it about right. Personally, I've been feeling drained of inspiration lately. I've always just written down what I was feeling and somehow it turned into music. Some pieces took a lot more thought, but eventually they turned out even better than I'd hoped. That's what happened to the song I used to propose to my wife.

But lately I find that I am uninspired.

This is not to say that there's nothing inspiring around me. On the contrary, there is so much around me that should inspire me: my wonderful wife, my friends, the beauty of nature (yes, even in Rochester, it's there), and, more generally, the Glory of God. Somebody once said "what else would you WANT to write about?" And that's how I feel; why would I want to write about some dumb girlfriend (appolagies to my ex's) that screwed me over when I could write about God's amazing mercy, His grace, and His creation?

And yet I am uninspired.

Nothing is coming out on paper when I sit down to write. Which, I admit, is rare. I'm sure that the frequency of my attempts have partially led to the dry-spell, but I often find myself in writer's-block, even after hours of contemplation. I have lots of random ideas about what I could write about, but nothing comes out. So I write down the ideas, and hope someday they'll inspire something.

Maybe this blog thing is my new creative outlet. I did just write a new poem for the description of my little site:

A place for me to rant and rave, a place for me to misbehave
A place for me to share my mind, a place for me to come unwind
A place for me to speak my thoughts, a place to tell of what I ought
A place for me to come and rest, a place for me to give my best

And maybe this is why I suddenly start waxing philosophical about art. I love art, I've loved it my entire life. I can't think of a time in my life when I wasn't fascinated by beauty, by sound (albeit, only most sound, I have my limits - country music, oboe solos, and the harpsichord all set my nerves on edge). I remember as a little kid, sitting around in my room just listening to the various cassette tapes (yes, remember those?) my parents had bought me. Mostly they were instrumental music, but sometimes singing too. I loved to think someday I could create art as beautiful as that.

And then I became a Christian. While I grew up in a Christian household and did the whole church thing, it wasn't until I was 14 that I really began to understand who God is, and it wasn't even until I was a sophomore in college that I started to really ask God Himself. It's been a bumpy road, but I think it's finally starting to look like a road instead of a fairly large forest with the occasional deer path. Now that I was a Christian, I had a whole lot of new stuff I could maybe work with ... and then the words began to flow. My first song took me two years to write (lyrics), and is still not finished. But since then I've had periods of intense writing, where I wrote song after song and barely had time to think about how I really wanted the chords to flow together. I've had times of break, little roadblocks where very little came out, but inevitably I'd come back into some kind of inspiration.

But not this time.

It's almost like I'm doomed to play somebody else's music for the rest of my life. And it's not like I've even gotten to play much lately, I listen to music in the car on the way to work or wherever. But I haven't written any of my own.

To everyone who hates whiners, I appologise profusely. I know this sounds like a rant or whatever (and if you decided that it was worth it to read it, you should've read my poem first), but I'm honestly trying to get to the point. As Rob would say "Chris, just shut up and sing" ... and yet that's precisely the problem.

I really like the music I listen to - David Crowder and Chris Tomlin are fantastic artists, and way more people should listen to their stuff (they've been an addiction for me lately, though up there on my list is still Caedmon's Call and Jars of Clay). And I really want to be able to write so well that my lyrics can be so simple and convey such astounding Truth. For example, Tomlin:

The cross before me, the world behind
No turning back, raise the banner high – it’s not for me, it’s all for You.
Let the heavens shake and split the sky
Let the people clap their hands and cry – it’s not for us, it’s all for You.

Or Crowder:

How great, Your love for us
How great, our love for You
That Grace would cover us
How great, Your love ...

They're amazing! The music goes as well with these words as penut butter with jelly, as milk and cookies, as cheese and ... well, about anything if you're me, but that's besides the point. My honest to goodness point is that I really want to figure out why my inspiration is gone. Is it stress? Is it lack of sleep? Is it God saying "time to do something else"? The last one I already discounted, because two years ago God called me to music as a ministry and said "learn to do this well." Makes ya wonder doesn't it?

Maybe this is just to show all of you that Christians, as much as we talk about God's unfailing love sometimes lose sight of it. We often forget that He'll take care of us when we're in a period of winter in life. We too can be down to earth and say "this is wrong, why can't it just be right?" and can wrestle with the hard questions.

Yet we're dreamers with our eyes in the clouds, artists with our heads tilted backwards looking higher than we've been and saying "let's go there!" And here is where my ramble comes to an end, for CS Lewis, another man whose writing I aspire to model, wrote these timeless words in the last book of his Narnia Series. Words that inspire me to keep plodding on, no matter what the consequence, no matter how bleak the winter, and no matter how far away the spring:

"Further up and farther in!"

No comments: