I hadn’t left the house in three days. My kids morphed into independence overnight and what I was cooking for dinner became the highlight of my week. When writing turned into a meaningless task, I knew I was in trouble.
In Julia Cameron’s words I had “overfished (my) inner reservoir without having taken the time and care to consciously restock (my) storehouse of images.” A heavy sigh turned into my frequent sentence. For days.
Rummaging through familiar file boxes above my desk, I happened on a stack of forgotten, unfinished watercolor paintings. Perfectionism provided the padlock on my palette five years ago, but now I was seeing them with keen acceptance. They weren’t that bad, I thought. So I shared them on Facebook with abandon and received applause from a chorus of friends.
As I read Cameron’s Right to Write, I took her sage advice of an Artist Date like a prescription – “a once-weekly solitary expedition to something festive that interests (me).” I wanted it to be the miracle cure for the desperate black hole of disconnection, when a trip to London or the laughter of community seemed achingly elusive.
The next morning I walked the aisles of Fresh Market, looking for association to the broader landscape of humanity through the smells of exotic spices. I settled on a bouquet of pink and violet Lisianthus instead; perennials providing an outdoor backdrop for Christmas cards in years past while living in Phoenix. Cultivars that don’t thrive in the place I now call home.
On the way home, I made an impromptu decision, a sporadic swerve into the parking lot of an art gallery I’d driven by a million times but never visited. I’ll be just a few minutes, I said out loud to myself and the cellophane sleeve of connection lying on the passenger seat in the sun.
Perhaps this Artist Date will be the inspiration I need to reopen my paints at the cottage, I thought. We were leaving for vacation in a week.
I returned to the driver’s seat an hour later, thankful my flowers didn’t wilt.
I hadn’t planned on meeting Kelly. Or a potential date to go back with my daughter.
A casual introduction meandered to a generous crescendo of conversation when Kelly and I realized our sons were school friends and we’d never met. Leafing through her small leather sketch book of unfinished paintings inspired in carpool lines, she encouraged me to paint when I could and offered to help my daughter with a college portfolio.
I commented that I admired her compact art book and admitted that I keep a small journal for jotting down writing notes in my car; that I’d surrendered painting to perfectionism.
Two days later, I received an unexpected package at my front door from a friend I’ve only known virtually through blogging. A personalized leather bound book filled with a variety of art papers and tied with extravagantly long ribbons in my favorite color, magenta. “Yes, I believe in you,” the handwritten card started, “I pray that you can find in this gift a place to create.”
She didn’t know about that Artist Date. But God did.
Bracing myself against the kitchen counter, over an open cardboard box of tissue paper and ribbons, I cupped my hand over my mouth while repeating, “Oh my God,” for ten long minutes. I was having a conversation with Him when words seemed trite and limiting; a soul declaration at the intersection of secret longing and extravagant riches.
He restocked the pond I was overfishing with an impulsive Artist Date and a lavish gift; a holy invitation to create.
A week later, I lingered under afternoon sun on a bench looking over the muse of a still lake on vacation. Paints and containers of water spread out on a picnic table before me. Taking a deep breath, I dipped the end of the paintbrush into cerulean blue and watched pigment run slow tributaries on damp paper forming clouds in my new book.
And perhaps more than a solitary expedition of courting creative consciousness, an Artist Date is a providential rendezvous to listen; an invitation to quiet the voice of perfectionistic idealism in order to hear the whispers of divine romance.
How is the Creator wooing you?
During September at Living the Story, we explore the theme Create. On September 30th, author Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky, joins us with her story, an opportunity for bloggers to link-up, and a giveaway of her new book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live. We hope you’ll join us on the fifth Monday in the comments for a chance to win and share your stories with us on how the word Create speaks to you.
Shelly Miller is smitten with the art of story to transform a life. She writes about her own struggles as a child of divorce and alcoholism, and the way God redeems it all as a clergy wife raising two teens. With experience as a full-time missionary, advocate for orphans in Rwanda and leader of women’s ministries for small and large congregations, she is passionate to help people realize calling despite circumstance. When her husband H isn’t leading a church planting movement in North America, they drive five minutes across the street to take a walk on the Atlantic, with a camera strapped to her shoulder.