what is art?

photo-1433574466251-fe1be0d9b3d2I was excited to have the chance this week to share another guest post on my brother’s blog! (If you haven’t already subscribed to his blog, now would be a great time to do so!) I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I used the opportunity to talk about art again.

Several months back, I took some time to answer a significant question: is art important? From the Word of God, the conclusion was a resounding YES. But while art may be important, one crucial question remains unanswered. What is art after all?

Art has multiple aspects which make it appear at first glance to be a difficult field to define. Add to that the twisted definitions of our culture, and art now indicates a wide array of things to our society—ranging from the fine arts of the masters to things so deluded we would be ashamed even to see them. Thankfully, as the Bible affirms to us that art is important, it also guides us to a clear understanding of what art actually is.

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the importance of art in a biblical worldview

Have you ever wondered if art really matters? When I first considered studying art as more than a hobby, I pondered this subject. Today, an article I’ve written, “The Importance of Art in a Biblical Worldview” was guest-posted on my brother Daniel’s blog.

In Genesis chapter one, God creates the earth and everything in it, culminating His creation with a man and a women who were made in His own image.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”[1]

Made in the image of God, mankind is Spiritual, unlike the creatures of the heavens and earth that God also created. Mankind is also intelligent, relational, communicative, reasoning—and creative.  Because of the image of God imprinted in mankind, human beings create. Thus, there is art.

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the good stories

I enjoy stories as much as the next guy. (Or maybe more, never know.) People fascinate me, even the fictional ones, and I want to know them and their stories, and see what’s going to happen. But sadly, not all authors write worth my time. Much as I don’t like it, this means giving up stories, but in their place I’ll choose good stories.

The good stories help me grow. They help me love God and other people. They teach me to think and feel more deeply. They do not fill my mind with filth or violate my knowledge of decency or beauty. They increase my wisdom.

The good stories are not concerned with being popular. If every cool kid in the country has raved over it, I’ll likely be better off not bothering with it. Contemporary culture is stagnant and obsessed with everything that leaves it just that way. I’ll take the stories that can stand on their own, that transcend time and place–the ones that live on.

The good stories imitate the best story, God’s story. This one story outshines all others. Begun around six thousand years ago and still being told in each of our lives, this story unfolds as the grandest masterpiece ever created. This story tales of darkness, all while shining light brighter than the darkest dark. It chronicles people struggling, winning, feeling, giving up, losing, holding on. It offers hope and promises that hope does not disappoint. It showcases God. These are the kind of stories I want.

The good stories are nothing to be ashamed of. These stories enrich my life and honor the One who made stories in the first place. So I don’t care what people think, I just want the good stories.

It’s time to leave behind the stories that don’t measure up and find the good ones. Take those and savor them. The good stories are worth our time.

Mr. Collins P&P

“Protested that he never read novels”

(Yes, it’s Mr. Collins. You’re welcome. No, I don’t agree with him.)

a making that matters

I am instilled with a desire to make, and an even greater desire to make things that matter.

It holds me back and pushes me forward all at once.

Not all things can be great. Brilliant ideas will at times fall flat and fail to touch people. Hard work will simply be work, and the profit of the labor pass by undetected. It is nothing short of difficult and temptation calls to stop.

And yet, there is more–the foundation that this urging comes not simply from my own desire, but purpose: being made in the image of a creative God.

making

When the making is hard and the goal seems impossible, keep going. There is a making that matters: it speaks truth and points upward to hope; it catches people off guard, telling them that there is more, life was created for meaning; gently illuminating the way to go.

inspiration & getting things done

Ever since I was young I wanted to write. I wrote my first story when I was six; however, when I look back over the following fourteen years, I don’t have much writing to show for so many years of life. It was mostly just a hobby and something easy to do that I was relatively good at. Even though I wanted to take my writing seriously, my writing habits testified otherwise.

A couple months ago I got curious about how many words of fiction/poetry I’d written. My count can’t be completely accurate, as I was only counting typed work, but the total came out to about 70,000 words. Some of my closest friends have written in the 1,000,000 word range–my seventy thousand words were looking awfully small to me.

Writing Inspiration

In November I tackled NaNoWriMo for the second time. Starting NaNo, I knew I was going to do my best to reach the goal (I didn’t want to have a second attempt without winning), but…I really wasn’t sure I could do it. Not really, because I hardly ever write super consistently, and if I do manage some consistency, I don’t write very much.

No joking, NaNo was difficult for me. There were days I didn’t want to write, but forced myself to anyway; there were days when I didn’t want to write and didn’t; and then there were more days of zero-inspiration and writing anyway. In the end, to my own surprise, I made it, not because I’m an amazing writer or because I felt totally inspired to write all month long, but because I stuck with the goal all month despite that I did not feel inspired most of the time.

Through NaNo, I learned one of my most important writing lessons to date– Writing is not necessarily about being particularly inspired but rather about keeping goals and writing consistently.

I’m still working at putting this into practice, but a month of plowing through the uninspired days gave me a few a ideas on how to make this work for me. The biggest thing is that I need to write consistently, whether that’s every day or at least several times a week.  I need to keep my goals whether or not I really feel like it.  I now know that I can fall back on character introspection when I’m out of ideas, so on the uninspired days, I take advantage of my writing strength, and typically processing inside my character’s mind for a little while gives me some idea of where to take things next.

This isn’t to say that writing has nothing to do with inspiration, because that’s certainly not the case. Of course, my favorite writing sessions happen when I’m inspired, when I have words swimming in my mind that won’t let me rest until I get them out. Most often it happens when I’m trying to fall asleep at night. Rather than pushing the thoughts out of my mind until morning and then getting frustrated when I can no longer recreate them, I take the time to write when the inspiration hits, no matter if it might be somewhat inconvenient.

My first goal is to get my writing done. My second goal is to take advantage of inspiration whenever it comes. When the goals coincide, great! But when they don’t, I won’t hang around waiting. Now’s the time to get things done. :)

When do you feel most inspired to write? And how do you keep yourself moving forward when you lack inspiration?

NaNoWriMo in review

During the month of November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, with a goal to write 50,000 words on a new novel. I tried this challenge last year and didn’t make it very far, but since I’ve met this Autumn with a lot more writing direction and purpose, I wanted to try again. Much to my excitement, I was able to complete NaNo this year (with a total word count of 50,086 words at completion). While I completed the goal of NaNo, I still have more writing to do before the first draft is completed; my next goal is to finish draft 1 by the end of January 2015.

My novel (currently unnamed) follows the story of a teen-aged Egyptian boy who leaves his country in the Biblical exodus of the Israelites and then accompanies the Israelites in their journeying through the wilderness.

Writing 50,000 words in a month was first of all a lot of work, but it was also exciting and fun. In addition to that, it helped me learn several things about my writing style. The following points were my four most helpful tips and tricks for getting words written:

  • Update the word count tracker and study the progress graph. I don’t think I ever wrote more than about 300 words without updating the word count on my progress graph (except for the time I was in the car without wi-fi, but you can see why that had to be the exception). Following every update, I would thoroughly restudy the progress stats and mentally plan out a goal for reaching my next two hundred words of writing.
  • Pumpkin spice coffee. This helped me not freeze in this cold autumn weather and helped me be motivated to write…however that works. Somehow I always drank most all of my coffee before I wrote any words, but still..it was one of the inspiring points that helped me complete NaNo! ;)
  • Start every chapter with the main character waking up in the morning. Somehow this happened- not good writing technique but a very convenient way to know how to start a chapter when I had no inspiration for anything more original.
  • Intense personal introspection for every important character. When starting a new chapter with the previously-mentioned method did not increase my word count enough, it was time to move onto the next and most-proven method of my writing: a deep and thorough look inside most every character’s brain. I know the fact that I used this technique means I have a lot of editing ahead of me. ;)

I learned some other (more useful) lessons from NaNo, but those shall be saved for upcoming posts. In the meantime, who else participated in NaNo? How did  it go for you? :)

On Being a Writer

“Is being a writer a desirable thing?”  That’s the question being pondered at the moment, and I’m thinking maybe it’s not. 

If you know me well, I can imagine that I might receive some startled expressions upon reading that…if even only from my family, there would be some.  How many times in the past week have I asked how to improve my writing?  How many times have I mentioned how good a writer so-and-so is? How many times have I been found at my computer writing something?  Quite a few, to say the least.  And if that’s not enough, how many times have I thought to myself about writing?  How many times have I read certain blog posts several times over just to try to learn something about writing?  How many times have I thought “that would make a perfect blog post” and proceeded to plan it all out?  Quite a few.

So you see, I like writing very much.  But the question still nags in my mind, is being a writer really the area I ought to devote a lot of time to?

I ask because I’ve been reading in the gospels a lot this year, and today I read Matthew 23.  This jumped out at me: “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.’” (verses 1-3) 

The scribes and Pharisees talk well…very well.  Obey everything they so correctly say.  But realize that they only have correct speech.  When it comes to actions, they don’t live out their words.   Their fine words are in and of themselves are quite commendable, but their actions — or lack thereof — are not. 

It’s ever so easy to write and talk.  The world is filled with people who seem to have that talent mastered.  The real question, though, is not whether one writes well, whether or not one knows how to structure sentences just so in order to really keep your attention, and whether or not all their thoughts flow coherently and smoothly from one to the next.  As a writer, that all matters to me.  But the truth is, if I have the most splendidly written masterpiece and don’t live out my words there wasn’t much point.  Was there any point? 

To say the least, this has been a very convicting thought for me.  There’s more thoughts on this that I hope to share at some point.  For tonight though, writing must take a low priority, because I’ve got some more important things to spend time, thought, and feeling on.  In the meantime, I’d be interested to hear if you have any thoughts to share!