Don’t be surprised if you’re making bad art. Don’t be discouraged. And whatever you do, don’t stop. Keep making bad art. Not because you’re wrong about your self-evaluation — you might be producing some really awful stuff. But just because the thing you’re working on is a ripe mess doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to stop working. On the contrary, that might be both the worst time and reason to quit. I think you need to make bad art in order to make anything better. I know that’s been the case for me.
I reach the tracks and look both ways, like the sign says, just in case, though it’s difficult to imagine a train without a decent amount of noise to warn its approach.
I take my time crossing the tracks.
I look down the east line and imagine what’s beyond the horizon, imagine myself on the Amtrak, one station away from the New Mexico border. Red lights flash, the bell ding ding dings, and my pace quickens.
I am momentarily weightless standing here in the waning night, loose from sleep and freed by unfettered rest. Is it even right to be taking my emotional temperature this early in the morning? Shouldn’t I be telling myself how I feel? Brand new day! Clean slate! Expect to see God’s goodness! His mercies are new every morning! I do believe this. But some days it’s hard for the message to sink into my gut. I need extra time to dress myself in that truth.
As much as motherhood has taken away — time to write, the ability to practice the piano without little hands taking over the keyboard ("Scooch, Mama”), the mental acuity to use polysyllabic words (or, some days, to finish sentences) — it has given me more. I have not lost myself in motherhood, as I had feared, but discovered myself. I don't just mean I've realized the beauty and joy of being a mother, but in and through motherhood I've grasped new ways of being creative. I learn creativity from my children, who are infinitely the same as and different from me; I learn creativity through my desire to create for them; I learn creativity simply by opening myself up to being something else.
Even with the best hopes, the truest motives, we will get hurt, because the world is very messy. Stepping in, even with responsibility born of love, is never neat-and-clean. To take up the wounds of the world will wound us, as it did God himself — which is why the heart of our vocation must be the imitation of the vocation of God. Nothing else can so form us, nothing else can so sustain us.