(This isn’t the fox I drew, but rather one I found online to work from – isn’t it charming delightful?)
Last week I started work on a painting I planned
to give to a friend. Standing at the old
sink in the Little House (where my office is) I covered a small, square, wooden
canvas with a mixture of turquoise and dark purple paint and left it to
dry. The next day I added one or two more
layers of the same colors. I liked the
combination and was happy, so far, with my little project.
(This, often, is the beginning of the problem.)
Next I played with some tulle netting, painting over it
like a stencil to add layers of texture and depth. Now I liked the painting even more and the
more I liked it, the more my progress slowed.
Love for what was made me hesitant to move toward what might be.
But the painting was nowhere near complete. With the background finished, it was time to
add an image and words. I already had
words in mind and thought a fox would be a fitting image, so I looked online for
a few samples to work from. With luck, I
easily found a sketch I loved. I printed
it and prepped my canvas board with a glossy gel layer that would preserve and
protect the background while also allowing me to ‘erase’ my drawing at any
point if I made a mistake.
Then my progress stalled for several days. I loved the background, loved the fox, but I
was afraid to mess up either one. I was
afraid to start, afraid to try, even though the gel coating meant I could begin again at any time.
I hemmed and hawed, I set my work aside and did not look the
sly fox in the eye.
Maybe it wouldn’t be worth writing about if it wasn’t such a
common occurrence – the way fear creeps in, cloaked in perfectionism and I, a
creature of habit and instinct, caught between fight and flight, freeze like a
deer in headlights.
Again, maybe it wouldn’t be much if it hadn’t happened also
last week when it came to updating my book files, and if success updating the
print files had (as it should have) given way to confidence to deal with the
e-book files. Instead, each step ran up
against (and temporarily stalled out in the face of) its own wall of fear.
I see this pattern again and again in my creativity and, if
I’m honest, in my life. I prefer the
known to the unknown, even when the known is not particularly good, but
especially if the known is good and filled with delight.
How much time, how much energy, do I waste in this fearful
Why do I fail to believe that the grace of one step might
carry over into the next?
Maybe I need to become like the desert monk, Abba Paul,
who worked all year long weaving baskets only to burn them and begin again each year – maybe I need to learn again and again the art of detachment, the gift of
faith beyond sight.
I talked with a college student about this the other night,
one who’s currently taking a drawing class.
We trotted together across the cold, dark campus on our way to a Bible
study and I confessed how fear had me frozen.
“It’s ridiculous,” I said. “What am I so afraid of? Especially when I could just erase it, just
paint over it and start the whole thing over?”
She offered no answer, but confessed to witnessing the same
tendency in herself and we continued through the crisp winter night together
until we reached our destination – a small house aglow with warmth and light.
The next day, having voiced my fears aloud into the frigid
night air, I pulled the fox from its lair beneath a stack of papers on the
kitchen counter and looked it in the eye.
With a white gel pen, I sketched the outline on my canvas first, then
filled in the fur. I kept a bowl of
water and q-tips nearby for erasing mistakes, but truth be told, I got it on
the first try and barely erased a line.
Then, emboldened by success, I added low-lights in midnight blue to
bring the fox alive.
I was happy with the drawing, happy with my success.
Yet, I stopped, again, frozen in the face of the next step
– hand lettering the words. How would I space them?
What fonts should I employ?
I set the work aside, because now I was even more invested, had
even more to risk, even more to lose. Against the purple and blue background, the white fox
sparkled silver and fixed me with its shining eye.
Every wall of fear has a door. The door cracks open, for me, when I recognize fear as an invitation to examine my own intrinsic attachment and
Now, when the wall rises up in front of me, I imagine stretching out
my empty hand and opening the door. On the other side stands the fox, staring. Then, in a flash of beauty, she turns and runs off into the night.
Every day that I create something, I bump up against
fear’s wall. And, faster now, I hear the fox’s sly whisper, “Look for the door.”
How do you experience and deal with fear in your creative life? In your faith life?
* * *
Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.
What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?
That’s my proposal – that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. You’re invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder. Don’t worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right – you’re welcome to come as you are.
While you’re here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment. Thanks for being part of our community!