Monday, January 18, 2010

Working and Listening

I'm reading through Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, a collection of her ponderings on art, writing, and spirituality. L'Engle is most famous for her middle-grade novel A Wrinkle in Time. I came across a passage in the early chapters of Walking that felt like a good way to start off my writerly year.

"When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist; Shakespeare knew how to listen to his work, and so he often wrote better than he could write; Bach composed more deeply, more truly than he knew; Rembrandt's brush put more of the human spirit on canvas than Rembrandt could comprehend.

When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.

But before he can listen, paradoxically, he must work. Getting out of the way and listening is not something that comes easily, either in art or in prayer. . . . Someone wrote, 'The principle part of faith is patience,' and this applies, too, to art of all disciplines. We must work every day, whether we feel like it or not, otherwise when it comes time to get out of the way and listen to the work, we will not be able to heed it."


Demon Hunter said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I really needed to hear this because I've been extremely lazy since the new year and I need to get back on track. Thanks. :-D


Darlene C. Goodman said...

I'm in the same boat. I needed the kickstart too.

haricot vert said...

Right then Ms. Darlene, and I have a question, although it may be OT and I can always dialog with you off-line about this: How does the discipline relate to prayer, and the resultant getting out of the way?

Darlene C. Goodman said...

The context for this quote came out of L'Engle's discussion of how when she prays sometimes she has to get all the "I need this, I need that" stuff out of the way to listen to what God is saying to her. It's similar with writing, we often have to get agendas out of the way before we can truly hear from the characters and the story.

purpleprose 78 said...

It helps if your characters are talking to you and/or each other.