Monday, January 18, 2010

Working and Listening

Cross-posted on The Modern Myth Makers

I've been 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 was 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."

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