As artists, we often sense that something is trying to get born through us. We get a flash of an idea while we’re walking the dog or gardening and feel a sudden urge to get to the page or the studio. I believe these inklings are more than nifty creative ideas we come up with. I believe they point to our creative calling.
Calling is more often more whisper than thunderclap. The heavens don’t part; God does not reach down a hand to show us the way. A friend described calling like a mouse scratching at the walls of her sister’s country house. You hear it in the night, but can’t see the source.
If our creative work is a calling, then it is our job to listen for it, recognize it, and act. But often we’re too busy to hear. The laundry needs to be folded, the kids have soccer practice, and the dog needs to go to the vet. In the hours that used to be empty, we’re busy with the Internet, checking e-mail, updating our status on social media, binge watching television on Netflix.
Or maybe we don’t take our calling seriously. We don’t recognize the value of our work. We feel guilty about the hours cultivating our craft, the days spent alone in a room. We can’t see ahead to an audience that might benefit from what we offer, can’t fathom that someone might take comfort or seek inspiration there.
We forget the source of our own calling, that book or a work of art that changed our lives. For me it was the novella, The Country of the Pointed of Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett, which I discovered in the back corner of a bookstore in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It was my first winter in the Northeast, far away from my hometown of San Francisco. It was a quiet book that taught be how to slow down and live in a quiet place. To my surprise, years later when I re-read it, I realized the protagonist was a writer.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience, the film or exhibition you stumbled upon that brought forward something you hadn’t realized existed within you.
When I launched the Creative Mix interviews, I hoped they would provide ideas and inspiration for women trying to build lives in the arts in the 21st century. I chose women who were successfully managing art, life, and livelihood. As I went along, I realized that their success lay in their ability to heed their calling, to trust that their work had enough value to create lives around it.
Are you listening carefully for your calling? Do you trust yourself enough to follow it and build your life around it?