The Way I Create
By Rachel Printy
This summer I was accepted into the CFW’s Faith & Art Course. I was both thrilled and terrified. As someone whose primary job was in healthcare, my identity as a writer was a relatively new one. Sure, I’d had a couple short stories published, but felt I didn’t belong with this group. After several rejections on some of the more recent pieces I’d written, I was about to give up on writing. Through this course, I wanted to see how other Christian artists managed to endure in their work despite periods of self-doubt and criticism from the industry.
The first day I found myself in a room with twenty or so other artists. Some of them, like me, were bi-vocational. Some were brand-new to the art world, or had just started exploring a second or third outlet for their creativity (eg., actors who had also begun to learn photography, dancers who were venturing into graphic art, etc). Others had practiced their art form for decades. Quite a few shared how difficult their journeys had been because of the financial instability of the field, or because of their fear of disappointing family members who felt that they should find a “more practical” job. The common thread that bound us was our desire to glorify God with our gifts, and to find unique ways that we could use our art to shape and influence our culture so that it reflects to the world the hope that is at the heart of the redemptive message of the gospel.
What does this mean? It certainly does not mean that we should limit our art to only painting scenes from the Bible or writing devotionals. The course taught us to ask ourselves, “If my call as a Christian is to love others, how does that influence the way I create?” As artists we try to make sense of the human experience, to dig deep into the meaning of it all, and to capture the chaos and the beauty surrounding us. As Christian artists, we desire for our art to point to hope – a hope that can only be fulfilled in Christ our Redeemer. Through self-reflection, prayer, dialogue with one another, weekly readings and guest speakers, we explored how to see the world through the lens of Christ and then echo that in our work.
We discussed how the creation process itself can be difficult and grueling. But it’s not just the end result that matters. Sometimes it’s in the journey along the way where God does the most work in our own lives. This course was a time for major personal growth for me as I made new friends, and we shared our selected pieces with one another – talk about vulnerability! I had never read my stories outside of my writers group so this was quite a feat for me. It was both scary and yet affirming for several others as well. After we shared a little about ourselves and our craft, the group would then respond with constructive comments. The time of sharing and feedback proved to be one of the most positive aspects of the course. It also was a great way to connect us to one another. Several musicians even collaborated afterwards.
Now that the seven weeks have passed, we are still part of a larger network including those from prior courses (brought together through email and Facebook), where we can share upcoming exhibitions and performances. Many of us still choose to meet for lunch to continue the discussion of how our faith intertwines with our art, and to support one another in our struggles.
Although I expected to further explore my identity as a writer during this course, what I did not expect was how much I would grow in my identity in Christ. If you are a fellow artist reading this, I would strongly encourage you to apply to a Faith & Arts course in the future. You won’t regret it.