I like to occasionally recommend a book on the writing life. Art + Faith by Makoto Fujimura (Yale University Press) is one you might enjoy. The author is a well-known painter and frequently speaks and writes on the intersection of art and faith.
In 2009 Crossway publishing commissioned him to illuminate the four Gospels to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the King James Bible. It was the first time a single artist has been commissioned to illuminate the four Gospels in nearly five hundred years. (Crossway has a video on the project here.) The Gospels were on exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art in Manhattan in 2011 and later were featured at the inaugural exhibit at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC in 2017. (A link to that artwork can be found here. Note that the dimensions of these paintings are 48″ x 60″.)
The subtitle of the book is quite telling: A Theology of Making. What we have in these 150 pages is a nonlinear exploration of the topic. His interests are wide-ranging, interacting with other thinkers like T.S. Eliot. N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, and even farmers who “fix the soil.”
In his chapter called “The Journey to the New Through Christ’s Tears” (a meditation on John 11–12), he writes the following on pages 107-108:
Artists, by being sensitive to the world around them, also feel deeply the wounds and agony of life along with its explosive potential. . . . Artists are the conduits of life, articulating what all of us are surely sensing but may not have the capacity to express.
But having said that, we should not regard the arts as having only utilitarian value. The arts are use-less but a great gift, and therefore indispensable.
Let me repeat his sentence, “Articulating what all of us are surely sensing but may not have that capacity to express.” That is why you have been given the gift of writing. To express those things that have been pressed upon you.
Years ago I challenged an author when their nonfiction writing felt sterile–at arms-length. I said, “There is something missing in your work. You.” He replied, “But it hurts too much to go there.” A poignant observation of the life of a writer.
How many of you weep while writing? The novelist feels their character’s pain. The memoirist recalls the struggles of the past. All while trying to express the inexpressible.
As I wrote these last three paragraphs I realized what happened. Makato Fujimura’s book made me think. To think about art and faith and why we do what we do.
Hopefully, this book can help you do the same.