Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.~William Shakespeare
Outside my window the sky is the color of hammered metal, rain on its way. A steaming afternoon in the Carolinas, as the humidity settles over the landscape, the heat daunting. Despite the inhospitable weather, I am grateful for my cool study, like a grotto by the sea where I can shelter on the page.
This morning, I am awash with thanksgiving for the gifts that writing brings to me--not for my own glory or recognition--but rather for the way writing heals me, provides me insights and divine inklings. The way God uses the art to support me, to draw near to me when life cripples. Writing is that cane that helps me walk. Assists me to keep walking. Writing is always easy and never easy. As much as the craft brings me comfort, I must choose to go to the page over and over again. I must choose to be courageous enough to finish projects I've started, even when I believe they are of little worth.
Over the last few weeks I've grappled with next steps for my latest book. The manuscript has languished for several years now, the cover art a question mark. The brilliant artist who is collaborating with me on the project sent me a stunningly beautiful illustration to consider. I felt ambivalent, as even though the depiction was so pleasing to me, the concept reminded me of a popular author I don't like much. The artist stated he would go back to the drawing board, yet over the last weeks his prayers for inspiration brought nothing tangible. I returned to the picture and prayed, "God am I missing something? What might you be saying about this image?"
One piece of the artwork contained a photo of a message in a bottle. I imagined myself walking out of my sea cave at sunset, the heat of the day now diminished, the sky laced with orange and violet. I'd walk down the hard-packed sand and wade out into the gray-blue waters to cool my feet. The lull and whisper of the waves brought comfort. Something bumped my leg. I looked down, and the suddeness of the bottle's arrival startled me. I reached down to scoop the slippery glass container into my hands, then held the bottle up to the fading light, rivulets of water running down my arms. A message inside. "What will it say?" I heard the gentle pop when my fingers pried open the cork. I placed my nose close to the opening, tendrils of scents--salt and sand, moisture and something unknown. Something I'd never smelled. The fragrance of time. I slung the moisture from my fingers and pulled out the scroll of paper, the bottle recorked and held under one arm, the ocean waves still swaying against my legs. I unrolled the damp paper and held my eyes close to what was written in black ink. "Grace upon grace," it said. I whispered the words. "Grace upon grace. Grace upon grace. Grace upon grace. Grace upon grace," the sound of my voice blending with the breath of the ocean.
I have my confirmation. The image is right for the book. I emailed the artist and said, this is it, this is the concept. I heard "Grace upon grace."
And it is grace upon grace that any artist keeps creating. Grace overcomes the traitorous doubts and unbelief. Grace keeps us going back to the page, to the easel, to the garden, to the dance studio. Every week I am humbled to hear from poets, painters, writers, singers, dancers, bakers, gardners and photographers who inspire me to keep writing, to keep creating. Dear brave reader, please do not give in to doubt. Your craft, your project, your voice deserves the gift and light of grace.