I just finished an excellent novel. It was one of those books that had everything—fascinating characters, a unique plot, complex themes, poetic prose, and punchy dialog. I closed the book, shut my eyes, and let the thoughts roll over me.
I considered the themes of the book. Heroism and sacrifice and family and forgiveness. I considered the way the author brought all those themes around at the end when, just a few pages before, I’d had no idea where the story was going.
I remembered the way the author combined the deep, serious themes with her lighthearted, often laugh-out-loud prose. Anybody can write serious, but to write funny—that takes great skill. To successfully combine both is the mark of a true artist.
I wanted to go back and analyze how the author put all those elements together, but I didn’t want to lose the magic of the story. My reader-self argued with my writer-self. So far, the reader has won, but the writer will eventually go back and reread the story, pick it apart like a vulture on roadkill, destroying the beauty of the once majestic animal to get to the meat.
I wonder if this is how a painter feels as he walks through Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, gazing at the great works of Renoir and Van Gogh and Monet and Cezanne. Is this how he feels as he walks the great halls of the Louvre, sees the Mona Lisa for the first time, studies the classics that have been admired for hundreds and hundreds of years? Do they step back and take in the beauty and wonder, or do they step in to analyze and critique? Do they think, if I could just learn to mix my colors like that, copy that brushstroke, learn that style…? As if art were a matter of tools and tricks and techniques. Real art is more than that. It’s ordinary elements, like words and paint, magically transformed into exquisite, ethereal beauty.
Maybe artists look at those paintings and think, I could never do that.
Because whenever I put down an excellent book, my heart thumps wildly, inspired, while my brain whispers, don’t even bother. You don’t have that kind of talent. It would be so easy to give up, to leave painting to the Van Goghs of the world, to leave literature to the Shakespeares. But then I remember an important truth:
God called me to do this, and he always equips those he calls. So no matter the outcome, I’ll keep at it. Maybe someday, somebody will look at my books and think, how did she do that?
And if they ask, I’ll probably give the glory to God, because I’ll have no idea.
How about you? What has God called you to do that you don’t feel equipped for? Have you ever felt like giving up?
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April, and its free prequel, Chasing Amanda, released in July. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.