When you think of art, what comes to mind? Paintings and sculptures? Music? Author Emily Freeman is challenging you to look beyond that. In her book A Million Little Ways, Emily presents readers with the idea that their life is art. We had some questions about this, which Emily has graciously answered in today’s post. Enjoy!
4word: Where did the inspiration for A Million Little Ways come from?
Emily: My friend Annie Downs sent me an email during a time when we were both feeling apprehensive about our work as writers. Her email was one line: We will make art.
Those four words were, for me, a first step toward waking up to living honestly. They were the beginning of sharing my life with others through writing, connection, and a common fear, joy and delight. Even though it was only through email, Annie sat with me in my anxiety. She recognized my fear that day and didn’t advise me or Bible-verse it away. And although she was only referring to our art as writers, from that day on, this concept of moving forward in an artistic way started seeping in from every crack in the wall, from every eye and hand I daily encountered, from every prayer and tree and common meal.
I began to notice the connection between making art with my work and making art with my life – how they both required the same kind of mindset.
4word: How do you define art?
Emily: Being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive. Art means believing that the God who created the world with words alone creates with words still, through us—whether it be on a stage to thousands or in a corner with one.
Maybe you make paintings, or maybe you make pie. Maybe you live conﬁdently in the midst of scary situations. Maybe you are brave enough to listen, to wait, to trust. Maybe you see potential in situations and in people that others aren’t able to see.
Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are. You have the power to inﬂuence, to move, to make, to become. You have the capacity to perform the human act of making art, of doing work that comes from deep within you and touches something deep within me.
We make art with our lives.
When a mother who thought she had no voice begins to realize her voice matters, a student who believed he was biding his time to live life for real begins to discover the life in today, a writer begins to tell her story, a servant opens his hands, and a believer ﬁnally believes—art comes out.
4word: In A Million Little Ways you write that “You were born to make art.” Can you explain that?
Emily: The first thing we know about God is that he made art – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. A few verses later, we see man and woman were made in his image, the creative image of God. If you define art as paint and dance, then of course we aren’t all born to make it.
But if you broaden that definition to mean anything that comes out as a result of people becoming more fully themselves? Then yes, we were all born to make art, to bear the image of God in the world, to create in a way that is unique to us, to live into our creative birthright.
4word: Why is recognizing the call of an artist so significant?
Emily: Singer and songwriter Christa Wells said this after she read the book: “I’m tempted to say that if I’d been handed this book of Emily’s 20 or 30 years ago, I’d have written more songs and shared them sooner.”
That is what I hope will happen in the heart and life of the reader, and why I think recognizing the call of the artist is so significant no matter what that art is. It’s not just the musicians but the parents, the doctors, the politicians. No matter who you are, though you may not be artists by profession, you are an artist by God’s design – made in his creative image.
I hope the reader will believe that making art is more than just paint, but has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes us come alive.
Recognizing our call as an artist is significant because it pokes us awake to begin to live life more like a lyric than a list, more like a poet than a programmer – whatever that might look like.
What kind of art are you making with your life? Will you dare to share with others?
Emily P. Freeman is the author of Grace for the Good Girl and Graceful. Whether in her writing or speaking, Emily’s words create space for souls to breathe, offering fresh perspective on the gracefulness of the everyday and the sacredness of our inner lives. She and her husband, John, live in North Carolina with their three children. Connect with Emily online at www.emilypfreeman.com where you’ll find her blog, Chatting at the Sky.