Seeking: An Artist’s Journey
Written by Jenny Williams
In my role as an artist, I have experienced every part of the creative process over and over again: the beginning (the exciting part, with all the good ideas), the middle (the part where you question all your good ideas and have to slog along without the support of your enthusiasm), the climax (when it is darkest before the dawn: here, you either turn around or keep going), and the conclusion (when you are simultaneously flabbergasted and euphoric over the realization that all those random dots are actually connected). As a reader, I experience this same process when I step into the protagonist’s shoes. It is eerily like the hero’s (or heroine’s) journey.
When I started my business eight years ago, I began creating product lines for my shop. Twice a year, I would develop a line of products I made based on a single theme (i.e., the “Longing for Home” collection). Initially, I did not see the connection between following the creative process and the story arc of all my favorite books, but once I did, I couldn’t unsee it.
It took the completion of many product lines for me to realize, for example, that at some point—every single time—I would drop my head into my hands and think, “What was I thinking? Who am I to think I was meant for this work? Are there not a thousand women who could do, or have already done, this better than I?”
It also took the completion of several product lines for me to realize that immediately following this point of near despair, I’d get a glimpse of the rising sun. Every. Single. Time.
I realized the creative process is not an experience exclusive to artists but something we are all born into. We are image bearers of the Original Artist. But unlike our creator, we have countless limitations and faults that get in the way of perfect creativity. We don’t know the ending of our story yet (nor the extent of our role and purpose in the greater story), but we do know that we are smack dab in the middle of a journey that is not over yet.
This vocabulary to articulate the ups and downs of my work and life has not given me answers. It has given me perspective. In this Year of the Seeker, as I work on writing projects related to my work as an artist of heroines, the gift of seeking in the creative process strikes me.
“Seeking,” by its very nature of searching for something you do not yet possess, takes humility. As an artist, I’ve seen the one thing to surely bring the creative process to a halt is my ego. Only when I let go of the ending do I make progress.
When I begin the process of a new product line, I never really know what I’m getting myself into. Like Anne Shirley (my favorite heroine) stepping onto the train platform with her barely functioning carpet bag, or Charis (a new favorite heroine) leaving the shelter of the forest with little more than the clothes on her back, I cannot see the future. And what a blessing that is!
Had Anne known that she would experience rejection yet again, or Charis that she would experience betrayal after loss, or each of us foreseen a tragedy or difficult situation before it befell us, we likely would have taken every effort to avoid it. Had I seen the many challenges waiting for me as an artist and business owner, I would have said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” But I could not have foreseen the grace I would receive during those difficult times and the growth (and joys) that awaited me on the other side. We must keep going because we cannot see the end of the story.
Anne didn’t know she would receive overwhelming acceptance and flourish on the other side of that initial rejection. Charis didn’t realize she would keep her hope and eyes for wonder even after losing everything. A tiny seed planted in the soil can’t know it is on a journey to become a majestic oak tree. But it knows instinctively, by its very design, that it should reach higher: toward the light, not away from it.
In my experience, “Seeking” can sometimes feel like a nice way of saying “lost.” It can feel like you aren’t doing anything if you can’t articulate where you are headed. And we live in a world that admires people with answers, not questions. But mortals who know everything cannot be in the presence of God. Like children, we must seek the kingdom first (not know!). Seeking is, first and foremost, a place of surrender. It’s taking the next step in the creative process (in which we all play a role!) and trusting that we will be given the tools we need along the way. We cannot receive the gifts of grace without “seeking” first. It is a crucial part of the creative process, the heroine’s journey, my story, and yours.
Jenny Williams is the artist and owner behind Carrot Top Paper Shop, an online gift shop for bookish kindred spirits, co-author of Eat Like a Heroine (End Game Press, August 2024), and a Well-Read Mom Super Fan. She and her husband work from their home in the woods in Oklahoma with their three children, where the creative life is celebrated daily with gusto and the house is never perfectly clean. Find Jenny online at artistjennywilliams.com.
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