re-reading one of my favorite books, John Leax's collection of essays... though writing as a poet, it speaks well to all artists...
from "Holiness and Craft:"
As I write, the poem I am writing is always in the future. When I have finished writing, it is behind me. It is in the past. Only as I am writing it, as it is in the process of becoming, is it in the present. And only as it is in the present, is it my concern. Compare this to salvation. Salvation is a process occurring in all three tenses. It is future because it will not be complete until Christ returns. It is past because Christ accomplished it on the cross. It is present as I give myself to Christ. Here, as in the writing of a poem, my concern is with the present action. What is past is related to the present only as the present brings its meaning into being. What is future is related to the present only as it is imagined and desired in the present-- that is, as it is part of the present.
Holiness and craft come together at this point: the moment of the poem is also the moment of salvation. Both occur in the present. I make my way as a poet and as a Christian by giving attention to being in Christ and in doing in him the work before me. Quoting Thomas Merton, "it is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God."
While hoeing his garden, Saint Francis was approached by a villager who had his own idea about how a saint should spend his time. The villager demanded of Francis, "What would you be doing if you knew the Lord would return this afternoon?" Francis replied, "I would be hoeing my garden." I think this is the meaning of "Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself," (Matthew 6:34).
from "Stewardship and Witness:"
Language is the soil in which the message grows. Poets care about the message, but they must first be stewards of language. The message is like a seed. It must fall into the ground and die before it can be born into a poem.
Just as the sacrifice of soil for the crop of one year is ultimately destructive, so the sacrifice of language to the demands of the message is destructive. Like so many other things in life, we must give up even our truth to keep it. Any other course will use up the soil in which we nurture it and guarantee that the future will be impoverished.
Just as I serve the soil so that my garden will remain fertile and grow good crops, when I write I serve the language so it can bear the message I've learned. Curiously, as I seek to make stewardship my concern, my vision clears, and I speak more precisely the presence of Christ in my world.
From "Story, Place, and Marriage:"
A sentimental attachment to place is, like a sentimental love, stupid and useless- a hindrance to genuine relationship. A sense of place is not sentimental: it is practical and necessary. The mistake is to consider place provincially. While a sense of place is based on local knowledge, it is not limited to local knowledge, it includes a range of places.
...What is one caught in the forced mobility of our urban culture to do? The answer, I believe, lies in story.
...though I may be out of my place, beyond the limits of my local knowledge, I am not out of my story... "