STORY 2012 : Sower of Seeds.

It wasn’t always this way. When I was a little girl, I lived in a world of crayons and crepe paper, paint and pencils, making messes of my imagination and exploring worlds made of words. But like all artists – all children, really – the encroaching world of productivity suppressed my instinct to create just because. Even now as I write this post, my thoughts are disjointed and my words fragmented by the big picture, the full post, the comments and the stats and the why am I really doing this mentality that always ails my writing and blogging.

One over-arching theme that I took away from STORY was the idea that expectation can cripple my work. When I cannot see the fruits of my labor, when my expectation for growth and productivity is centered on accolades and attention and conventional success, my well runs dry.

If I create for my own glory, rather than as an outpouring of relationship to my Creator, my work will only appear dim, fragmented, broken.

Of all the STORY sessions, Makoto Fujimura’s message left the deepest impression on me. He drew a parallel to the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13, and though I grew up hearing that story, I love how he used the metaphor of soil to speak, not trite words about individual hearts and salvation, but about the work of creating art to cultivate culture.

Real artists don’t think about 15 minutes of fame. They think about 500 years from now, what kind of culture will our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, live in?”

and also :

Culture too is an environment, an ecosystem; it needs stewardship. Artists cannot survive in this culture.”

An artist’s purpose is to plant the seeds faithfully, to write words and paint pictures and melodize stray notes into music. Yet we do this not for the seed’s sake, or for art’s sake.

As sowers of seeds, we have to know our soil and yet plant faithfully, writing the words, painting the pictures, melodizing stray notes into music, whether or not we can predict the outcome.

The Parable of the Sower is not about the seed. Where the seed lands matters more. Soil is layers and layers of dead things – ground zero. Good soil has gone through many winters. Spring is coming!”

Mako gave the example of Emily Dickinson, whose cache of work lay undiscovered in a box beneath her bed until after her death. Though she had a few poems published while she was alive, most of them were significantly altered, stripped of her slant rhymes and em dashes – all the things that made Emily’s work unique. She never saw her seeds come into full bloom, yet she still created over 1,000 poems because she was devoted to the act of creating, the art of sowing.

Emily Dickinson’s desk was 17 1/2 inches by 17 1/2 inches. This is all the space you need to change and shape culture.”

Over and over again, STORY reminded me that my purpose as an artist, a sower of seeds, is to create even when the effort feels fruitless. Our work is important, vital even, to the culture we cannot even envision yet.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

[Images : 12] [All quotes listed by Makoto Fujimura, as transcribed furiously by hand in the dark of the auditorium at STORY 2012. Please forgive any variances from actual speech.]

  • http://www.eloranicole.com/ elora nicole ramirez

    His message stayed with me. Particularly the creating in quiet. Really convicted about that one.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Me too, Elora. I need to be more faithful to my journaling and writing in secret, too.

    • http://twitter.com/emmillerwrites Emily Miller

      YES! I felt like that was the reason I went to STORY this year. I thought I was going to hear Anne Lamott and Bob Goff and Rachel Held Evans, but when I heard that, I knew that was the reason I was there — THAT was what God wanted to tell me.

  • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

    I’m loving reading all the posts from you guys on your takeaways from STORY. I WILL NOT be missing it next year! This is really good – I love this: “The Parable of the Sower is not about the
    seed. Where the seed lands matters more. Soil is layers and layers of
    dead things – ground zero. Good soil has gone through many winters.
    Spring is coming!”

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      So much hope there, Christy. I really hope I can see you next year at STORY Conf! I was sad that it didn’t work out to be here this time. You were definitely missed!

  • naomimarie

    encouraging, thought provoking, and a refreshing read! thanks for sharing. I took a lot from his message as well.

  • http://www.tonyjalicea.com Tony J. Alicea

    Love this! I especially love what he said about culture being an ecosystem that requires stewardship. Beautiful.

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Right?! I had never thought of it that way, especially as it pertains to art in culture. Such a lovely and astute way of seeing artistic work.

  • http://twitter.com/102crowquill Paula

    My prayer is to live in Oneness with God – listening – allowing – His expression to come forth. Unfiltered. You have nourished this seedling that I am through your story from Story 2012. So grateful!

  • val dering rojas

    Thank you for sharing this Bethany. I believe this is very important for so many reasons.

  • http://oneconfusedlady.blogspot.com/ Anokina Shahbaz

    Lovely post Bethany… especially the line ”
    my purpose as an artist, a sower of seeds, is to create even when the effort feels fruitless.” I have felt this way many times and it has harmed my writing. It’s tough to beat resistance and write just to write. Thanks for sharing..

  • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

    First of all, I can SO relate to this feeling, which you describe so well: “…my words fragmented by the big picture, the full post, the comments and
    the stats and the why am I really doing this mentality that always ails
    my writing and blogging.”

    Also, I’m so glad you focused your post on Fujimura, whose talk I sadly missed. I will definitely add “it’s not about the seed, but where it lands” to my STORY reflections and my efforts to let go of the seed-obsessed distractions.

    I’m so glad we were able to share the STORY experience and reflect on it together!

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