Written By Kendra Hicks
I create in a deep, deep mine. Terribly dark. Terribly lonely. My first couple of whacks ring through the halls and produce little, but when my pickax starts to fly, there is a steady stream of sparks that illuminate that dark place. Gems are uncovered, and there’s really nothing quite like seeing that first little sliver of ruby or the refraction of light in a diamond. Sometimes seeing something that lovely when alone makes the loneliness feel more acute, but lonely places are not necessarily unholy places. The Christ often withdrew to lonely places.
I am a Christian and I write. I keep thinking that I am a Christian writer, but my husband told me the truth. “You are a Christian author, but will not be regarded as one.” He’s right. I don’t write books with titles like “Holiness in Seven Minutes” or “Aunt Emma’s Amish Quilt Wedding Secret.” If the Christ “came unto His own yet His own did not receive Him,” why was I expecting anything different? And so, it is okay that I crawl down into the mine. Alone. It is okay.
I had a professor who explained to me why fiction isn’t lying. “We’re making meatloaf,” he said and then explained that the ingredients at hand are the events, the people, the sensory experiences we have had over our lifetimes. We combine them, bake them, and we have meatloaf. Or something to hang on the wall. Or a sculpture, poem, song . . . you get the idea. But there is something more about the miracle of creativity than this ingredient list—something he didn’t tell me, something mysterious I meet down in the mine. When it comes right down to it, I don’t think I’m actually alone down there.
I want to think that it is God that I am encountering in the mine. Antonio Salieri, Mozart’s rival, thought that it was God and upon meeting Mozart his house of thought crashed down. It would be nice if God granted genius in accordance with righteousness, but any one of us who is honest with herself would know that that is not the line for us and would have found another queue, perhaps the one for toilet paper, and joined it instead. It is best, really, if no form of Christ’s name is attached to my work, human that I am. If good comes of something I create, great. But if you tell me that something about my work is good, I want to laugh uncomfortably and back away, slither away, into the thick, wet grass—as untraceable as possible. I don’t know what the end fruit of any endeavor, or my own life, may be. Best to lay low.
Okay, so if the mysterious, creative force is not God and I do not believe in a palpable muse, what is it? What am I encountering in the lonely places? I can’t believe it’s just me there; I never feel that I can take full credit for my works. I can comfortably claim full credit for my silly nighttime dreams; I recognize myself in these horrible, twisted fragments. If anything is entirely my meatloaf, it is my nighttime dreams. I am thinking that maybe the mysterious, creative force is something like the case of Michael Jordan, born with talent but mostly he was a phenomenon born of practice, practicing constantly from the time he was a child, so much practice that muscle memory became a great force we didn’t fully appreciate in Mr. Jordan until we watched him try to wield a baseball bat. Perhaps I learned to go to the lonely places when I was young. My eyes saw the world differently, paid attention to things others thought unimportant, and kept practicing that skill and so what I encounter in the lonely places is a different sort of muscle memory, a type of paying attention that is unconscious but in a different way than nighttime dreams. I should keep going to the lonely places, down to the mines, and not try to become a surgeon now. Or a professional baseball player. We will all be safer for it.
Is it all an illusion anyway—the loneliness? I used to question exactly how real anything was when I was a child. My existence and the existence of others seemed doubtful. It seemed to me that the flimsy set around me might drop away into a bottomless void at the slightest gust of a cosmic wind. I would sit in church and wonder, if I turn around super-fast, will I find cardboard cutouts placed where the actors once sat? I could imagine the cutouts leaning in stiff postures while the actors stepped out to call home. Sick, I know.
I’ve matured a lot. Really. I now believe that we live in both reality and in illusion. Quite a leap, huh? Part of the reason I believe this is because of something that happens down in the mine, something quite opposite of what I expected in church as a child. When the ax is flying, the sparks are shining, and a really great gem is unearthed, I turn around super-fast and I catch them all watching me for just a second, a Polaroid shot extinguished as soon as the last spark dies: I see people in that split second: a figure from a poem, my deceased grandparents, my 1st grade teacher, a bright angel from a 17th century painting, and a host of others, eating my meatloaf, raising glasses filled with my fermented tears, laughing, congratulating each other, rejoicing with me over this great find, there with me in that beautiful moment in the mine.
YA Author Kendra Hicks
Born in 1976, Odessa, Texas, USA
Currently living in an Amish community in Kansas
Kendra’s Website , YouTube
Copyright© Kendra Hicks
About ‘In The Mind Of An Artist’
‘In The Mind Of An Artist’ aims to uncover the artistic mind, the perspective of individuals living under the influence of art. By and large we live collective lives, but artists see life a bit; well sometimes very different than others. As some seem to float from one artwork to another; others are deeply encrusted in their work making it difficult to catch that ride offered by the world around them, creating realities in which one person (the artist) must navigate in order to survive in society. If you are an artist and this speaks to you, please contact me if you like to share your story.
This series of articles, written by artists is about the artist’s way of processing and reacting to events in their lives. These can be tangible communal events or struggles of philosophical and psychological nature.
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Every piece of art, crafts, or textiles, hanging on my walls or ceiling tells a tiny passage of my life. Most of it was acquired during my travels. Many of these treasures are damaged whether because they were broken on arrival, as the pieces were tightly stuffed into my backpack, or weathered by the unforgiving Florida tropical humidity. But in the end, they are my precious processions and they are part of the stories I tell. It feels good to have rugs hanging from the ceiling, masks on the walls, and drinking my morning coffee thinking of the mugs’ tale. The point here is that art has a lot to offer each one of us; ART IS VERY PERSONAL!
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