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Madeleine L’Engle on Faith, Belief, and Inspiration in the Creative Process

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Excerpt From Chapter 9 “Do We Want the Children to See It?” in Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle

Walking on Water

The creative process has a lot to do with faith, and nothing to do with virtue, which may explain why so many artists are far from virtuous; are, indeed, great sinners. And yet, at the moment of creation, they must have complete faith, faith in their vision, faith in their work.

Again, the degree of talent, the size of the gift, is immaterial. All artists must listen, but not all hear great symphonies, see wide canvasses, conceive complex, character-filled novels. No matter, the creative act is the same, and it is an act of faith.

A ten-year-old boy asked me of A Wrinkle in Time, “Do you believe all that?”

“Yes,” I replied, “of course I do.”

The artist, like the child, is a good believer. The depth and strength of the belief is reflected in the work; if the artist does not believe, then no one else will; no amount of technique will make the responder see truth in something that the artist knows to be phony. . . .

If the artist works only when he feels like it, he’s not apt to build up much of a body of work. Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work, and to go where it tells you to go. Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear.

(quoted from pgs. 148–149, emphasis mine)

About the book:
In this classic book, Madeleine L’Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L’Engle’s beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one’s own art.

Work Cited:

L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980. Print.

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