Wednesday Wonders: When Your Art is Worth Saving

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By Sydney Zylstra (retrieved from the attic in 2011)

“You know all those paintings your mother makes and then throws out?”

My sister and I nodded as my dad said this. We knew.

“Well, I pulled a few out of the garbage and stuck them up in the attic. Remember to get them out of there when I die so she doesn’t toss them.”

I understand why my mother wanted to throw those beautiful pastels away. It helped her feel free to make mistakes and go on to create more when she knew she didn’t have to keep or share what she created.

She probably felt something like Molly in this clip Jody Casella shared with me recently:

I also get why my dad didn’t want to let them go. He couldn’t see her mistakes. He only saw a picture worth saving — something he didn’t want in the trash even after he died.

I am drawn to that video of Molly and the memory of my dad stashing away my mom’s art. And I’m happy to say I no longer feel like dipping my manuscript in alcohol and setting it on fire over a gas burner. 

Instead, I keep this mantra by James Scott Bell posted near my computer screen:

“It can be fixed.”

That helps enormously when the mean voice in my head chatters on about all that is wrong even as I work to make it better.

And I’m glad Dad saved the pastels. A year or so after he died, my mom found them on my wall and stopped, looking them over for a slow minute.

I held my breath, praying I would not lose my treasures.

She surprised me by insisting they needed a coat of sealant to protect the surface. She then took them down and returned them to me, never suggesting that I throw them away.

Those canvases covered in flowers still hang in my hallway, reminding me to look at what’s worth keeping even when, at first, I might not think my characters have led me down the right path. 

May you know the joy of creating and the power of saving your work-

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Extra wonders:

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Seattle waterways before the Ballard Locks and the ship canal connected the lakes to the sound.

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My book and I loved this trip to see my Seattle family and visit the locks. So much to research for us here!

A recycled bit on the wonder series:

I love the way writing and other art forms open my eyes to the surprises around me in my everyday life. Many of these wonders will also be in my Instagram account since I discovered the joy of that program during an advent photo project.

I collect these surprises like little rocks in a kid’s pocket. I may use them in a story. I may not. Either way, life gets a little brighter when I take the time to notice.

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Art/Prayer Intersection Part Two: Knowing When to Call it Good

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by Sydney Zylstra

It wasn’t easy to get my mom to let me use her pictures and, looking at these, you might be surprised at the reason why.

“They aren’t right,” she said.

I could feel she meant they aren’t perfect. They aren’t the flawless beauty that she had in her imagination when she began the work.

I told her that of course they weren’t. Our creations are never as perfect as we imagined they would be or as we wish they were.

Then I assured her that my readers are not art critics (that I know of).

I pushed forward when I still heard her hesitate and told her of Iris Murdoch’s quote:

“Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”

I could hear her relaxing at the thought of other artists with the same struggles. She decided to send them my way to share with you, imperfections and all.

And since I’m thinking about art and prayer this month, I started to turn over what God said about creation in the first chapter of the Genesis story.

Over and over there is this line:

“And God saw that it was good.”

No where does it say that it was perfect or even the best. Just good.

I am so grateful my mother decided to let you see these. They are not perfect. But they are good.   

May we all declare our work ‘good’ while knowing when it’s time to make it better.

May we also know when we should let it go out into the world for others to love or not while we move on to the next good work in front of us.

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