• Joellen Kemper

Why We Create

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of video chatting for the first time with a girl that I met on Goodreads. She is a writer who has published delightful fairy tale retellings that I absolutely adore. But even more than that, she is just a wonderful, strong and kind hearted person. A couple of things that stuck with me from our conversation were her unwavering faith and the personal relationships that she keeps with her readers.


As she discussed one of her favorite parts of writing- connecting with her readers- it left a lasting impression on me. She uses her stories as a means to uplift and encourage, to portray timeless truths, and to help kids with trouble reading find stories that they can relate to and conquer their literacy struggles. I’ve known since the beginning that her work has been more than herself. Read any of her acknowledgements and she puts her creation in the proper place to her Creator. I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I suppose that has been one of the biggest driving forces to her overcoming any struggles that came in the way of completing her novels.


I’ve been pondering those takeaways a lot because lately I’ve found myself in the rut of a creativeless life. In the past month or more, I’ve been battling self doubts, procrastination and exhaustion. I’m not new to this path- I have just as many (maybe even more) days where I am solely running on survival mode as I do days that I truly get to invest in creativity. These periods often leave me confused and wanting some cheap fix which causes me to abandon the work that is important to me, overwhelmed with the knowledge that it will take quite a good deal of blood, sweat, and tears.


But the dissatisfaction of knowing that I left something undone is also a constant drain on me. As I pondered how to overcome these irreconcilable differences, I kept hearing a voice within myself saying, “If you want to be a part of something big, then you have to give yourself over to something Bigger.” It’s not the “what“ I am doing, but the “why” I’m doing it that I need to commit to.


I have happened upon two books recently that have further clarified this for me- Leaf by Niggle by JRR Tolkien and Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson.


Tolkien’s short story was both hopeful and humbling. It was about a painter named Niggle that wasn’t anything exceptional in talent. He always thought about his painting but was often interrupted in that work by his everyday life. I could relate to that very deeply, but I loved how as the story progressed, those interruptions were interwoven into his work to create something even more beautiful. The interruptions from his community, every day responsibilities and setbacks, once he was humbled by them, enriched the depth of his art. The story had a way of leaving me feeling big as well as small, as we are all called to take part in being subcreators that reflect the true Creator (a concept that Tolkien was ever so fond of).


After reviewing the Tolkien story on Goodreads, one of my friends reminded me of the book Adorning the Dark and I decided I needed to start it now. I haven’t read it all but I’ve already had some really great takeaways. The author immediately pointed to the scripture in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” I decided that in order to curb any further confusion, this verse would be the leaping point for all future projects. I connected with Peterson as he pointed out that most artists create as a way to have a voice- or rather, out of self preservation. But that selfish desire can be redeemed when the artist is seeking the Kingdom of God above all else. God will show mercy and turn the artist’s work into a reflection of His Glory.


I hope I can humbly keep sight of that wisdom gained and finish the real work at hand.






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© 2018 by Joellen Kemper

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