An important gift we writers can give another person is renewed confidence in their ability to tell their stories. Once I collaborated with a South African painter friend to teach the arts in a mental health program. Clari van Niekerk was showing adult students how to paint scenes and objects from their lives and I was to help them write poetry about their work.
I tried to chat them up while admiring their paintings, but soon realized my task would be difficult. The students could visualize with a paint brush, but “seeing” in language and getting it on paper was a whole “nother” thing.
I sat down with one lady, and to buy time, made small talk. Then I had a flash. “Lucy, (not her name), talk to me about your painting, I’ll write down what you say, and we’ll get a poem.” Each painter told me the story of their work and I shaped their words into a poem, keeping the freshness of our conversation while adding line breaks to emphasize certain ideas. The poems were mounted beside the paintings in a gallery and read to an appreciative audience.
Jesus calls us to a life of giving. Maybe sometimes our call as artists and writers is to give someone the gift of trust in their own artistic abilities and make a way for their expression. Clari helped each student visualize their life story through painting. Then a writer helped them articulate their internal musings for a new audience in a new way. I got jazzed creating life stories with these artists and finding internal resources (both theirs and mine) that had been buried or forgotten. What have you discovered about giving through writing and the arts?