Recently I read an article on Writer’s Digest which gave advice on developing a dynamic character in fiction writing. It suggested that you find where on a particular continuum your character might be at the beginning of the story versus the end of the story. It gave examples like goody v. baddy, team guy v. rebel, artist v. dreamer, tough guy v…… I stopped and went back. Artist v. dreamer? How are those opposites? I consider myself quite the dreamer. Some of my past employers and teachers might agree with me. 🙂 But I also consider myself a creative type. So how does one journey between attributes that seem to go hand-in-hand?

It took some unpacking and further development at the conference I attended this weekend to realize just how mistaken I was. Being a dreamer and being creative may well co-exist, but there is a difference between having creative abilities and being a creator. A difference between starting the homework and turning it in on time. Right, Mom? A difference between picking out a name for your future child and actually giving birth. Dreaming will not make art; only creating makes art.

The presence of art is, of course, open to interpretation. This weekend I was able to hear Walter Wangerin, Jr. give his description of what art is and does, and I understood for the first time that this endeavor is not just about satisfying my desire to be or feel “artsy”. It is not a competition or even a popularity trick. It is the way that we give and are given our identity. Normally when I try to identify another person, I use facts. What they look or sound like, maybe what they do to earn money, or even the things they have. But if you ask someone who they are, or better yet why they are who they are, you will hear a story.

If our generation will ever hear the stories that affirm and give life and purpose and context, we must move on from the land of x-boxes and school loans and dreaming and start creating, start story-telling, start sculpting. Whether it’s through relationships, spreadsheets, or installations, our communities need to feel connected to the deeper, richer threads that unite us around our common humanity. Those who have a heart for story-telling, for explaining Life in four dimensions, need the courage and resolve to stop waiting for opportunity or inspiration. To move from dreamer to artist.

If I were to profile myself, in the story I’m living as a dreamer v. artist, I would say I am about 40% of the way. Jaron and I have done some of the hard work of removing distractions from our lives. Commutes, extra bills, wasted entertainment hours have largely been dealt with. What lies ahead is the hard work of putting pen to paper and music to record. But the great news, the unexpected news from this weekend, is that we are not alone. And that, I believe, is the catalyst that will move this story to its resolution.