Miles to Go Before I Sleep
Art takes time. It’s one of those realities writers have to face. And at this moment, caught up as am in writing the final book of The Chronotrace series, I feel somewhat gassed, like a runner about to enter that last lap and wondering if he has what it takes to keep that kick going until the finish line. At times like these the words of Robert Frost come to mind:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
How many miles I have left on this novel it’s hard to say, but I am getting there, step by weary step, word by carefully crafted word. It is impossible to know exactly how other artists deal with long projects like that of writing a novel, but I am not the first to run the race of artistic endurance. And some of my favorite artists have run much longer journeys than I.
My favorite paintings by far are those of the Sistine Chapel which I’ve actually been able to see in person. I believe seeing them in person has made me even more astounded at the level of artistry and commitment involved. Photographs don’t actually do them justice. They took Michelangelo four years to complete and it must have been back breaking work, painting over his head on the ceiling with pain dripping down onto his face.
As hard as that work was, other projects have taken much longer. Mt. Rushmore, one of the world’s most famous sculptures took 14 years. The Lord of the Rings, my favorite work of fiction, took Tolkien between 12-17 years to complete and it’s said that he never really even finished working on it, revising it and compiling notes until his death.
Another work of art which I’ve been able to see in person and to which pictures also do not do justice are Ghiberti’s doors to paradise on the Florence Baptistry. The master artisan labored 27 years on these gold and bronze marvels. Each of the ten panels depicts a three dimensional picture from the old testament with enough craftsmanship and skill to impress even the most indifferent of artistic connoisseurs.
When I look at great monuments and masterpieces like those, finishing my little novel isn’t really all as daunting as it may seem at times. All of us have mountains we must climb, some of them creative projects like writing books, and others simply trying to pass a course, or learn to cope with an injury or a sickness, or trying to chisel out the character of the next generation by guiding and leading a child in the way he should go. All of these things are like art in a way, and every life is a creative endeavor.
But we are not the only artists, not the only creators. There is a singular Creator beneath whom we are all, as Tolkien put it, merely “sub-creators”. And for this reason the work which we spend our whole life endeavoring to create will last and endure to a greater or lesser degree in the way that it reflects the good, the true, and the beautiful. Not those temporary truths of culture and the tyrannical “nowness” which so often catches up and enthralls us, but those eternal truths and beauties from which all great art draws upon. As Malcolm Muggeridge put it:
Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.
This is what spurs me to keep writing, to keep plowing on, trusting that any words penned or stories told in the pursuit of true goodness and true beauty have the potential to become part of a larger message, one greater than any I could devise or otherwise invent.
I hope that wherever you are as you read this, you are “getting the message” God is speaking to you. And that after you have traveled those miles and found that sleep for which you were seeking that you will rest the rest of the just, having run your race well.
And now I must get back to writing my little story. I’ll leave you with another form of “pep talk”, this by someone who also takes inspiration from Robert Frost, albeit along a divergent path. Until next time, thanks for stopping by.