The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner (Sorin Books, 192 pages, June 27, 2011)
Paintner’s book is written as a 12-week journey that shares the wisdom of monastic practice, especially Benedictine—of which Paintner is an oblate. It is a book meant to be read as part of one’s creative journey.
The difficulty in reviewing Paintner’s book is that I didn’t have twelve weeks to sit with it, absorb it, learn from it, and put it into practice. In fact, I didn’t even have twelve days. But, I didn’t need twelve days, weeks, or months to find nuggets of wisdom and inspiration in The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom . While I may not have had enough time to fully engage with the contemplative practices at the end of each chapter, Paintner’s book has inspired me to pick it up again and engage with some of those practices in my life as a writer and educator.
At this stage of my life, I was most affected by the journey of the eleventh week: Creative Work as Vocation and Holy Service. Paintner writes, “In a monastic approach to work, we are called to extend this sacred awareness to everything we do, including our labors” (140). The sacred awareness that Paintner refers to is the awareness, described in The Rule of St. Benedict, that everything is holy and worthy of reverence. This includes everyday objects as well as places and persons for all of us are created, in one way or another, by God.
Vocation is something I have struggled with for the past several years. I am blessed to have attended Jesuit schools for the past several years, where the classroom is as much a place to explore vocation as a place to prepare for a career. But, learning about vocation and discovering one’s vocation is much more difficult than choosing a career. Paintner reminds us that each one of us has an innate desire to fulfill a deeper calling. We do so in several ways. It can be work, or an activity, or our creativity. She writes:
Our daily work may rise out of our true calling in the world, or it may just pay the bills; either way, we each have a vocation. We each were given certain gifts to offer in service to others. Our calling is deeply connected to our creativity. The truths we long to express in the worlds and the way we feel moved to give form to beauty are signs of the Spirit at work within us. Vocation is a daily invitation to be fully who we are and to allow our lives to unfold in ways that are organic to this deepest identity. (142)
We are reminded that we are each unique and have so much to give to the world. In order to fulfill our true calling and to become more of the person we are meant to be, we need to answer the call to share our unique gifts in the service of others.
We are also called to create. God is the divine creator who created us, the world, and all the beauty that exists within it. In responding to our individual calls to vocation, we are also responding to the call of becoming co-creative with God. As Paintner writes, “Our attention to compassion and creativity is a commitment to laboring alongside the Divine Worker in bringing about a more just and beautiful world” (144).
The Artist’s Rule is a fine meditative journey of creativity with the monastic way as a tool and a guide to exploration. I appreciated Paintner’s use of Lectio Divina as a form of meditation as well as her exploration of creativity through prayer, writing, movement, and nature. I hope to re-visit this book in the future whether for my own creative needs or for ideas to help my students tap into their creativity.