Artists & Agency
The super power that ignites inspiration
I learned a lesson on Friday. Apparently I forgot it by last night, so I needed to learn it all over again. Good thing I took notes.
The lesson I learned is that I, Christine Lee Smith, have agency. I was in conversation with my spiritual director, Larry. I was detailing for him the depth of my anxiety about a current —let’s call it an adventure — adventure I’m on; recounting all the ways it could go wrong and I would be forever ruined. He quickly, and kindly, called me on my bullshit and reminded me: I have agency. And I have used my agency to plan, prepare, and create a vision for this adventure. Not only all of that, but in this adventure I am not alone (literally and metaphorically).
My agency — and yours too — means that I/we have the power to effect change: in our lives, in the world, in our adventures.
Christine Lee Smith, “Mississippi No. 3,” Large Format Direct Positive, 2022, 4”x5”.
Photograph © 2022 Christine Lee Smith.
Last night all that wonderful wisdom left my body and my mind. I was nearly paralyzed with fear: What if? What if? What if? Then I fell asleep.
When I woke this morning I was still in need of some self soothing. The rivers of anxiety were no longer raging white waters, but the banks were still flooded. Divine kindness came in the form of a video in the middle of my light morning doom scrolling. Two men were talking, and one asked the other what the best advice he’s ever been given was? The man replied: “What if it ends up better than you hoped for?”
Then the interviewer asked what the worst advice he’d ever received was. The man answered: “Be realistic.”
I had left my Friday direction session filled with “what if it ends up better.” And I went to sleep on Monday night telling myself, “be realistic.” Nothing shuts down possibility — nor ignores reality — faster than taking in the message to “be realistic.”
Artists like us swim in the waters of fantasy, curiosity, and possibility. It is the air we breathe. We need it. It sustains us. It fuels us. It inspires us. Being realistic serves no artist well. And the world needs us to remind them what is possible; the world needs us to invite them to the sandbox of possibility.
What's the worst that could happen? What if it ends up better than we hoped.