Bismillah ir rahman ir Raheem
Assalam alaikum wr wb, everybody!!
It’s so easy for me to get side-tracked from writing. With wedding planning reaching hysterical levels, Mashallah, I’ve given myself a holiday from my work. But! I shouldn’t! That’s why it’s called my work!
Do you know the Hadith about small consistent acts being greater than big inconsistent ones?
“The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “The dearest of actions to Allah is that which is done regularly, even if it is small.”
I have been thinking about that and how easily and beautifully the Sunnah about traditional Ibadah can apply to our work as well.
How do we make something consistent?
The same way we consistently do our prayers or read Qur’an.
The actions build on each other. Each step magnifies the benefits of the one that preceded it before we finally give our salaams to the angels that protect us, having done our duty to our Creator (SWT).
The same approach could be taken with our work.
- Pick an iron-clad time you will worship Allah through your art.
Is it in the morning before your family wakes up? In the night-time after they go to sleep? In the bus/train/car-pool on your way to work/school?
All we need is quietude, time and a readiness to work. What’s the best slot in your day for that?
For me, it’s crazy early in the morning after Fajr, Qur’an reading and 20 minutes of aerobics – well before my parents wake up. I can do my work a good few hours before my mother’s shriek sunders me from my concentration. I love her, but the woman has a voice that would make the dead moonwalk.
If that isn’t possible for any reason, I make maximum use of the few hours my parents aren’t at home to get some solid work done.
- Prepare yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.
In Salah, this might translate to making Wudhu, setting an intention or learning new du’as to recite in prostation.
In writing or the making of art, this might translate into setting a goal and envisioning the joy of reaching that goal daily. It could mean saying a small prayer to the One that Gives all provision. It could mean writing morning pages, sharpening a skill, exercising to get blood flowing to your brain and eating a healthy breakfast. Most important of all is preparing yourself for the ups and downs of the business of art – the writer’s block, the networking (that’s my LEAST favorite part) and the rejection (over and over again).
- Subordinate all resources to achieving that goal at that time.
My goal during Salah is to worship Allah (SWT), Insha Allah. That means no distractions. Phones go off, doors are closed or a quiet corner is found. Parents, children, spouses and colleagues are told what prayer looks like and what we need to achieve it – that means no talking.
I imagine to truly pour yourself into your work, you would need to do something similar; channel all of your resources into achieving your goal.
What are your mental, physical and spiritual resources?
Once you’ve listed them, how can you best channel them into making the best art you can?
Since art is a social product and meant to be consumed by the community at large, perhaps engaging those social resources becomes exponentially important.
Here are some suggestions:
Ask your family to leave you alone when you’re in a corner with your laptop, when you have a sign on your door or on your forehead, when you’re in your garage messing around with wood.
Ask the most critical member in your family/friend/professional circle to look at your work and give you their worst (at the very least, it’ll humble you. At the very most, it will let you know what emotions are actually induced by your surrealist expressionist papier mache sculpture.)
(That’s actually really cool. If a sculptor is reading this, please consider doing that.)
Ask an Imam if the art you’re making is worthy of a Muslim.
- Remember to thank Allah (SWT) for the gift of another day at work.
If art is truly Ibadah, we will never know if our good deeds are accepted till Judgment day and the Dunya is a poor indicator of Allah (SWT)’s pleasure with us. Hence, it is best to leave the outcome to Allah (SWT). The only way we can guarantee fulfillment is taking pride in the work itself and our mindset as we approach the work.
If it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s ugly – remember to thank Allah (SWT). Just because it came out.
Making art seems a lot like what I imagine giving birth is like – a struggle but also a great joy, a great gift from Allah. Like children, our art will try us in every possible way – before, during and, for many long years, after their birth.
(As you might have guessed, I’m rethinking that 7 kids thing.)
All of this ties down to fighting Shaitan who causes us to despair, what Steven Pressfield would call resistance (The War of Art is an incredible book which I would recommend to anyone who’s ever tried to tackle a challenge.)
If we are the stage of our Iman where we would accept no excuse for missing our Salah, if we truly think our art is what Allah (SWT) has destined for us, perhaps we should apply the same rigor to it.
Today, right now, I make a commitment to write at least an hour a day. It’s the least I can do to get things done.
Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,
The Happy (and Insha Allah, productive) Muslimah.