Make Me Shiver, Make Me Cry

photo via unsplash

I recently read a short story that brought a lump to my throat and tears stinging at the back of my eyes. And I loved it.

I love art that makes me cry.

Which, at first glance, is weird, because I actually hate crying.  I generally resist the shedding of tears if I'm possibly able to do so. I avoid situations where I might be tempted to cry. But if your art brings me to tears, I will gather it to myself in a loving embrace and hawk it shamelessly to all of my friends and relations and remoter cousins to the ninth degree.

It's not the tears, themselves, that enamor me so. It's a deeper involvement of which the tears are simply a result. It's the discovery of a thing so wonderful and real that I forget that it's simply 'another piece of art'. It's the masterful touch that reaches down to my depths, stirring up things I'd almost forgotten were there. It's the careful weaving of a net that catches and tumbles me down into another reality.

And I, quite willingly, take the fall.

Oh, and the shivers?

Well, I call them 'delicious chills', and basically, they're the tingling sensations that run up and down my spine whenever something wonderful happens. The sensation is my response to things I can't express in words; an involuntary homage to the beautiful and the brave. It's what happens when I encounter desperate courage, quiet, steadfast honor, or grandeur so sweeping that it snatches the breath away.

If your art manages to worm its way into my heart, seduce me out of holding it at arm's length in chilly criticism and engage me, instead, with my deepest emotions...then you're an artist worth your salt. Let me tell you, engaging me is not an easy thing to do. Give me either the sobs or the shivers, and I'll admire you. Give me both, and you'll be granted immediate induction to the list of Janie's Favorite Things. That probably doesn't mean much to you, but it means a great deal to me. I wade through a lot of mediocrity to find you and I get terribly excited when we finally meet.

So, supposing you actually care about induction to the favorite list, how would you go about creating something that will make me love your work forever and recommend it endlessly to everyone I encounter? Frankly, I'm not sure.

And that's a bit of a problem, because as a writer, myself, I'd really like to know the secret of making people care. I've analyzed it a bit, though, and one common line I've encountered in the broad range of things I really like is this: The artist is telling me the truth. And they're not telling it out of a sense of obligation, and they're not telling it to make anyone else happy, or make anyone else mad. They're not trying to impress me, nor or they browbeating or preaching at me. They're saying what needs to be said because it's extremely important to them and they can't hold it in. They're simply telling the truth as well, as terribly and as beautifully as they are able.

Which means, anyone can do it. You can do it. Hey, I think that even I can do it! 

This old world needs all the truth it can find, and it needs more people who are willing to tell it,

It all starts with you asking a few simple questions of yourself.

Who were you made to be? What were you made to do? What fills you with life? What comes out when you're alone and there's no-one to impress? What do you think about when you should be working on the 'important things'? What makes you deeply angry? What fills you with overflowing joy? Please, make art out of those things. For me. For everyone else who needs a deeper level of truth in their lives. But ultimately, so that you can come fully alive and be the person you were intended to be, toiling with honesty and beauty in the presence of your God.

It's hard, and frightening, because the possibility of rejection is very real. And when someone rejects the things that are important to you, they're rejecting a little piece of you, as well. But the times when I've plucked up courage and actually shared the things that were most important to me, I've received an almost-overwhelming response. I cared, and people saw that I cared, and it made them care, too.

And it's not all about the glamour, and it's not all about the craft (though it's definitely a good idea to become as good a craftsman as you can be). It's not even about presentation (though a good one will certainly do you no harm). It's about what you're doing and why. The craftmanship and the glamour are icing on the cake. It's fine if the presentation is a bit rough at the edges, but chances are, it won't be. Because, if you really care enough about something, you're not going to let it go until you've done it proper justice.

So, dear artist, please be brave.

We need you. We need you to be honest. We need you to care, and to make us care, too.

Go. Create, create, create some more.

Make me shiver. Make me cry. Make me care.

What makes you fall in love with a piece of art?
Which qualities would you like to see more of in the modern artistic scene?
Which books, movies, etc, are the most important to you? Why?

And, in closing, I'll leave you with this great comic that basically encapsulates what I've been babbling on about.


  1. This is so true... A piece of art is so much more when you can hear/see the heart of the author in it.
    Thanks for sharing - you've inspired me. :)

    1. Hey, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. It's always good to know that my humble words have encouraged or inspired another soul.


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