Saturday, November 18, 2017

Lessons for the Writer from Michelangelo

by Emme Gannon @GannonEmme

When I first saw Michelangelo’s Pieta at the Vatican in Rome, I was filled with awe at the beauty and perfection of the marble image of the mother of our Lord holding the body of Christ just after his crucifixion. Michelangelo claimed that the block of Carrara marble he used to create this magnificent piece was the most perfect block he’d ever used. He would polish and refine this piece more than any other sculpture he created. When the artist’s work was complete, the clothing of the two figures looked less like stone and more like actual cloth because of natural-looking folds, curves, and deep recesses.

Michelangelo claimed to have seen the form in the stone before beginning his work. With passion he used his tools to bring life to the form for which the stone had been created. A cold, dead stone was brought to life by the hand of the artist. The Pieta became so beloved by Michelangelo that he left his name imprinted across the girdle that encircles the bosom of Mary and was the only piece he ever signed.

As writers we are called to bring life to words that of themselves can be empty, lifeless, and like rocks sitting in a pile doing little good. We accomplish this with passion drawn many times by our individual experiences. Scenes flash before us begging to be turned into story. As we write, our words begin to brim with revelation of our characters. We see the squint in their eyes, the way the sun shines through their hair, their swaggering gait, their nervous habit of twisting tiny pieces of their hair around their forefinger. Just like Michelangelo liberated figures from blocks of marble, so we set our characters free to be. They borrow our hearts, emotions, and passions and story is born.

Like Michelangelo, we release our works to God and trust Him with the outcome. The Pieta began as a commission from a cardinal for a memorial for his tomb. He requested Michelangelo depict the tragic moment that Mary received Jesus from the cross. After more than two hundred years after completion, the Pieta was finally moved to St. Peter’s Basilica.

As a dedicated Christian, Michelangelo knew his gifts came from God. He would often withdraw from others and abandon himself to the sanctuary of abiding with God. The English word for “pray” means, “ask or beg.” However, the Hebrew word for prayer - tefillah - means to “self evaluate or examine ourselves.” In II Corinthians 13, we are told, “Examine yourselves . . . test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”

Within us resides the holy, risen Christ, just waiting to be revealed. In our lives. In our words. In our art. Like Michelangelo who saw the Pieta inside one slab of marble, so God sees in us all He created us to be. Helpless before God, we listen to Him and hear what we would never have heard. We see with spiritual eyes the image in the stone. And we write with the passion of the artist, knowing that obedience means our work will be a masterpiece in the eyes of God. 

Lessons for the Writer from Michelangelo - @GannonEmme on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

We must remember that obedience in our #writing results in a masterpiece in the eyes of God - @EmmeGannon on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Emme Gannon is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves to write stories that stir the heart. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Focus on the Family magazine, several anthologies, and numerous newsletters. She just completed her first novel.


  1. Ms. Emme; while God brings our words forth through the Holy Spirit that indwells us, His power brings them to life. Thank you for the God-powered words He brought forth from you this morning. Much needed today. God's blessings...

    1. So true, Jim. The indwelling Holy Spirit does indeed bring life. God’s richest blessings to you.