There are times in your life when books arrives that absolutely speaks to you. For me, one of those is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. As I read this book, I felt as though I was having a private conversation with Liz. Her stories, her experience and her ideas resonate deeply with me. I wanted to say Yes You Get Me.
My absolute favourite quote from the book is enchanting and intriguing.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” (Gilbert 2015 p69)
Creative jewels are buried within each of us. I have spent a lifetime slowly excavating different mine, road testing them, experimenting with them, finding ones that spark joy and others that demand more practice, patience and love to bring them to fruition.
Some of the best messages that I got from her book are…
1. We need to make space for fear and creativity to co-exist. Being creative requires bravery. She discloses that fear is a big part of her and for many creatives it is a big part of us. Fear is that part of us that simply yells STOP whenever a great idea or thought arrives at the door. She has written a letter to Fear in the chapter called Courage. She writes that she and Creativity are going on a road trip and she understands that Fear will be coming along for the ride. I love the idea of writing a letter to that part that holds us back. Fear, Inner Critic, Perfectionist.
2. You need to cultivate your sense of “creative entitlement“. This is the belief you have a right to be here, to have a voice and to express yourself. She quotes David Whyte who calls it, the “arrogance of belonging”. She says this is the critical ingredient to allow yourself to engage more fully with life. I am worthy and I am entitled to express myself.
3. You don’t need a permission slip to be creative. This one is important to me. I have spent my life wanting other people’s approval for my creativity. I came from a family who valued intellect over creativity. But I have been fortunate to have friends who have nurtured and supported my creative journey. It is their love and inspiration that has helped me find my creative self. This quote resonates so strongly with me. “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” My photography tutor’s mantra is “do more of what you love“. Such an important lesson for creatives. Gilbert says do it for yourself, don’t try and please others with your creativity, you’ll always be disappointed.
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” (Gilbert 2015 p125)
4. Embrace failure. I am a self confessed failure avoider. But I now realise that mistakes and failures are part of being creative. Having a go. messing up and trying
again. As Gilbert says “failure has a function. It asks you whether you really want to go on making things.” Not everything will work out well. The biggest failure is
when we don’t try the first time. I love that she says you don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. A great reminder to me hat I spend way too much time
rehashing mistakes, and not enough time picking myself up and moving on.
So here is my new mantra from her book, I am choosing
- “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” (Gilbert 2015 p80)