Some of you might remember, about a month ago I mentioned the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, saying I should probably read it.
I’m here to tell you I did.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t part of love fest surrounding “Eat, Pray, Love,” Gilbert’s memoir and wildly successful bestseller. To be perfectly honest, I read two chapters and gave up on it, because I simply wasn’t enjoying it.
The only reason I decided to give this book a shot was that it was recommended to me by someone I trust. I’m extremely glad I did.
I can’t even begin to tell you what my favorite part was. Instead, I’m going to throw a few quotes at you.
Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction.
The subtitle of the book is “Creative Living Beyond Fear” – and I suppose that’s why it appealed to me. Her ability to address fear and tame it in her own life is inspiring, but I never got the sense she had an over-inflated ego. If anything, she seemed remarkably humble — honest, yes, but always humble.
No, wait — let’s make that honored. She came across as deeply honored to be living a creative life. And determined to push past her fears to make it work.
She also doesn’t limit creativity to the arts.
Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one. To even call someone “a creative person” is almost laughingly redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species.
According to her, it doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, a painter, a quilter, a teacher, a neurosurgeon, an accountant — all of us are visited by these creative moments — with ideas that excite us, amuse us, make us wonder what could happen it we actually followed through. But too often, we let “realistic thinking” (or fear) step in and the idea passes by.
I also loved her take on the struggling artist, the tormented writer driven to despair by his/her craft. It’s a mystique we hold on to, as though you can’t be a ‘real’ artist, or a truly great writer, unless you suffer.
But here’s the part that really hit home:
I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. (…) I’ve always felt like this is so cruel to your work – to demand a regular paycheck from it, as if creativity were a government job, or a trust fund.
Okay, now I don’t know about you, but for me that’s pretty mind-blowing. Isn’t that what we always want? Whether we’re writers, painters, actors, musicians… we all hope that one day we can quit our jobs and make our living just creating.
But as she points out, that’s a pretty big responsibility to throw on your creativity. Instead, how about you pay the mortgage with your job and let your inspiration off the hook?
How about instead of suffering and agonizing and tormenting ourselves with our art, we actually enjoy the process? How about we dare to find pleasure with the gift that was given to us?
What a novel idea, eh?
Have you read the book? I’d love to hear what you thought of it. 🙂