I will warn you in advance that Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is a good book that gets off to a weird start. So when you start reading and find a bunch of flouffy whatnot about how ideas are sentient beings floating around in the ether and getting transferred from person to person or gushing through people’s ears (I know. I know), just skim and bear with it because she IS getting to a good part.
And the good part is worth getting to.
Gilbert talks about what stands in the way of our being creative, and reading all of the excuses I give myself for not taking action on my ideas had a funny way of making them seem ridiculous that, in itself, was pretty motivating. I liked her exhortation to stop being so precious about your creativity and how important it is and how you need to wait until you have more time to put your plans into effect, and just DO SOMETHING.
We don’t need to be big and famous and awesome and save the world with our creativity. We just need to be creative because it’s who we are and it brings us (and others) joy.
Gilbert comes at this from a different perspective than I do, but I agreed with her assessment. She points out that in modern times, when we divorced the concept of the divine from creativity, we put a lot of undue pressure on the creative person. Instead of being a person GIVEN a creative gift, he or she now IS creative. It makes the person responsible, rather than a receiver, and it makes the whole thing into a very fraught enormous deal.
Instead, if we can view our creativity and our ideas as gifts (I would say gifts from God, Gilbert has a vaguer viewpoint) we are released from a lot of that pressure, and we can just create.
Gilbert quotes Rebecca Solnit:
“So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.”
I read an article just this afternoon in which I was exhorted to be working on my creative goal three to four hours per day if I was really serious about it. I’m signed up for an email series on creativity (and it’s great, don’t get me wrong) that lays down a challenge to be working on my project two hours per day lest I be labeled someone who isn’t really all in. This sort of thing can be discouraging when I track my time, don’t watch TV, only check Facebook twice a week (New Years resolution for 2016–surprisingly easy and effective so far), and have what amounts to two jobs. So I guess I shouldn’t write fiction or essays at this stage of my life, right?
Well, no, Gilbert would say. I should do my creative writing when I can and that’s ok. It’s not less serious or less enjoyable or less potentially good if I can’t sling 20 hours a week at it.
Somehow, I needed that permission. So last Sunday, on my Screen Free Sabbath (another new resolution, surprisingly restorative) I spent about an hour writing a scene for one of my novel ideas long hand into a notebook. I loved it. Who knows if I will finish this novel at some point, or if it will just be a good piece of avocational writing that makes me happy. Either way, it’s worth it.
If you self-identify as a creative, like to be creative, feel like you’d like to be more creative, or have a secret creative side bubbling up in you somewhere, I think you’d get something out of Big Magic. Maybe you won’t agree with all of Gilbert’s philosophies (I didn’t), but I think you’d find something to inspire you to create.
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