Last September, a gem of a book tumbled into the world cleverly titled: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Perhaps you already read it and might enjoy this peek back inside its wise pages. Maybe it’s on your nightstand and this post might nudge you to crack it open. Or maybe you don’t consider yourself creative so you believe this book isn’t for you. That, dear ones (as Gilbert might say) is the first myth dispelled by Gilbert in Big Magic where she maintains, “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.”
Big Magic provides a perspective-altering definition of a creative life as “a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear” and not necessarily “a life that is professionally or exclusively devoted to the arts.” When we carry the belief that creative blessings are only bestowed upon a chosen few (the official artists), we provide a disservice to the world. The pursuit of our buried creative jewels is what separates a mundane existence from an enchanted life.
Big Magic is a supportive and inspiring guide which confirms that creative endeavors are a conduit for escalating your search for mind, heart and soul nourishment. Big Magic includes hundreds of methods for channeling creativity – here are 5 of my favorites.
1.) Don’t let fear immobilize you.
Gilbert suggests we acknowledge fear; but never allow it to paralyze your creative pursuits.
My dance with fear usually stops me in my tracks. Occasionally I stare it down and forge ahead. For six years I have been fascinated by levitation photography. Today I bravely faced the camera’s lens and acknowledged I can’t control fear’s presence (it is always a breath away), but I can control my reaction to it. I politely acknowledged and brushed away a dozen other fear-based barriers and then simply got to work.
2.) Get to work.
Gilbert is crystal clear about the anchor for unearthing creativity: you simply must do the work. “If you do the work, even the hard stuff that is not inspired, or is a struggle, or is a mess, eventually inspiration will descend, an idea will take root, and the work will take flight. But that only happens when you put your nose to the grindstone. Bringing your gifts to light requires hard work,” according to Gilbert.
3.) Pursue your curiosity – it is never too late.
There are countless anecdotes throughout Big Magic that confirm Gilbert’s take on “it is never too late.” One of my favorite Big Magic stories centered on Gilbert’s friend Winifred, who began studying the history of ancient Mesopotamia in her eighties and continued for a full decade. Now in her 90s, Winifred is called up by museums and universities to tap her knowledge and expertise.
Gilbert shared her own tale of allowing her curiosity to guide her on a journey of discovery through botanical history that began in her garden and eventually led to the book The Signature of All Things. Gilbert says, “When you want to create, create. You’re not too old. You don’t need more research, more education, more experience. Start before you are ready. It’s time. Make what you were born to make. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
For me that means taking photos, chasing nature, honoring the sunrise and making encaustic art. Yes, there I said it. I have been playing with beeswax all year. More on that topic another day. Creativity is the sacred thread that stitches the hours together with joy.
4.) Perfection leads to misery.
Reading Gilbert’s view on perfection was a breath of fresh air. She says, “perfection is unachievable: it’s a myth and a trap and a hamster wheel that will run you to death. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault in. There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud. You really just have to finish your work and release it as is if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time.”
I adore her sentiments. One solution I embrace is a 3-step process to leap perfection’s barrier: dream, do and detach (and repeat).
5.) Magic is surreal and real.
Gilbert describes creativity as a riddle: a divine endowment that we are never meant to fully understand. Big Magic helped me to appreciate the contradictory nature of creativity. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s words…
Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.
Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.
The real treasure of this book is its layers of magic and divinity. That is the transcendence I hope you uncover for yourself within the pages of the book. I promise it will be worth it.
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