Just in case you haven’t heard of the book, this photo is of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest work. Her name might be familiar because several years ago, she also wrote a huge best seller called Eat, Pray, Love. Big Magic is a book I bought for myself over the holidays because I had heard so much about it. I consider myself an Elizabeth Gilbert fan after reading Eat, Pray, Love twice and going to see the movie as well. Just as it did with so many people, her journey of self discovery really inspired me and I found it both comforting and liberating. Some of it might have had to do with what was happening (or not happening) in my life at the time. About ten years ago, I was single and searching for some sort of life path. Here was a young woman who was going through a major life transition, staying true to herself and her passions. She had no idea what the future had in store for her, yet she trusted she would figure it all out, and she did. When I found out she wrote her new book Big Magic, I was immediately intrigued. Actually, I was both intrigued and overwhelmed by the thought of reading a book about creativity. That seemed like a pretty big topic, so I let the book sit on my night stand for a while and then after the holiday madness settled down, I opened it and couldn’t stop reading.
This book is really one of the reasons I decided to stop thinking about writing, blogging, sharing my life, and working on our house. After reading the book, I actually got off my butt to begin doing the things I had been pondering for so long. This book really makes the idea of being creative or expressing some creative urge accessible. I also think it can be a challenge to make sense of a creative force, but Elizabeth Gilbert has somehow articulated every block to unleashing creativity. I thought it would be fun to pretend we’re having a friendly conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert at a coffee shop. I think one of the most appealing aspects of her writing is that it’s so inviting and it makes you feel like you are actually listening to her talk to you, as if she were a friend. I wanted to touch on some of the ways her writing has presented an argument for some of the “road blocks” that I’ve created for myself. So, sit back, grab a latte and let’s chat.
One more thing. This ended up being a longer “conversation” than expected, so I divided it into two parts. (I’ll post Part 2 later this week.) If you don’t have time to read any of this . . . In a nut shell, this book made me realize that creative expression can be truly necessary for a person to be happy. Expressing creativity does not need to look a certain way, which is where many people, including myself, seem to get stuck. Some people like to cook, some people like knitting, drawing, or figure skating. Not allowing the time to nurture those passions, even if it’s once a month, can lead to great frustration and sadness.
Let’s get into our “conversation” with Liz. (If we sat down with her, I’m thinking she might let us call her Liz, as she occasionally uses this shorter name while talking to herself in her book . . . )
Me: I’m just really not that creative. I don’t particularly enjoy painting. I can do that kind of thing but I’m actually not that into it.
Liz: “When I talk about ‘creative living’ here, please understand that I am not necessarily talking about pursuing a life that is professionally or exclusively devoted to the arts. I’m not saying that you must become a poet who lives on a mountaintop in Greece, or that you must perform at Carnegie Hall, or that you must win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. (Though if you want to attempt any of these feats, by all means, have at it. I love watching people swing for the bleachers.) No, when I refer to “creative living,” I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” (page 9)
Me: Um. That’s brilliant. Honestly. Because every time I imagine doing something, I think it has to be a big deal. I have EXPECTATIONS that I’ve imposed on myself. (So, did you hear what Liz just said? She just gave every one of us permission to drop expectations and go have fun. You know, like your kids do when they rip apart their play area in total abandon, after you just spent two hours cleaning it.) Liz is basically saying Go! Be Free! You might not win an Academy Award, but So What?
(I want to hug her!)
Me: I’m a little (well, maybe more than a little?) afraid to start anything new or follow a passion because I don’t really know what will happen and I really like knowing what will happen. I like to feel safe.
Liz: “So, I don’t try to kill off my fear. I don’t go to war against it. Instead, I make all the space for it. Heaps of space.” “I even have a welcoming speech prepared for fear . . . It goes something like this: ‘Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting — and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So, by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way.’ ” (pages 25-26)
Me: I always forget that the best way to deal with fear is to be friends with it. Duh. How could I forget that? Fighting something makes it stronger and gives it POWER. I like the driver’s seat. (I also have two daughters that like the driver’s seat. More on that in another post . . .) Anyway, I like to feel in control. You can ride with me Fear, but please buckle up . . . in the Back seat!
Me: I have so many unique ideas. I think differently than everyone else. Mostly, my ideas are so unique, I think no one will want to listen to them, so I don’t bother sharing them.
Liz: “It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.” “Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing partners.” “When an idea thinks it has found somebody – say, you – who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit.” “And then, in a quiet moment, it will ask, ‘Do you want to work with me?’.” (pages 35 – 36)
Me: Yes! Again, this is pretty liberating. I’m NOT really that different. So, I can relax now and go watch TV? Actually, what comes next is really something. Liz tells a story about an idea she had for a novel. She had been entertaining the idea for a long time and then got sidetracked, as we all do. Eventually, her book idea was written. However, a new friend of hers actually brought the idea to life instead of Liz. Turns out, her friend had pretty much the same idea!
Liz: “I believed I knew what had happened, because I’d seen this sort of thing before: The idea had grown tired of waiting, and it had left me.” “Thus, the neglected idea did what many self-respecting living entities would do in the same circumstance: It hit the road.” (page 47-48)
Me: This is an amazing part of the story! Someone else had a very similar idea for a book! (By the way, on page 54, when Liz realizes her friend had this idea for a book that was just about the same idea Liz had been considering for a long time, Liz uses the term “WTF?”. This is my favorite expression. I think we might be sisters.)
This concludes Part 1 of my already too long post about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.
Thank you for reading! I feel like this is a good time to pause, so I will post Part 2 later this week . . . Have a great day!