I do not believe in many things but I do believe in timing. I have always had complete faith in the notion that things happen in your life at a certain time for a certain reason and that there are no random acts of coincidence. I also believe in words. I believe in words so fiercely that they have been my most trusted ally in my most doubtful times. These two things guide me and my choices. Together, they combine to make up my truth.
I have owned Big Magic for the past few months and for some reason, I kept putting off reading it. It has been sitting on my shelves among my other children (I refer to my books as my children because I have an unconditional love for them. Sue me.) just waiting to be picked up. Yet every time I finished another book, my gut told me not to choose it. (I choose which book I read next based on a few factors – previous read, gut feeling and length.) I did not choose Big Magic until this past week. I now realize why my gut/the universe/timing hadn’t chosen Big Magic until this moment in my life – it was because I hadn’t needed it until now.
I’m a creative person. I was a very shy child, tween and teenager and it wasn’t until I was about 15-years-old that I started writing and really experimenting with my creativity. I’m talking writing like all the time writing. In my head, in a journal, on the computer, on my notes app, on a post it, on the back of a receipt, I wrote all the time and all over the place. Writing is/was my savior. Steam of consciousness (aka word vomit) has always come extremely easy to me to the point that I can articulate myself better when I write than when I speak aloud (especially in stressful/emotionally charged situations). Once I was able to be a little more brave in my writing I found I enjoyed tapping into different things like fiction, poetry and lyrics that filled a completely different part of my creativity. These pieces, once I opened myself up to them, started to flow out as easily as my word vomit. These pieces became how I dealt with every thing in my life, these pieces became my lifeline.
In the past year or so I’ve had a difficult time returning to my lifeline. This is nothing new as it has fluctuated in and out over the past few years. I’ll get busy with a new project or job or life thing and my little voice goes away. She goes away. To be honest, she’s a little fidgety and gets kind of scared when I don’t have a lot of time to devote to her. I have to slowly nudge her out of her silent corner, remind her that I love her and eventually she comes back to me. She always comes back to me.
Recently I have had a lot of trouble getting her back to me. Like six months worth of trouble. Like “this is the longest time she’s ever been gone from me and it’s freaking me out” kind of trouble. Then I read Big Magic.
Written by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic explores different ways to open yourself up to the inspiration around you. I know I know, Liz Gilbert is a polarizing author for a lot of people – you either love her or you hate her. I am of the former. I love her writing style, I love her voice and I love the pictures she paints with her words. If you don’t enjoy her writing, you should probably stop reading this post right now because the rest of this is basically going to be a gigantic love letter to Big Magic. In essence, I’m drinking the juice.
Big Magic is an entire book that talks about cultivating, living and enhancing your creativity. In a way, it serves as a sort of self help guide to dealing with the anxiety, stress and fear that blocks creativity. There are six sections in Big Magic: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. A small breakdown of each section plus my favorite quote can be found below (because who doesn’t like a good bullet list).
- Courage – Courage speaks to finding the bravery in yourself in order to pursue your creativity. Rather than constantly trying to fight off this fear, Liz suggests we make space for it because there is no way to completely excavate it. We are human and fear is an essential part of who we are. Better to clear a little guest room for that fear and let it live comfortable with you while you’re able to keep a close eye on it.
- “This is why we have to be careful of how we handle our fear – because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process.”
- Enchantment – Liz has this rad theory that ideas aren’t just stagnant things, they are living, breathing creatures that are all around us. Ideas roam around until they find the right person at the right time (AGAIN WITH THE TIMING) and then proceed to settle in with you. They might tap you on the shoulder and then be off or they might invade your dreams, nag at you for months and not leave you alone. If for whatever reason you don’t pay attention to that idea or don’t want to expand on it, that idea can choose to leave you and find another creator because it wants to thrive. So many factors have to come together: you have to be open to said idea, it has to be open to and you have to be willing to collaborate with it.
- “There are so many ideas that I never got around to, and often they became someone else’s project. Other people told stories that were intimately familiar to me – stories that had once been called to my attention, or seemed to come from my own life, or could have been generated from my imagination….Sometimes it’s been painful. Sometimes I’ve had to watch as other people enjoyed successes and victories that I once desired for myself.”
- Permission – Permission is as simple as it sounds – you have to grant yourself the permission to create without barriers, without filters, and without fear. In this section Liz talks about what it means to be original versus authentic. We are so far into the lifespan of humanity that many ideas are bound to be repeated, that’s just a fact we have to face. What makes each person’s take on idea different is what they bring to the table. Things like personal experiences, emotions and analysis can make one idea completely different when created by two separate people. People can always tell if you are trying too hard to be “unique” just the same as people can always tell if you are being completely authentic, it’s just one of those human instinct gut things. Choose honesty always.
- “Everything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours.“
- “If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific…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 can go make their own fucking art.”
- Persistence – Persistence is all about making sure you want something. Like REALLY want something. Like an “if I don’t do this then I am going to crumble into a shell of my former self” kind of want. Liz stresses the fact that you absolutely have to finish the things you start. SHOCKER, the greater portion of the human race does not do this so you need to be a part of the minority and FINISH your projects. Even if it sucks, even if it’s horrible, even if it will never see the light of day. As Liz says, “Done is better than good.”
- “It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship or my own peace of mind).”
- Trust – Trust talks to one of my own favorite personal problems with writing and creativity in general – the brooding artist. This idea that in order for your art to be good you have to have suffered through something. This is some grade A, fresh out of the toilet bullshit. I refuse to believe that in order for something magical to come out of my brain that I have to SUFFER for it. Of course if you go through a hard time in your life that is out of your control and choose to use your creativity to express yourself that is honorable and incredible, I myself have done this countless times. What I have a problem with is purposely choosing to be sad in order to create your art. If you want to choose to be sad that is your choice, I did it for a while and it ruined quite a few things in my life. Now when I can, I always choose light, I always choose happy, I always choose love. I trust that my words will reflect this and speak for themselves. I trust that no matter where I am in my life that my little voice will not leave me.
- “Fierce trust asks you to stand strong with this truth: ‘You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.'”
- Divinity – Divinity is the shortest chapter in the book, no more than a few pages. Liz shares a story told to her from her Bali medicine man Ketut (from Eat, Pray, Love) discussing how creativity transcends the line between being sacred and providing entertainment. The line? It doesn’t really exist. They are both so intertwined that it really depends on who is enjoying the art to decide where it falls.
- “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all…Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul and I promise – you can make anything.”
There are a handful of books in my life that I can say genuinely made an impact on me in the long term. The Alchemist (read in 2009), Tuesdays with Moorie (read in 2010), Brain on Fire (read in 2014) and now Big Magic (hello 2016). Big Magic came to me at a time when I really needed to hear all of these reinforcements of things I already believed to be true. Sometimes you just need a swift kick in the ass to remind you what makes your heart go boom and why it matters so much to you. Thanks Liz.
PS I scooped up the signed edition of Big Magic because it makes me feel like Liz made this copy just for me and that thought makes me happy.