The tag-line of Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert is ‘Creative living beyond fear.’ Anyone who has ever listened to Liz Gilbert talk will know this is pretty much what she’s about. It is a book that implores the reader to get out of their own way. It’s where a lot of us are.
It’s a place I’m in ninety percent of the time.
- Constantly comparing yourself to others.
- Avoiding starting projects because of fear.
- Spending long afternoons convincing yourself that you have nothing to contribute.
Sound familiar? Yes? Don’t feel bad. Lots of people brought this book. There are a few of us around.
Big Magic is medicine for all the above complaints. It offers a way to work through your fears to become the person and creator you want to be.
Big Magic Lessons:
There is room for everyone
For many of us, the second thought after an idea is usually along the lines of I bet someone already did this. The truth is, yeah, someone probably already did. We’ve been on this planet a few million years and we’ve been telling stories the whole time. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to contribute. Yes, someone has told the story before, but you haven’t. That’s the crucial part.
If you feel the need for evidence of this fact please turn to the genre of fairytale retellings. Are there a million of them? Yes. Have we, the blogger community, read most of that million? Yes. Would be read more? Winter just happened, didn’t it?
Misery isn’t a prerequisite for creativity
You don’t have to suffer to make art. In fact, Liz Gilbert is a big proponent of something she calls stubborn gladness. Part of this is living with the knowledge that whatever is bad for you, is also most likely, bad for your art.
I have never brought into the idea of the suffering artist. There are few things I find more annoying than when people make jokes about how their stable, happy upbringings were so detrimental to their art that they created drama to compensate.
Another aspect of stubborn gladness is resilience. It’s the choice to remain true to yourself through rejections, setbacks and failures. It’s approaching each new obstacle with a smile.
Perfection isn’t a ‘thing’
Gilbert advocates for deeply disciplined half ass-ery. This means that we should create constantly, but with the mindset that all projects have an ending. Odds are, that ending isn’t going to be perfect. There are going to be sentences, characters and chapter endings that no matter what you do just don’t quite work. But at some point you just have to throw up your hands and admit that you’re finished. Sometimes, as Gilbert says ‘done is better than good.’
Fear is always with you… and that’s actually fine
Fear is a part of creativity. Gilbert talks about how whether you like it or not, it’s going to come with on whatever creative journey you decide to take. Her argument is that if you spend the whole time fighting it, chances are you’re never even going to leave the starting line. Instead of striking out into the unknown you’ll be left sitting at the bottom of your staircase surrounded by suitcases, so busy arguing with an imaginary demon that you didn’t even notice your life passing by.
So take the pressure off.
Let fear in. Just don’t let it take control. Acknowledge it, but also remember that it’s no use to you on this journey – the demon couldn’t read a map if it’s life depended on it. If you make fear your companion and partner in your creative endeavours, it can’t hurt you anymore.