The One Message All Creative People Need to Hear
Lessons from Elizbeth Gilbert on how to pursue a creative life
I was struggling for motivation on how to proceed with my writing.
I felt like I had run out of ideas. Even if I tried my best to create something new, a voice in my head told me there was no point because there was nothing new or creative in my idea.
That someone else had done all that I wished to do, and they had done it better than me. There was no reason for me to create a poor copy of a masterpiece.
All my life, I had prided myself on being a creative writer, and suddenly, the spark inside me was gone. There was nothing I could write about that was unique.
Without the motivation to write, it felt like all my life was a lie.
I was conflicted, as if my life’s purpose was taken away. Defeated, I confided about this state of mind to a friend. They heard me out patiently, and when I was done ranting, they suggested that I should read Elizabeth Gilberts’s Big Magic.
“Please don’t suggest another self-help book,” I said, rolling my eyes. “What can a book do differently from the countless articles I read on “productivity” and “creativity” online?”
“It is not a self-help book,” my friend said. “It is the story of your life.”
I must say, that was a compelling recommendation.
And so, reluctant though I was about picking yet another self-help book, I purchased a copy and started reading.
Even though the book was ostensibly titled Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, the cover had a certain vibe to it. It was filled with bursts of vibrant colours that somehow spoke to my soul.
I had not read Liz Gilbert’s work before, so, I was not sure what to expect. The first few chapters sounded okayish, with the author adopting a playful and conversational tone. She started out by talking about the lessons she learned from a Pulitzer-winning poet who shared her last name. The key takeaway, which touched me deeply, was about having the courage to start working on your dream project and turning it into reality-
Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.
After this, I knew my friend was right. I knew this book was indeed the story of my life!
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Gilbert’s words blew my mind.
I don’t believe in divine interventions, but, thanks to my friend, this book was the perfect message I needed to hear at that time I was facing a creative low.
In this article, I am going to list the most important lessons about creative living I learned from Liz Gilbert. Hope these will speak to you as they did to me and that they will inspire you to shed your inhibitions and give yourself in to the unabashed, unapologetic pursuit of creativity.
Liz Gilbert espouses that the universe buries strange jewels deep within all the living beings, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover these jewels is what she calls Creative Living. In the author’s own words-
A life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
Fear is boring. It is predictable. Every time you think of doing something new, fear will tell you it will not work, and so, it is better you don’t start.
Rather than giving in to fear or running away from it, why don’t you try to befriend fear? Establish a healthy relationship with your fear. Be open to the fact that it will always be there, no matter how far and fast you run away from it. The best you can do is draw clear boundaries and make it explicit that fear will get to have a say in your decisions, but it will not get to make those decisions for you.
Your fear keeps your creativity in check.
To truly live a creative life, you have to put fear in the backseat and listen to its concerns, acknowledge them, and carry on with whatever you were planning to do anyway.
Ideas As Sentient Beings
Aside from plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms, what if our world is populated by ideas?
Gilbert proposes the concept that ideas are sentient beings — wisps of divine intervention that roam around the surface of the earth, looking for the perfect candidate to present themselves to. How else do you explain the sudden surge of adrenaline you get when you are struck by a moment of instantaneous inspiration?
You get an idea so bright for a project so brilliant, that it has the potential to change the world. Inspiration rushes through your body and fills your heart with fire, and your brain with the motivation to start working at it right away.
Don’t wait for ideas
Ideas don’t present themselves to random people. They roam around the earth as the omniscient, multi-dimensional entities they are, in search of the perfect candidate, the one creative they feel has the potential to see them through to execution.
If you sit around waiting for a great idea to strike you, chances are, you will never have your moment of inspiration. You have to keep doing what you do best, work at bettering your skills, and make yourself worthy so that when the ideas spot you, they feel you are the right fit for them.
When an idea will come, it will change your life. But, you can’t wait for divine intervention to begin.
All you can do is keep working on yourself and your dream project. Fill yourself with so much passion for your art, that the ideas floating in the universe are drawn to you.
What happens if you let an idea go
Have you noticed how you feel immensely motivated for the first few moments after an idea strikes you? You are filled with adrenaline and you cannot wait to begin the project immediately. But, if you wait around for the “right time” or procrastinate and prioritise other projects, when you finally sit down to work on your grand idea, you find yourself empty, as if all the passion that ran through your veins some days ago is gone, evaporated.
If inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you, it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you.
Ideas are flighty and impatient. They will not sit around waiting forever for you to start your dream project. If you don’t treat them with the respect they deserve (and the urgency they demand), they will leave you and roam in search of another person who can see them through.
Ideas are stubborn. They refuse to stop searching until they find an equally stubborn collaborator.
Maybe this is why, when you let an idea sit for long enough, you can no longer channel the energy to work on it. And maybe that is why you see the exact idea being brought to fulfilment by some other person in another corner of the world.
No, they did not “steal” your idea. They just gave up everything else and worked hard to make the idea a reality.
So, when an idea comes to you, work on it with stubbornness. Give it your best shot. Show it that you are a worthy candidate and convince it that you will do anything to make sure the dream turns to a reality.
Uniqueness vs Authenticity
Maybe your problem is that you feel you are not original enough. Maybe you fear that your ideas are “common” and hence, do not deserve your devotion. Maybe you are afraid that what you are planning has already been done before. But, you know, there are hardly any new ideas left in the world.
Most things have already been done — but they have not been done by you.
The good news is that your target audience will be less impressed by uniqueness than they would be by your authenticity. If you put your heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears in a project, it will show. Your honesty and dedication will shine through and touch the reader’s heart.
Don’t worry about being one hundred percent original. Just say what you want to say, and say it with all your heart. If your content is authentic enough, it will feel original.
The Bottom Line
I found Big Magic at a time when I needed this message. I needed to understand that to live a creative life, I had to cultivate a sense of personal entitlement.
That I will never be able to create anything worthwhile if I didn’t believe I was entitled to at least try.
Creative entitlement does not mean that the world owes me anything whatsoever for my effort. It simply means that I need to believe that just because I am here, I am entitled to a voice and vision of my own.
And so are, my dear friend.
Your creativity does not need anyone’s permission to flourish.
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