I believe creativity is a form of magic. I believe that the universe gifts us our creativity, and it is up to us to bring forth its creation. I got this idea from Elizabeth Gilbert the author of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. The book demystifies how to live a creative life without the fear and torment. This book landed on my lap at a time when I was struggling with my creativity and figuring out what I want to do with my life. (Was the universe lending me a hand in some magic way? I think yes!) I suppose it would be a cliché to say this book changed my life. So I will rather say this: it calmed me down, and let me come up for air at a time when I needed to breathe.
The book has six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. These six things are the fundamentals of living a creative life. The book is filled with personal anecdotes from Elizabeth Gilbert’s own creative life and her friends’ creative lives. She writes in a friendly, humorous and inviting way. It makes you feel like she’s written the book just for you. Here is a little taste:
“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
Everyone has the potential to be creative. It is not just for the gifted few. Creative doesn’t have to mean you are an artist, poet, writer, or designer. All humans can be creative. We just have one thing standing in our way. Fear. Gilbert describes fear as “a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.” Unfortunately fear and creativity go hand in hand. Where there is creativity there will always be fear lurking behind. Why? Well, creativity asks us to go into the realms of uncertainty. Fear HATES uncertainty. Gilbert uses a wonderful analogy of herself, creativity and fear going on a road trip together. You will have to read the book to find out what happens.
This is my favourite part of the book. It explains the magic behind creativity. The Greeks and Romans believed that everyone had a “daemon of creativity” like a little house elf. This little spirit aided you in your creative endeavours. The Romans called it “your genius – your guardian deity.” The Romans didn’t believe that a gifted person was a genius; they believed a gifted person had a genius. This belief kept the artist’s ego in check. If the work was a success the artist couldn’t take full credit for the work because they did not create it by themselves. If it was a failure the artist’s ego was protected because it wasn’t entirely their fault. So the tormented artist cannot exist. You can watch Gilbert’s brilliant TED Talk in 2009 for a more detailed explanation if this.
Unfortunately today we associate a creative life as a twisted, misunderstood, painful struggle. We don’t have to look too far in history to find examples of tormented painters, sculptors, and writers (we won’t even get started on the poets!) Of course you can follow this path of creativity if you want to. To do this Gilbert says to do the following:
“ Drink as much as you possibly can; sabotage all your relationships; wrestle so vehemently against yourself that you come up bloodied every time; express constant dissatisfaction with your work; jealously compete against your peers; begrudge anybody else’s victory; proclaim yourself cursed (not blessed) by your talents; attach your sense of self-worth to external rewards; be arrogant when you are successful and self-pitying when you fail; honor darkness above light; die young; blame creativity for having killed you.”
How exhausting! Does your work mean more, or become more important because you’ve suffered more to create it? I used to believe this! If I was having a good time then I wasn’t working hard enough. How sick is that! This type of thinking is boring and destructive. Gilbert says, dare to be the person who proclaims, “I love my creativity,” or even more daring “my creativity loves me back and I am my happiest when I am creating.”
You do not need anybody’s permission or blessing to live a creative life. You are not required to save the world with your creativity. All you need to do is:
“[Do] whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
I thought for a long time that making jewellery would cause a revolution in my heart. I also thought my jewellery designs had to be out of this world with some deep complex meaning. Way too much pressure! Tormented artist here we come. I realised what I love about jewellery design is not the physical making of it. It’s the creative problem solving that comes with it. For me, creativity is problem solving in a way. I never would have found this out if I hadn’t been on that journey. So when I stopped I didn’t see it as a failure at all. It led me to start this blog, and this blog is definitely causing a revolution in my heart.
One simple question: “What is your favourite flavour of shit sandwich?” Let’s face it; most things suck some of the time. Gilbert says that you just have to think about “what are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” Through my jewellery design journey I realised that maybe I didn’t want to make jewellery but I could definitely write about it. That thinking brought about the idea for this blog, and this blog became the shit sandwich that I can eat every single day. One more thing. Your creativity does not have to pay your bills. What an awful burden. In hindsight I believe I made this mistake. By demanding a pay check from my creativity I believe I scared it away. It also caused me so much anxiety that I was too focussed on the money rather than the actual creating. Gilbert describes that:
“[To] yell at your creativity, saying ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
“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 loose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome”
I have no idea where my creativity will lead me. I can tell you that a year ago I was a creative mess. I was that tormented artist beating myself up. Now, I know I want to write a whole lot more. I know I’m interested in online marketing and content creation. This came about because of my jewellery design business and this blog. Maybe you are in the same boat as me. Then ask yourself this: “What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail? What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?” Even if you have a vague idea, follow this idea, be curious, and follow that clue. I am willing to bet that it will lead you somewhere you never expected but makes absolute sense to you.
Creativity is not something we need to understand. It comes and goes within us. It is sacred but it is not scared. What I took from this book is to just show up. Whatever your creative project is just show up to work every single day. No matter how bad the work gets, carry on. Accept inspiration when it visits and when it doesn’t just keep working. Lastly, thank the creative gods for Elizabeth Gilbert!
Elizabeth Gilbert also has a podcast called Magic Lessons where she helps ordinary people start their creative journey. Well worth a listen if you want to take that first step….