Admittedly, I was not a huge fan of the book “Eat. Pray. Love.” I actually, and this never happens with me, preferred the movie to the book. [gasp!] I also didn’t make it all the way through the paperback, so that might have had something to do with it. But her latest work, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” really resonated with me.
True, I’m very lucky. My job, and jobs to this point, have allowed me to use that wacky, wonderful creative sphere of my brain in a capacity that brings both a general sense of satisfaction and suitable income. But the majority of folks have to find a way to interject creative beats into their work. I have a friend who’s a dental hygienist, for example. I don’t imagine that, on a routine day, plague and floss do much to lube up the creative wheels in the cranium. I could be wrong. My folks sell insurance. I don’t see those creative sectors of their message center lighting up on the regular. But again, I could be wrong.
But what Liz is saying with her book is that you don’t have to make a living from whatever medium you like to play at. You don’t have to torture your hobby to manipulate it into what defines you. But you do have to entertain it. You do have to create. paint. draw. write. act. sing. garden. cook. sew. knit. bake. sculpt. storytell. Something that lights up that part of your soul often enough that it doesn’t extinguish entirely.
I have this friend who’s an actress out in L.A. She comes home almost every December to spend some time with friends and family over the holidays and, it never fails, someone always asks her about her backup plan. “What will you do if you don’t make it?” they ask. “The thing people don’t get,” she explained over whiskey and ginger beer on New Year’s Eve, “is that I’m doing what I love. I have made it. I’m making a living acting and creating art and work that I’m proud of and that’s all I ever wanted. You may not see me on TV, but that’s not what it’s about for me.” The sentiment aligns so beautifully with this line from Big Magic: “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
Liz doesn’t demand that you quit your desk job and pursue your long-hidden aspiration of painting a scene from the top of Mt. Everest or anything (unless you want to), but she does plant the seed and water it a little.
“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
She also offers a bit of caution. Ideas are fleeting and can often be fickle. If we don’t nurture that grand invention or storyline or project that whispers in our ear, it might just pack up and move onto a soul that will listen.
“ideas are alive, that ideas do seek the most available human collaborator, that ideas do have a conscious will, that ideas do move from soul to soul, that ideas will always try to seek the swiftest and most efficient conduit to the earth (just as lightning does).”
It’s a quick read and I’d encourage you check it out so you can at least entertain the notion that a a little creativity can bring a great deal to your days. You don’t have to write a book, but start a journal. You don’t have to open a bakery, but maybe try decorating a birthday cake yourself. Plot out a killer garden. Put together a play with the kids. Just play.
“Creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that—merely by being here—you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”
“So whenever that brittle voice of dissatisfaction emerges within me, I can say ‘Ah, my ego! There you are, old friend!’ It’s the same thing when I’m being criticized and I notice myself reaching with outrage, heartache, or defensiveness. It’s just my ego, flaring up and testing its power. In such circumstances, I have learned to watch my heated emotions carefully, but I try not to take them too seriously, because I know that it’s merely my ego that has been wounded–never my soul It is merely my ego that wants revenge, or to win the biggest prize. It is merely my ego that wants to start a Twitter war against a hater, or to sulk at an insult or to quit in righteous indignation because I didn’t get the outcome I wanted. At such times, I can always steady my life one more by returning to my soul. I ask it, ‘And what is it that you want, dear one?’ The answer is always the same: ‘More wonder, please.’ As long as I’m still moving in that direction–toward wonder–then I know I will always be fine in my soul, which is where it counts. And since creativity is still the most effective way for me to access wonder, I choose it.”
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
“But 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.”
“Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment—not entirely human in its origins.”
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? 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 go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”
“I have a friend, an aspiring musician, whose sister said to her one day, quite reasonably, ‘What happens if you never get anything out of this? What happens if you pursue your passion forever, but success never comes? How will you feel then, having wasted your entire life for nothing?’ My friend, with equal reason, replied, ‘If you can’t see what I’m already getting out of this, then I’ll never be able to explain it to you.’ When it’s for love, you will always do it anyhow.”
“Pure creativity is magnificent expressly because it is the opposite of everything else in life that’s essential or inescapable (food, shelter, medicine, rule of law, social order, community and familial responsibility, sickness, loss, death, taxes, etc.). Pure creativity is something better than a necessity; it’s a gift. It’s the frosting. Our creativity is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe.”
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”