I’ve been an avid reader all my life. From fiction, to mysteries, best selling authors such as Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, business, self-help and photography, I try to read every night before I go to bed. When I travel, I pack several books as nothing gets me more giddy than some down time curled up with a great novel.
At the end of 2016, I wrote out goals for what I’d hoped to accomplish professionally and personally in the New Year. Part of my plan included books I wanted to read, or in some cases re-read. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert was one of those books. I read it last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recently, it’s come up on my radar referenced in podcasts I’ve listened to or face book posts in my feed. So I picked up a copy and read it again.
I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert since her book Eat, Pray, Love became a best seller. Big Magic got a lot of hype from other creatives I know who’ve read it and I must also sing its praises. Her ideas are not just for artists who want to or are making a living. It’s for everyone who wants to create something, whether it’s making jewelry, designing a house, decorating a bike and yes, taking photographs. While women are usually thought of as the creative type, men and children also derive happiness from the pursuit of doing something they enjoy.
There’s a lot about this book I could write about, but I’m going to focus on two things that stood out for me. We’re familiar with the idea that we are all forms, just as animals, plants, mountains, furniture, buildings and so on are. But the author proposes the concept that ideas are also forms. Capable of interacting with us. They have consciousness and will and strive to be manifest – through us. Think about that for a moment. Ideas want to collaborate with you. They will try to get your attention, to see if you want to work with them, to bring it forth into the world. You know it when it happens. You’ve experienced it when your hair stands on end, or suddenly everything around you reminds you of this idea, or you become obsessed or distracted with it. This is what Elizabeth Gilbert calls Big Magic.
Maybe this will better resonate with you. Have you ever had an idea come to you, probably at the most inopportune moment like when you’re walking in the woods and have no pen and paper? Or perhaps someone says something to you at a cocktail party and you just realized what the last sentence of your novel should be? Or you’re sharing ideas with another creative friend and you suddenly “see” the next painting you need to work on?
Inspiration. It will come and it will go. It may visit you and someone else on the other side of the world at the same time. Creativity can be scared away if you complain about it. Enjoy the process – every bit of it. Invite it to come to you. Put it out to the universe. And be open to what may come.
As any creative person knows (and isn’t that everyone), sometimes ideas or inspiration comes easily and sometimes we get stuck in ruts. You’ve heard the term writer’s block. In these moments, we often try to follow our passion. If that’s writing, then we try to write more. Maybe we’ll lock ourselves up in an office and demand that we write for sixty minutes every morning. And what usually happens? Nothing. Gilbert suggests that curiosity is the way to work through this.
Is there anything you’re interested in? No matter how small or big, ask questions. Explore. Trust the process and see where it takes you. If baking is something you’re curious about, bake some cakes. If it’s gardening, plant a garden. Whatever it is, get to know as much as you can about it. Take notes. Even if it’s completely different from anything you’ve ever done. You just may be surprised. Maybe this new interest is what brings you back to living creatively again.
Every artist fails. Sometimes failure stops us in our tracks and keeps us from trying again. But for those of us who have a passion, I love this question Gilbert poses – “What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?” Because whatever that is for you, it’s something fun. That is creative living.
I’ve only touched on what Gilbert shares in her book. If this has piqued your interest in any way, I strongly suggest you get your hands on a copy and read “Big Magic” for yourself. And if you do, let me know what you think.