“If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.”
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is not meant to be a “how to” book, it’s meant to address the hang ups that most often prevent people from pursuing a creative life, and to motivate us to explore the creativity within us.
Usually those hesitations take the form of fear: fear that we won’t create anything worthwhile, fear that we don’t have any original ideas, fear that we’re not good enough, fear that we’ll never be able to make a living from our art so why bother. Etcetera. One by one, Elizabeth Gilbert politely rebuffs the excuses that plague so many of us.
There’s a lot to pull out of this relatively short book, but the lesson that most resonated with me is the strong reminder that creativity itself is the end goal, not a means to an end. We don’t need to make a living from it. We don’t need to be good at it. We don’t need other people to like it. We don’t even need to show anyone else what we create. What matters is that we’re creating. We’re allowing ourselves to pursue the ideas that come into our lives. That effort — to allow creativity into our lives and give it room to explore, will add color, joy, and meaning to our lives.
I listened to this one on audiobook, which I think is the perfect format for it. Elizabeth Gilbert’s narration is calm and motivational, sort of like having your own personal Creative Living therapist.
I had an opportunity to put her lessons into immediate practice. Prior to listening to this audiobook, I had signed up for a 10 week pottery course. We did pinch pots and hand-building the first week, and then the second week we had our first lesson throwing on the wheel. I immediately learned how difficult it is. My first attempts were so bad that negative thoughts quickly filled my head: “I’ll never be good at this. I’ll never make anything that looks nice. I shouldn’t keep doing this.” Luckily, I had just finished listening to Big Magic, and I was able to remind myself that I was doing this for the sake of creativity itself, not to be good at it. I was doing it to step away from computer screens and get my hands covered in clay. To challenge myself. To learn something new. Between Elizabeth Gilbert and my boyfriend, I was able to push the negative thoughts out of my head, and I stubbornly went back to class the next week. This time my wheel throwing slowly got better – I can now successfully center a pot on the wheel, and raise the clay without it collapsing. Who knows if I’ll ever make anything great, but I now realize that it’s not the point. The point is that once a week I get to go sit in a room with other makers, and I get to create something. The process is what matters, and it’s what adds richness to my life.
“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.”
Author photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.