Jun 14, 2018
Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic navigates creative living without fear. This is my go-to when in need of inspiration, confidence or reassurance to keep creating. I’ve created a graphic recording inspired by different parts of the book that resonated with me. You can print these out and stick them on your wall to keep you inspired. Or better still, colour them in while listening to it the audiobook!
Gilbert’s TED talk in 2009 called ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’ had me captivated. Ever since I was young, I cherished my creativity but was so afraid one day it would dry up and run out. Gilbert references the Ancient Romans in her talk, saying: “They didn’t believe people were geniuses, they believed you had a Genius, who would visit you and hide in the walls of your studio gifting you with whims of inspiration that felt like electricity running through your body… then some days your Genius didn’t show up.” This refers to the feeling you get when creativity ebbs and flows. Gilbert urges you to keep showing up (in your creative practice), and hold up your end of the bargain. Soon enough, unannounced, your elusive creative Genius will be back and ready to work as it left off.
Big Magic is a modern classic for people who have the desire to be creative, or feel like they’re stuck in a creative rut. The book also navigates through the darker side of creativity. It touches on the fear of failure, as well as the feelings of not being good enough or having anything interesting to say. To this, Gilbert says: “So, what?!”. Fear is boring. It always says the same thing—STOP! There’s a great analogy in the book about going on a road trip with your creativity. The bottom line is, Fear is going to come along and there’s no outrunning it. Gilbert’s advice is to let Fear come along (in the backseat) and on one condition: Fear cannot make any of the decisions. No music choices, no choosing snacks, no using the GPS and under no circumstances is Fear allowed to drive! Big Magic means choosing curiosity over fear, and seeing where that leads you.
Gilbert believes that ideas are bodiless life forms. A good idea will visit you, then you begin scrolling through Instagram only to see it’s already a thing. The likelihood here is that you won’t act on the idea… and ideas don’t wait around forever. So if you don’t work with inspiration to bring the idea to life, it’s gonna pack its suitcase and knock on someone else’s door. If you say yes to the idea, you get to enter a contract with inspiration to bring that idea to fruition. This doesn’t mean it’s going to work. You have to be willing to take the risk when bringing an idea to life. Creativity doesn’t owe you success; it comes to play with you in order to come to life. Gilbert also advises not to quit your day job too soon (if at all). Because, when you put too much pressure on your creativity to pay your bills, it’s a surefire way to stifle it.
So why be creative if there’s no certainty of success, money or fame? Why should we engage with the forces of inspiration at all when they are so elusive? It’s quite simple—we are makers! Our ancestors were makers, and their ancestors and theirs before that. It’s in our blood to play and innovate. Allow yourself to ‘be bad’, to fail, and to be an absolute beginner. Make art for you, for the sake of creating, and for no-one else. Follow the breadcrumbs of your curiosities and care not if the idea already exists. The idea hasn’t had your creative touch.
Living a creative life takes a lot of courage. Every day, you get to choose curiosity over fear and go on the hunt to find the treasure inside yourself. Big Magic gives you permission to do that. And if after reading this book you don’t feel like you have a permission slip to create uninhibited art—write your own! Or fill in the one I’ve drawn up below and put it in your art space. Why? Why not?
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