More Lessons from Big Magic

Thank you to everyone who read the first part of my reflections on this deeply thought-provoking book, and especially to those of you who shared your own impressions either here or on Instagram - it definitely seems to be writing that has struck deep chords with many of us. Before I get started on the next selection of lessons from Big Magic, if you want to catch up on the first post, you can read it here.

Let's see what the next section of the book has to offer then shall we?

On Authenticity

Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done - but they have not yet been done by you... Everything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours
— p.97

Aha! So Liz Gilbert has caught up with exactly what I said last time - the product of ideas is a combination of our experiences and our unique perspective, expressed in a way that only you can. This is almost the very definition of authenticity - saying what you have to say, in your true voice, in full belief and trust in what you're saying, and in a way that others recognise as unique. It doesn't matter if it looks or sounds really similar to what someone else is sharing, when it is shared authentically people can sense this, it resonates with them, and they're more likely to listen to you again in future. There will always - always - be something in what you're expressing, or how you're expressing it, that hasn't been expressed before in that exact combination. And when you add it to the rest of your 'you-ness', the whole picture can be incredibly compelling and draw people to you who want to hear what else you have to say. Someone, somewhere, needs to hear it from your voice. (I may have borrowed that from someone else, but I can't remember who or where or when, I just know that it's a phrase that has stayed in my heart) This can be so important when dealing with that niggling voice of 'not good enough', or everyone's already done it, or there's no point because the market is already saturated with that... If you feel strongly enough about your message, then for goodness sake share it, someone will be listening.

Stop Complaining

There are so many good reasons to stop complaining if you want to live a more creative life. First of all, it’s annoying... Second, of course it’s difficult to create things; if it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be special or interesting. Third, nobody ever really listens to anybody else’s complaints, anyhow... Fourth, and most important, you’re scaring away inspiration. Every time you express a complaint...inspiration takes another step away from you, offended.
— p.117

Oh but we do like a good moan don't we? I'm just not feeling it, all my ideas are rubbish, why do I never come up with anything brilliant, it'll never amount to anything, I can't be bothered... And boy is it tough to get out of that funk, and suddenly we find it's months later and we haven't put pen to paper, or needle to thread, fingers to piano keys. The longer you leave it the bigger the creativity elephant in the room gets, until you're all but bursting with frustration. Gilbert suggests a solution - "I told the universe (and anyone who would listen) that I was committed to living a creative life...simply because I liked it. " (p.118) If you can say that you enjoy being creative for its own sake, without putting pressure on it to being your route to fame, or approval, or therapy, or financial reward, then slowly the gates will start to unlock and inspiration will trickle back in. I also think it's worth seeking creative outlets elsewhere and not just focusing on your central work or art. I've talked about bringing creativity to the everyday and to all areas of your life elsewhere, but I think it stands to be repeated here. I don't believe creativity is confined to what some people term 'art', I think there can be creativity in choosing a particular mug for your tea, planting a pot of flowers, tossing together a meal from fridge leftovers, using a bright pink pen for your work notes instead of a standard blue biro from the stationery cupboard. Seek out the creative moments in other areas, try something completely new, and see how that makes you think and dream, and what it reminds you of, or what ideas it sparks. Once you've started to flex that muscle again, you may well find that you're called back to your core work with renewed enthusiasm, and less worry about it having a greater purpose.

The Paradox

I think we can all hold two mutually contradictory ideas at the same time without our heads exploding. So let’s give this one a try. The paradox that you need to comfortably inhabit, if you wish to live a contented creative life, goes something like this: “My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).”
— p.135

I think this follows quite neatly from the previous point, and makes a certain kind of sense. The ideal would be to get to that sweet spot balanced in the middle, and perhaps inviting as many #everydaycreativemoments into your life as possible is one route to getting there. If creativity is a choice you make all the time, eventually unconsciously, it just becomes who you are, and your main artistic or creative work becomes just another element in the bigger picture. If 'being creative' becomes something that you associate with pressure to perform then I really think it will drive you a bit insane. Equally, if you move unaware and mindlessly through life without acknowledging those little creative choices or moments of expression you'll never recognise the inspiration it could be bringing you. Try to find that middle ground where what you do has value, but doesn't define your worth. Just, don't think about it too hard or your head really might explode!

The Day Job

You can look after yourself in this world while looking after your creativity at the same time... What’s more, there is a profound sense of honor to be found in looking after yourself, and that honor will resonate powerfully in your work; it will make your work stronger. Also, it may be that the case that there are seasons when you can live off your are and seasons when you cannot... There’s no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.
— p.154-5

So this one feels a bit personal. Since I left my last corporate job a year ago (yeah, I know, where did THAT time go?!) the issue of money has been a near-constant devil in my ear. I've stubbornly stuck to the stance of not wanting to get another 'proper' job because it would take away from the time and energy I have to dedicate to my own work and growing my business. I want the independence of being my own boss and deciding my own priorities and schedule and to have control over my workload. I want to prove that I'm good enough to manage on my own, to show people that you don't have to conform to what 'everyone else does', to feel that I'm just as capable and clever as anyone else who set up their own business, and to not fall foul of the pressures, frustrations, politics, overwhelm and utter exhaustion that I've experienced before.

But things haven't been as straightforward as I hoped they'd be, nor as successful as I'd like in financial terms, and so I'm starting to feel pressure that I've brought on myself for what I create to work harder and bring me some income - any income! - and prove that I was right to stick to my guns. But what if I was wrong? What if it's going to take way way longer than I thought? Would getting a part time job really be so bad if it gave me a regular money cushion to cover my monthly expenses? I know talking about money really isn't the done thing, and that's kind of a shame, perhaps things would be easier if we could talk more openly about it.

But in the meantime, let's just say I'm digging into savings and feeling guilty about doing so. I'm barely leaving the house some weeks because I can't afford to go anywhere. I'm hustling hard to write a new blog post every week, and a newsletter every month, and keep my Etsy shop stocked with new things, and trying to find more and better ways of promoting what I do in order to grow my audience and convert them into customers who will actually give me money. And that is demanding a lot of my creativity.

Perhaps it's time to admit (temporary) defeat and look for that job to give me the financial stability for a while while I regroup, lick my wounds, and give my creative muscles a break. But there's still a bit of fire in my belly saying I should stick with it, a whisper in my heart telling me to trust that it will work out. Is my head or my heart right? I'm still not sure. Liz Gilbert kept working other jobs until after Eat Pray Love was published so as not to put any pressure on her writing to be more than it was. We live in an era of 'lucky breaks' and instant stardom, and it can be hard not to wish for that. But there are still the practicalities of life to consider - keeping a roof over your head, eating regularly - and trying to reconcile the emotional heart with the rational head is a tug of war that perhaps neither side will win, but I'd like to hope that perhaps some kind of truce could be achieved.

And now, Over to you

So while I wait for the vulnerability hangover from sharing this part of my story to kick in, I'd love to know your thoughts on these quotes I've picked out. Do they bring up any reactions for you? Have you struggled to make your creativity pay its way? Are you as nervous of sharing authentically as I am?

Please either leave a comment below, or send me a message if you'd rather not share publicly, you can contact me here. I'd also love to revive the #everydaycreativemoments hashtag over on Instagram, so please feel free to use it to tag anything you post that feels creative about the choices you make in any area of your life. I'm planning another community project for the end of the summer too, so keep an eye out for more details about this soon - newsletter subscribers will be the first to find out, so please subscribe if you want to be on the list.