I was at the London Book Fair earlier this year when I first came across Big Magic. The huge poster that Elizabeth Gilbert’s publisher had put up on their stand caught just about everybody’s attention with its eye-popping fluorescent colours. This book was clearly going to make a statement.
I didn’t get my hands on a copy until several months later, and little did I know just how much pure gold would be contained in those pages.
I know there are several thousand reviews of this book all over the internet by now, but for those who don’t know, Big Magic is a book about creativity – or as Liz G calls it, ‘Creative Living Beyond Fear’.
Liz explains that as humans, we ALL have the ability to create things, and so are all without doubt creative people. But so many of us don’t honour our creativity. We repress it, run away from it, talk it down, but most of all – we get scared of it.
Why do we do this? Liz outlines the number one root of all of our excuses – Fear. We are terrified of being mocked or rejected for expressing ourselves creatively. Most of us can pinpoint the exact moment in childhood where we gave up something artistic because we experienced some kind of rejection, myself included.
I was lucky enough to see Liz speak in London a few weeks ago (around the same time I saw Marianne Williamson). She shared so many gems that I could probably write a 5000 word essay on it. But that isn’t very blog-friendly, so instead here are seven points from Big Magic that really blew me away:
Creativity is our only unique contribution to the world
Starting off with a *mic drop*! Creativity is one of the few things that differentiates humans from animals – we have the ability to form ideas, create beautiful things and share our talents with the world. Expressing yourself creatively is one of the few ways in which you will be able to make your mark on the world and give it something completely unique.
Creativity will make you a better partner, friend and parent
If the idea of taking time for yourself to do something creative makes you feel guilty for the time not spent with your family, partner or friends, stop right there. Engaging in something that lights you up and brings you joy will make you a much better person to be around, even if it means you’re only there 90% of the time.
You can still have a day job
That’s a biggy – Liz wrote three books while working full-time, and didn’t allow herself to quit her day job until her mega smash-hit Eat Pray Love became a New York Times Bestseller. Lots of people make the “I don’t have time” excuse (myself included), but really there are lots of things that take up your spare time that you could do a little bit less of. Social media, for one!
It’s ok to follow your curiosity
A lot of people think they can only have one passion, and dismiss their abilities to do anything else creative, preferring to stick with “their thing”. However, Liz has a bit of a gripe with the word “passion”, suggesting that we replace it with “curiosity” as something that is much more accessible to people who aren’t quite sure what their thing is yet. If you follow your curiosity, you never know where it might take you.
In order to live a creative life, sacrifices must be made
There’s never enough time, right? It’s so easy to procrastinate and accept invitations that will take you away from the thing your soul is crying out for. Liz said in her talk that to truly commit yourself to creativity, not only do you have to learn to say no to things you don’t want to do, you also have to say no to things you do want to do. You also have to be prepared to eat the “shit sandwich” that comes with whatever it is that lights you up. Yep, there is always something rubbish that goes with the thing you love.
Be disciplined, but self-forgiving
Creativity requires discipline. But there will undoubtedly be days where you just don’t feel like it, the words are getting stuck, or you can’t do it as well as you want to that day. So it’s important to be kind to yourself. Self-criticism will make you feel as though you’ve “failed”, when really there is no such thing.
Done is better than good
A mediocre novel written now is better than a perfect novel written never! This isn’t to say you shouldn’t strive to do your best, but perfection is usually an unattainable goal for most creators. We have a limited number of years on this planet, so sometimes it’s better to make something that’s half-good rather than toiling away arduously at something that will never see the light of day.