In college and graduate school, I often felt like I was being battered and beaten by the way my writing was evaluated by professors and teaching assistants – coldly, cerebrally, with words and a tone that reflected no sense of how vulnerable it feels to share one’s work.
I, like most of us, walked away from higher education with some serious wounds to my creativity.
It took me nearly a decade to write creatively again.
I had to get sick of that grayed-out, stuck, resentful feeling I get when I’m not creating. And I had to find a whole new way of thinking of creative work – mainly, that it was for my fulfillment and self-expression, not for anyone else’s evaluation.
Over the past few months, I’ve been savoring the essays about creative living from from Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic.
In my view, creativity isn’t just a topic for those of us engaged with the arts. It’s for any woman who has a longing or a dream she is working toward, or trying to find the courage to start working toward, because that process – of bringing a dream into reality – that is the creative process.
And honestly, I think creative living is particularly important for women, because for women to shake up the very messed up status quo, we need to bring forth our honest, original critiques of it and our visions for change. Doing that requires everything Liz is talking about – trusting your inspiration, wrestling with fear, giving yourself permission.
Liz’s take is so original, and I love that it’s based on her hard-won lessons from decades of her own creative living.
Every other page of my copy is dog-eared. I’ll share with you a few heart-stirring lines to take with you.
“To even call somebody ‘a creative person’ is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species… The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying. We are all the chosen few. We are all makers by design.”
“We have to be careful of how we handle our fear–because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process.”
“You can believe you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting–its partner–and that the two of you are working together toward something intriguing and worthwhile.”
“I promised that I would never never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it — meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary.”
And one of my favorite, favorite ideas, one that went “boom!” in my mind and had me thinking about it for weeks (still thinking about it actually)… is the stunner in the the graphic above.
Here’s her elaboration on it in the book:
“Your creative work is not your baby; if anything, you are its baby. Everything I have ever written has brought me into being. Every project has matured me in a different way. I am who I am today precisely because of what I have made and what it has made me into. Creativity has hand-raised me and forged me into an adult…”
Liz reminds us that our creations aren’t precious, but the contact we make with ourselves and with inspiration in the process of making them is precious.
For me, this speaks to the truth that our creative energy is infinite; the well is not going to run dry. We do not need to have any sense of scarcity or clinging around what we create.
I love this idea because of what it leads me to – greater freedom – freedom from ego, freedom from fear of failure. With that freedom, I can create more boldly, and with less time wasted in intervals of regret or disappointment about how certain creations turn out.
I know that many of you reading identify as “creatives” in some way so you can apply this work to your art. What if your art isn’t your baby, but you are its baby?
Others of you are entrepreneurs, and you can understand this as it relates to your business. What if your business is not your baby, but you are its baby? What do you see now, that you didn’t see before?
And for others reading here, maybe it’s that project at work or in your community, or the handmade gift you’ve been working on for ever, or the measure you are trying to get passed in your town. What if you remember it’s not your baby, but you are its baby?
Such a relief to look at it this way, yes?
Look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.
And please, if you want to be creatively inspired, to rekindle or liberate or heal your creative self, pick up Liz Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.