how to treat your creative baby

By September 22, 2015 20 Comments

liz gilbert

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.

With love,



Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Julia says:

    Hi Tara,

    I truly enjoy your newsletters, including this one about creativity. Thanks for your words, ideas, and intentions.



  • Hi Tara,

    Thank you for this, this morning. I love the idea that not only am I shaping my dreams, but they are shaping, nurturing and maturing ME. We take care of each other.. I will pay attention and nurture my creativity as it responds resoundingly, loudly, playfully… YES!


  • Ali Shapiro says:

    Thanks for sharing Liz’s inspiration and your own insights, Tara.

    I always tell my coaching clients that their goals want something from them. Who do they have to become or what sides of themselves need to be expressed to be able to realize their goals? It’s a surrendering process! I love how Liz uses the baby metaphor to really make this clear!

  • Donna says:

    Hi Tara,

    Thank you for sharing Elizabeth Gilbert’s insights and your experiences in this post. I’ve both agreed and disagreed with several recent newsletters in which, often in dialogue with other authors, you have discussed creativity.But in my current phase of artistic “re-emergence” all these ideas have challenged and stimulated me to think more deeply and personally about how, why, and what I choose to create. I see how you too are turning and turning the concept of creativity as if it reveals itself as a multi-faceted gem or crystal, as an image ultra-sounded in varied, mysterious depths, or as a sculpture or pottery in progress, spun and spun on the wheel to be approached from many angles of vision.

    I think Elizabeth Gilbert has aphorized very vividly a beautiful and complex truth
    that is often obscurely and abstractly expressed. It is through our creative work as surely as our love that we grow; perhaps they are just faces of the same thing. And yes, fear–anxiety as Eric Maisel named it–cannot be banished. The lower black and dark chakras, embodiments of the reptile brain, cannot be despised, for we walk on the earth and draw from it instinctively the deepest generative impulses of evolution. To fear is to know we are in communication with the essence of our future survival.
    Amen! thank you and so much love to you on your–our-quest,

  • Kim Gilligan says:

    I cannot wait to get my hands on this book. Thank you for sharing your story about the criticism that halted your creativity for years. My work was criticized and dismissed when I was a young girl by someone I looked up to, my mother. I am now 59 and just beginning to see myself as a creative person again. It’s amazing! It’s freeing! And it feels so totally natural!

  • Meeta Kaur says:


    Loved, loved, loved reading this post. And you are right! Elizabeth’s quote about we ourselves being creativity’s baby, turning my whole world upside down.

    Thanks for posting!

  • Tara, Thank you so much for this post. I often find good meaningful “meat” in your posts and today is not an exception. In fact, I’ve stolen a few of your words mixed with my own for a small reminder poster for my office:

    My work
    is done for my own fulfillment
    and self-expression,
    not for anyone else’s evaluation.
    It is an expression of who I am
    in the world, not something I do
    to gain acceptance
    or approval.

    Who you are and what you do continues to inspire me.


  • Leila Fanner says:

    YES! What a paradigm shift!

  • C says:

    For me, it was being a elementary school teacher. I knew from the get go, I wasn’t going to be a ‘professional’ that made a lot of money. I knew from the beginning of my career that I would have to live on less to keep making a difference w little children. After 35 years of teaching, I can understand the tug between wanting to be compensated for the huge responsibilities that came w the job vs ‘I Love Teaching’. Yes, everyday was an inspiration for the “babies” to inspire me. There are no regrets for sacrifices made to have the opportunity to be inspired by young children. Their creativity gave me my perspective in dealing w reality.

  • Meredith says:

    Whew! That takes the pressure off. Nice to remember that I’m not in charge. I love the idea that this isn’t about me creating something but allowing myself to be created. What a humbling and ultimately more productive way to look at it.

  • Annie says:

    Love the way you put this Donna. The piece about the reptilian brain being a fundamental part of ourselves, drawing from it “the deepest generative impulses of evolution”. Wow. Much awesomeness here. Thanks – Annie x

  • Louise says:

    I always enjoy your posts, Tara, and value the work you are doing to help others develop professionally, in a challenging world. I want to comment on the corporate world, where we are hired based on how well we fit the “job description”. After being hired, the quality of our work is evaluated based on a “performance review”, by our boss (usually a man), of how well our efforts match the “job description”. The only way to assure job security is to work hard to achieve the annual performance goals written out by the boss. This obsession to perform well eliminates any need, or opportunity, to create anything new. The exception would be work environments where creativity is encouraged and even expected, but this is not the norm in large corporations. My point is that if at all possible, individuals would be much happier and fulfilled in self employement, even with all the financial uncertainty that often goes with being an entrepreneur. One of my favorite quotes is “Never Let Others Define You”. But in the workplace, we are be necessity defined by others, and we must fit in to survive. This can lead to anxity and depression, and eventually burnout. So again, if at all possible, I encourage others to nurture their own creativity, and know that eventually their gifts will be recognized and appreciated.

  • Gaelle says:

    Hi Tara,

    I just finished to read your article and you really inspire me to go after my dream and to think differently.Thank you so much for sharing with us some quotes of Elisabeth Gilbert’s book, I didn’t expect to be gobsmacked by her advice, it’s really pushing to go above what we know and to empower ourselves to go above and beyond. I am really much more at ease to consider my creativity as my partner to make my dreams come true.Thank you again !

  • Karen says:

    Thanks so much for this Tara. The philosophies remind me so much of what I learned in ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. That book changed my life. Yes, we are all born creatives! Just start doing something, anything creative and it will lead you to your calling, your passion!

    I am looking forward to reading Elizabeth’s new book and continuing my renaissance in the arts.

  • Genevieve VenJohnson says:

    Delicious! Thanks so much.

  • […] How to Treat Your Creative Baby >>> […]

  • Motshewa says:

    As a young person having recently begun work in a creative sector. I find that this should be the general direction of my own thoughts about my creative work. Much of it leaves me more matured and more open-minded in so many ways but the process is not always easy. When you start to think of your creative work as an entity that helps develop you as well, it makes far more sense and critiques about it make make more sense too. Somehow, it has got me to become kinder to myself because I’m more aware of my growth process.

  • christine leon-leland says:

    Hi Tara,
    loved Liz’s invitation to exercise in shaking loose the cobwebs of routine (and snooty) thought around who is “creative” potential and who is not… great breath of fresh air. Let our work (calling, gifts) be the energy, air and Love from within which we evolve then emerge more self-actualized … we as the baby raised into ourselves by our called contribution..i love that reframe. I do believe that as we lean into our calling with passion we become the “Self” we are meant to evolve into being. as always Tara you are an inspiring light. so grateful for your valuable contribution and share. xo

  • Wow Tara,
    What an inspiring post, thank you. I can’t wait to read the book myself. It’s so encouraging to keep (inner)connecting to others who also search (repeatedly/ongoing) for their way out of the darkness of isolation. Share share share. I love how you make the parallel to infinite resources (creativity is infinite) rather than the scarcity model (aka competition, perfectionism, ego…). We all need to be fed by inspiration, no matter our age or experience. -Laura

  • […] ““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.” how to treat your creative baby – Tara Sophia Mohr […]

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