After reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new mind-shifting book on creativity and inspiration, forcing my offspring to listen to yet another revelation, and adding so many page flags that the book now looks like a mass of sticky notes, I was stumped about what to say.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Riverhead Books/Penguin; September 22, 2015) is all about the spark of inspiration with which we all struggle. Clearly I wasn’t sparking. As you know, ideas don’t always come when we need them.
What’s that you say? You don’t think of yourself as creative? Gilbert says this is nonsense. All humans have the potential for creativity; we just have to open ourselves up to letting ideas come visit us.
“You have treasures hidden within you—extraordinary treasures—and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small,” writes Gilbert.
So no more self doubt; the world needs our creativity.
Gilbert, who rose to fame with her memoir Eat Pray Love (Riverhead Books/Penguin, 2006), says ideas need us in order to come into the world. We must put aside our fear, our self-doubt, our bizarre notions of just who gets to be an artist, or those sparks of inspiration will simply go away. They need us as much as we need them, says Gilbert.
Ideas as spirits looking for a home? At first I was unsure about this notion. But then I remembered all the writers’ workshops I had facilitated where someone had abandoned a perfectly wonderful idea just to see it come to life with someone else. Gilbert believes this is not because it was stolen or plagiarized, but because the idea wanted to be born and couldn’t wait.
The idea isn’t so farfetched. Ask any author, songwriter, actor or artist—ideas seem to have a life of their own. And by taking ourselves out of the equation, we actually make creativity more accessible, not less. It’s no longer about us. Treating ideas as something from outside ourselves removes the ego and the despair that comes with creativity, we discover that we are all worthy of being visited by the muse. And we understand the need for the healthy habits that make us more likely to be gifted with inspiration.
Big Magic is so jam packed with fresh ways to view creativity and finding our own “hidden gems” that Gilbert was inspired to start a podcast called Magic Lessons to continue the conversation. Her message in the book and podcast combines loving advice with a healthy dose of butt kicking and is just what we need. “Creativity is sacred and it is not sacred… Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise–you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”