As one of my goals in 2018, I promised that I would take more time to fill my creative cup. One of those ways that I know makes such a difference is reading. And I definitely wasn’t doing it enough. And my weakness are self-help books. For some reason, each time I finish one I walk away with a renewed sense of self, feeling more creativity, bursting with ideas or simply just that release of feeling like I have to do all the things and do them perfectly. I’m not sure it’s something I could ever explain here in words, but I am so happy to say that I have kept my promise to myself so far and wrapped up reading January’s book just last night so I wanted to share with you my January book review!
This was actually my third time reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I knew that it was the perfect choice to begin the new year. Did you read long? Did you like it? I would love to hear in the comments below so we can chat about it.
Before I dive into February’s book, I wanted to make sure and leave you with my absolutely favorite takeaways from January’s book. I really don’t know any other way to do it other than to list my thoughts below and hopefully not be too long winded for those of you reading. And if you are a creative soul and haven’t read this book? You are getting a big recommendation from me to hop to it!
I absolutely love the way Elizabeth explains ideas. She says “ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us… Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”
She then goes on to explain what happens when an idea comes – are we ready for it? How we politely decline or dive into a contractual agreement with it. The way she discusses “ideas” and writes about them as an actual, tangible and living thing completely blew me away. And when we work with an idea and then let it slip away, lie dormant, or lose focus, the idea moves onto the next available human partner who is ready for it. How often have we worked on something only to lose steam or fall out of love with it? She says that if inspiration is unexpectedly allowed to enter you, then it is unexpectedly allowed to leave you.
And I adore the history of the Romans when she explains how they didn’t believe someone was a genius, they believed that a person had a genius. She related it to something like a house elf. And then of course all I could think was that I have a little Dobby running through my walls living with me and helping me manifest ideas. Ha!
I think as creatives, especially those of us who make a living from it, feel like we have to be somewhat justified. That we need permission or someone to grab us by the shoulders, look us in the eye and tell us that we don’t need anyone’s approval to call ourselves a creative. Or an artist. Or a writer. Or a photographer. Etc, etc, etc. I love when she speaks of not needing a permission slip. That, as human beings, we are instantly creative. That we have been from the beginning of time. There have always been makers.
She discusses that us creatives need to have a sense of self-entitlement – the good kind of arrogance of course. That we feel deserving to express ourselves to combat that awful inner dialogue that we have all experienced – who do you think you are, trying to be creative? You suck, you’re stupid, you have no talent and serve no purpose. Get back in your hole.
And when she discusses authenticity and originality. That everything has been done probably before so we are all imitators in a way, but that idea that came to you and you agreed to work with? It hasn’t been done by YOU yet.
She mentions that you must be ready to gamble when wanting to live creatively. Especially when you look to it for income and to pay bills. Because creatives are naturally impulsive and don’t think too far ahead. Which gives us the nerve to make huge leaps and do scary things, but that we do it without a safety net. Oh goodness, how I have been there multiple times (you can read about them here and here).
In the book, she also discusses outside opinion which as a creative, I struggle with more than I care to admit. I loved the part where she says, “I can only be in charge of producing the work itself. That’s a hard enough job. I refuse to take on additional jobs, such as trying to police what anybody thinks about my work once it leaves my desk”. Goodness, how liberated I felt with that notion!
And I loved this quote… “Pure creativity is something better than a necessity; it’s a gift. It’s the frosting. Our creativity is a wile and unexpected bonus from the universe. It’s as if all our gods and angels gathered together and said, “It’s tough down there as a human being, we know. Here – have some delights.”
She speaks of childhood and how as kids we were never worried about the flow of ideas and if it would dry up or not. We never stressed about creativity and we never competed against each other. We simply just lived within our inspiration. Comfortably and without question.
I love the following snippet… “I remember thinking that learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job as a creative person. If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work – perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work… You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.”
She does discuss how her belief is that financial demands can put so much pressure on inspiration and even scare it away. And while I completely notice when my inspiration is dwindling and perhaps my genius isn’t wide awake with me during the stressful times, I also have five mouths to feed. My mama bear instincts are a bit stronger than my coddling tendencies of my ideas and inspiration. And maybe this exact reason is why burn out and I are such good friends. Who knows!
Going back to that notion of ideas being tangible and living things, I love when she talks about “showing up” for creativity. We have to treat it like a love affair. We can’t just sit around waiting for it. Sometimes, we need to dress up, put that lipstick on and show up to woo inspiration and get back into bed with it.
I love when she compares having a creative mind to having a brand new dog at home. How often have we felt that? That if we don’t have some sort of outlet to release that creative energy that we may just “eat the couch” as she says. It’s such a perfect way to put it! Not expressing your natural creativity will drive anyone mad.
When she discusses success, I loved what she had to say for the reminder of how courageous us creatives have to be that choose to live out their creativity. She says, “Creative living is stranger than other, more worldly pursuits. The usual rules do not apply. In normal life, if you’re good at something and you work hard at it, you will likely succeed. In creative endeavors, maybe not. Or maybe you will succeed for a spell, and then never succeed again. You might be offered rewards on a silver platter, even as a rug is being simultaneously pulled out from under you. You might be adored for awhile, then go out of fashion.”
And I love at the end when she talks about walking proudly and the story of the lobster costume. Absolutely wonderful. This guy was invited to this regal “costume party” in Europe where a lot of aristocrats and dignitaries would also be attending. What he didn’t realize walking in the front door that it wasn’t just a costume party, but a themed “medieval court” one. So while everyone else donned gorgeous gowns dripping with beautiful accessories, he stood there in the middle of the room in his homemade lobster costume complete with big giant red foam claws. And that as all of the attention turned to him, he held his head high as he proclaimed himself the “court lobster” and won over the entire party. He could have shrunk with embarrassment over what he had made, but instead he owned it.
Elizabeth finished with, “I have never created anything in my life that did not make me feel, at some point or another, like I was the guy who just walked into a fancy ball wearing a homemade lobster costume. But you must stubbornly walk into the room, regardless, and you must hole your head high. You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, you worked with what you had, in the time that you were given. You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that… they may throw you out, they may not. You may end up dancing with royalty or you may end up in the corner alone waiving your lobster claws in the air. What you absolutely must not do is turn around and walk out. Otherwise, you will miss the party, and that would be a pity, because – please believe me – we did not come all this great distance, and make all this great effort, only to miss the party at the last moment.”
Feel free to leave your take aways and thoughts below because I would love to hear them. And let me know if you are joining me for February’s book! Happy reading, friends, and cheers to being ready for the big magic!