Melissa Cowan shares Elizabeth Gilbert’s lessons on creativity and big magic.
I recently saw Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic, speak as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. I left feeling encouraged and ready to take on those creative projects I’ve felt stuck on. Here are five things I learnt from Liz…
1. Creativity isn’t always exciting
Like many things in life, your creative work will probably be hard and somewhat boring for 90 percent of the time. The rest will (hopefully) make it all worth it. Those enchanted moments where you’re in ‘flow’ and are filled with inspiration are what Liz calls Big Magic. Sadly, we can’t predict when it will come to us and shouldn’t rely on it to get stuff done. A moment or two of Big Magic can be a little glimmer of hope that we’re on the right track.
2. Ideas come to us, not from us
Liz believes rather than being a genius, you have a genius. Ideas are existing entities that visit us – we don’t own them. If we fail to take an idea and run with it, we can’t complain if we see the same idea pop up elsewhere later. We’re not fully responsible for our failures, or our successes – there are too many outside forces for this to be the case. Liz grappled with the probability that her work following Eat Pray Love would never be as successful, but decided that to give up writing would be to lose her beloved vocation.
3. Perseverance is key
If you believe in something, you must keep going – even when the times are tough. When Liz was a teenager she committed to write, regardless of the outcome. As an adult, Liz tried hard for six long years to be published, and says, “I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing.” If you love something, you owe it to yourself to keep on trying.
4. Don’t try and please everyone
Liz says, “When you write to one person you write to everyone, when you write to everyone you write to no one.” Trying to reach absolutely everyone will most likely be a futile exercise. Instead, she recommends keeping one person in mind to direct your art to. This takes the pressure off from feeling like your work needs to resonate with everyone (it won’t).
5. Stay curious
Some people say they don’t have a creative bone in their body, but a better way to look at it is to think about what you’re curious about. Not many people can say they are totally uninterested in everything. Instead of being a slave to fear, try and stay curious about it and how it’s holding you back. Liz says it’s unrealistic to expect we will stop feeling fear, but we don’t have to let it control our actions.
Have you experienced Big Magic? What inspires your creativity? I’d love to hear.