With each chapter of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert bounces back and forth between the hard work and the magic of creativity. She’s equal parts logical mentor and wand-waving god-mother. And I so dig it.
The idea of being addicted to suffering is something I think about often. It’s come up in my work life, in being sucked into the drama of that world. It’s come up in my reading of Julia Cameron – keep the drama on the page, she encourages. Gilbert asks us to make this shift too: “Sometimes I think that the difference between a tormented creative life and a tranquil creative life is nothing more than the difference between the word awful and the word interesting. Interesting outcomes, after all, are just awful outcomes with the volume of drama turned way down.”
How to overcome that suffering? First, believe that you not only love the work, but that it loves you back. “Why would your creativity not love you? It came to you, didn’t it?… Because think about it: If the only thing an idea wants is to be made manifest, then why would that idea deliberately harm you?” Gilbert writes. How true, how true.
Second, choose trickster energy. Leave the martyr behind. “Martyr energy is dark, solemn, macho, hierarchical, fundamentalist, austere, unforgiving, and profoundly rigid. Trickster energy is light, sly, transgender, transgression, animist, seditious, primal, and endlessly shape-shifting.”
Third, trust. Trust that the work wants to be made, that you’re the right person for it, that you are capable of creating it, and then let it go. “What you produce is not necessarily always sacred… What is sacred is the time you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life. The more lightly you can pass that time, the brighter your existence becomes.”
Fourth, lighten up. “A lighthearted process does not necessarily need to result in a lighthearted product.”
Fifth, put your faith in curiosity. “Curiosity is the truth and way of creative living,” Gilbert writes. Curiosity lowers the stakes, moves more freely and is more flexible than the whole notion of ‘follow your passion’. “In fact, curiosity only ever asks one simple question: ‘Is there anything you’re interested in?'”
I love how fiery Gilbert gets in the Fierce Trust section. “What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?” We can not be attached to the outcome. We have to put our work out there. We have to create, and make and let the final version go out into the world, and then start again.
Anyhow, what else are you going to do with your time here on earth – not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and your curiosity?
She has a point.
“Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you”
~Pastor Rob Bell
- Do you love your work? Do you believe your work loves you in return? (What a radical notion.)
- How has emotional pain or trying times affected your work? Do you believe that you can create when things are good?
- Choose your delusion: trusting an infinite force you can not see or trusting your suffering and pain?
- Where does the martyr energy show up in your life? How does it (or doesn’t it) serve you? How can you invite more of the trickster into your day?
- When it comes to passion vs. curiosity, where do you land? How does each one serve you? Where has a creative curiosity led you before?
- Ask your soul, “what is it you want, dear one?” and follow what it says.
Catch-up on all of the posts here.
Thanks for reading!
All quotes are from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, chapter 5 – published 2015.