“Creativity is the hallmark of our species… Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
In 2006, a relatively unknown writer published a memoir that captured “one woman’s search for everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia.” Eat, Pray, Love catapulted Elizabeth Gilbert to international fame, landing her on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In her 2016 New Your Times Bestseller Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she offers sage advice for the world-be explorer in all of us.
Ms. Gilbert rejects the notion that some people are simply born with creative talent and others are not. She believes that the Universe buried creative jewels in each and every one of us. As such, the creative life is a treasure hunt through which we unearth and polish our hidden gems.
Inspiration plays an important role in the creative process. Ms. Gilbert envisions it as an external genius (“Big Magic”) that’s looking for a willing partner to bring something intriguing and interesting to life. As she says:
“Ideas are alive. Ideas seek out the most available human collaborator. Ideas have a conscious will. Ideas move from soul to soul. Ideas will always seek the swiftest and most efficient conduit on earth.”
Spurred by curiosity, we tap into this consciousness by showing up daily to do the work. Inspiration may come and go. It doesn’t show up on cue. Yet when we trust that it is always nearby, we’ll reap the rewards of its presence.
I find the idea of collaborating with Big Magic appealing. It suggests a process that has more to do with nourishing and birthing embryonic material than bringing something forth out of nothingness. It keeps the ego in check when adulation threatens an inopportune growth spurt, and provides support when the fear (or reality) of failure might otherwise prove crushing. It keeps light and lightness in the creative process.
Ms. Gilbert claims that artists do not need to have special training or credentials to do their work. Even those whose talents have been shaped under the tutelage of master artists must fashion their own creative existence. They must discern which discipline and/or subject matter so deeply touches their souls that external failure or success becomes irrelevant. The creative life simply asks for the courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust to pursue it. As she says: “You must keep calling out in those dark woods for your own Big Magic.”
Creative living can be an amazing vocation. Each project offers the opportunity for personal growth while igniting one’s passion and curiosity. To that end, Ms. Gilbert kept her day job to give her creative instincts the freedom to flourish until she achieved a measure of financial security. She also chose not to give power over to her critics. She recognized that everyone has his or her own inner truths. She simply puzzled out her own truth no matter what the world said.
Creativity is to be enjoyed, not judged. The measure of the creative lies in one’s devotion and ability to endure the highs and lows and all points in between. It’s about bringing forth the work with the right blend of seriousness and lightness.
Big Magic may remain a mystery, yet Ms. Gilbert declares:
“This is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.”