I’m an old-fashioned bookworm, the kind that smells books before buying them, the type that touches the pages as they were some precious, ancient manuscripts. I love physical books, but one “habit” and guilty pleasure (and probably the hardest), I had to give up for my year of wanderlust and travels, was to stop buying them. I struggled -lots, failed – twice, but I also didn’t want to carry kilos of stories in my backpack. The solution was to bring my trustworthy, old kindle with me and fill it with all my favourite classics and all the new releases I could get my hands on. I have to admit that I can’t read only one book at the time, but isn’t that also part of the fun? 🙂
So, in January I was reading a blogging manual, The Corrections by Jonathan Frenzen, 30 days in Sydney by Peter Carey and of course, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
The world-acclaimed author of “Eat, Love and Pray” is back again with something different this time. A manual to creativity generated as a written form of her famous TED Talk, she also called a self-help book written with the voice and the tone of a friend who has been there, done it all.
I guess that if you are reading this, you’ve probably read it too or are going to.
If you haven’t read it yet, maybe you should stop here and come back when you’ve done so to avoid spoilers; if you have finished and put it down already then we are finally ready to kick off the first edition of this digital, long-distance book club (please subscribe now on the event on my Facebook page and send me a message with your email address so I can add you to the hangout).
A couple of Side Notes
- As you know, this is my first time that I not only attend a book club, but also the first time I run one (yeah, I’m crazy I know!), so bear with me while I learn the tricks and forgive me if it isn’t perfect…Any tips & tricks, help and suggestions are always welcome 🙂
- During our Google hangout session, we will be focusing on the following topics & questions, the virtual seats are limited to ten and you can check here and if you confirm your attendance you will need to send me your email address so that I can add you to the event. If you miss out the event, don’t fret, you can obviously read through and leave your views below. I’m really curious to read your take on the book.
Gilbert describes creativity as something external that comes in the artists’ and writers’ world almost by accident. She believes that an idea is something that has it own life and floats around until it finds someone suitable and ready to pick it up and bring it to life. I was quite put off by this idea, to be honest and I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with this book at the beginning.
I’m a bit skeptical about her philosophy, but some of the examples she described are quite amazing . I’ve always believed that talent and creativity were “embedded” in certain people from the moment of their birth. And you? What do you think?
- Are you creative?
- Were you one of those talented kids?
- What do you create and what’s your creative process?
Courage VS Fear
You might have already read what I wrote about fear and how she was in fact the one who got me out of my comfort zone and easy life in the UK. I was scared to be missing out, that I would never be truly happy despite all my successes and accomplishments on the corporate ladder, frightened I would postpone my own dream to travel to prioritise the common rat race to a shining CV and spotless career. But then death met with my fear, they shook hands and lift me up to where I am now.
So yes, I agree with Gilbert distinction between good and bad fears, or more carefully the ones that kick your ass and the one that make you dig your head (and your ass) underneath the duvet when you could be out creating. You want the firsts, you want to kill the seconds.
Have I killed all my fears?
No way! I’m still a little terrified person. I’m worried that my new lifestyle will just drain my savings and I will be forced to go back to the real world. I’m truly shitting my pants at the thought that I will never find anybody to hire me again if I had to go back to the real world. I’m freaking out sometimes that I have no talent at all and this is just a happy illusion. And possibly, I am even more terrified that all of this might actually work and I might actually make it.
As Gilbert said, “We have to be careful of how we handle our fear – because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process”. I tried to kill mine for over half of my life. I though I had murdered by creativity too, but in the exact moment I set off on this trip, she was back, right next to me, asking me to play with her. She and I are on the road together and we are like Thelma & Louise kinda thing. She tells me the route, I drive. Has fear ever affected your life? And your creativity?
- Have you managed to kill a fear that was bothering you? How?
- Was there any passion, dream, idea you had when you were younger that you put away because you were scared of the outcome?
- Do you consider yourself a brave heart or a scared self?
As long as you live under the fear of failure or disappointment or any other thing that holds you back in “the realm of creative expression”, you may never discover the thing that gives you life
Enchantment: Inspiration & Ideas
As mentioned above, I personally don’t believe in Gilbert’s mystical view of ideas floating through space and time patiently waiting to find their soulmate. Of course there are occasions when two people have the same idea and she even bring one exceptional personal example, but I’m still skeptical and I prefer to think that ideas are unique to the individual and they are born into people’s mind rather than animated things that fly around and are grabbed randomly by the first available person. Maybe I’m silly, but I work hard for ideas to come to me. Which doesn’t mean I sit outside waiting for them to appear in front of my eyes, but I read, I look, I study, I engage with people, I discover, I experiment, this is what pushes me to create and this how pieces of life take the shape of ideas in my mind. Do I need to be inspired? Yes. Do I set time aside to create? Yes, at the moment is almost 24/7. And you?
- Do you believe ideas are there free for all to grab?
- Can you work without inpiration?
- Are you disciplined enough to actually get stuff done also on those gloomy not inspired days?
- What do you feel when you are hit by an amazing idea?
Look back far enough and you will find people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things
I personally agree with the author and I don’t think you need an educational permission to be an artist. In fact, I will go even further than that: you don’t need education to be successful in anything. Take the majority of the truly amazingly successful people in the world and they did no go to school or finish their education. I’m taking about Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Sean Connery, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Henry Ford and Allan Sugar.Of course, I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t study, I am saying that it is not a mandatory thing for a successful life. Sometimes drive and passion is all you need…but this is a whole new subject/post that I want to discuss in the future.
The same (and probably more relevant) is in the art world. I’ve witness so many people wasting dreams because they couldn’t afford a formal education in fine art, design or photography. On the other hand, I’ve met countless people who thought that because they did have an art degree, a design or photography certificate were entitled to create and were expecting to be successful.
Boy, let me tell you, it does not work that way. As Gilbert said, these courses can help you to feel more confident, but don’t expect the right to lead an artistic life because you studied art.
- Do you have faith in your capabilities or are you waiting for someone to tell you are good enough?
- Do you think a formal education is what you need to be an artist?
- If you could go back would you attend the same university? If you didn’t attend one which course would you choose?
But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgment about you are none of your business
I stopped writing for months. Not that’s not true, actually, I never stop writing. Probably not one entire day in my life. But I did stop publishing on my old blog and I almost this the same on this one too. I had readers, engaged comments, consistent views, statistics where sky-rocketing and then, WHY?
Well, my blog wasn’t perfect. It isn’t perfect now either. In fact I hate the design of it (oh yeah, if you know a great designer who would help me for a service barter please, let me know 🙂 ), but I decided to just do it which is pretty much the same thing that Elizabeth Gilbert suggests. Forget about the fact that you can’t reach perfection, stop thinking you need an entire day for your painting, abandon the idea that you could only be a writer/musician/singer/actor when you will be able to dedicate yourself to it full time. This is just a sophisticated way of procrastination. Start today, start now, do something. Don’t let perfection or fear stop your creative process. Just embrace it.
I love reading about Elizabeth’s various waitressing jobs and it felt she was really talking to me as I spent 8 years going exactly the same. I no longer felt a loser afterall, I’m not feeling a loser now that I’m looking for a similar part-time job while my business kicks off. I no longer care about other people’s judgment because I’m finally doing what I love the most, and I stand taller than anybody who hasn’t done it yet.
But do it without expectations. Don’t ask your art/idea/creativity to support you, do it just because you love it, and act as a parent who loves his child without expecting anything in return. Flourish and nourish this relationship every day and take the process of making something as your biggest reward.
- Do you expect or wish that you art will support you financially or are you just doing it for you self?
- Are you able to create or are you waiting for the right moment?
I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it
Trust: Success VS Failures
I would be an hypocrite if I said I’m doing what I’m doing just because I love it. Well, no one really is. I left my job in London to travel, photograph and write stories. That is the main goal, but of course I’m hoping that these three passions of mine will one day combine into a Magic Formula that will also allow me to have a decent life. Of course I’m hoping to meet Success on my path this year and go on a date with him and possibly marry him and never think again about my corporate life. Yes, I’ll admit, I dream of a life doing what I’m doing now and I’m not ashamed of admitting it.
But I am also very realistic about the possibilities, risks, competitions and I wouldn’t take a no as a failure, I won’t take a refusal as a reason to give up or a closed door as the end of my journey.
- Do you let failure affect your creativity?
- Do you do it for fame, money, success or what?
- How do you deal with failures?
And one of the questions I loved the most from the book:
- What do you love doing so much that the word failure and success essentially become irrelevant?
Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means
So, what is your final vote of Big Magic? How did you feel after finishing?
Personally, my creativity flow and my soul were refreshed and energised. I loved the stories she shared, but I especially loved the fact that she put her life and heart out there among the lines. I felt as she was in the room with me and she was laughing about her failures and sharing with a light hearted voice her incredible success. Her tone makes me want to hug her and wish for a friend like her to drink a glass of wine together and somebody who never takes her/himself too seriously, somebody who can laugh at himself and at the same time talk about success without bragging about it.
Big Magic inspired me to create more, to believe in myself and my current projects more. As a result, once I finished reading it, I shot several pitching emails that were sitting on my draft folder for weeks, I’ve wrote a whole three new chapters of what might take the shape of a book, I’ve pushed my photographic limits with new techniques and style I hadn’t tried before (coming up soon…), I basically took whatever was in the air and I created.
And I never felt this good.
Thank you, big magic.
“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest will take care of itself.”
We will be back next month with our February book. Perfect for my current nomad lifestyle and I believe ideal also for many of you with the same passion for travel.
Same date as before, see you here vino in hand, notes in the other and let’s chat about us, girls who travel
Happy reading and happy travelling, my lovely tribe!