Excerpt From “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

A dear friend of mine recommended the book “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m only on page 40, but it is insightful and entertaining. The first few pages describe the fear that consumes us in perusing our interests in a creative light. We are afraid someone else already did it, someone else did it better, we’re going to piss off other people by what we create, etc. Fears, fears, fears and always saying no, no, no. But she expresses the fact that her fears were boring. She never experienced anything. And one day she decided to say “yes” to those creative ideas that kept knocking on her door. I feel like I am in this phase right now, and am enjoying the book.  I’ve said yes to following a few of my passions despite my fears, so now what? How do I not let my fears stop me?

She defines creativity as not just painting or drawing or writing. It can be anything you are passionate about and not specifically devoted to the arts. She states, “No, when I refer to ‘creative living’ I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

There is one part that made me laugh out loud, and it is one I will share here. It made me laugh out loud because it was such an exaggerated example, however also spot on for some people in their creative process, but also some people in regular life who have a flair for drama.

Sometimes we continually say no to things out of fear but then we say yes and become consumed with whatever we want to accomplish. We don’t develop balance when creating and we become the “tormented artist” as she calls it. We put expectations of perfection on ourselves, end up being our own worst critic, and sabotage our journey. Our minds once again become so filled and distracted that we forget to be calm, silent, and observe so that we can hear the creative messages coming through.

This concept doesn’t only apply to the creative process. It directly applies to living a peaceful and conscious life. The Universe is always trying to show us the way. Our inner wisdom is always trying to get our attention. You already have all the answers you desire within yourself. But most of the time we are too insecure, anxious, angry, and distracted to hear them. This concept applies directly to meditation and yoga and healing.  Which is why I probably why I enjoyed this excerpt so much! Many people, it seems, have contracted to be the tormented artist in their everyday life.

“If you do say yes to an idea, now it’s showtime.

Now your job becomes both simple and difficult. You have officially entered into a contract with inspiration, and you must try to see it through, all the way to its impossible-to-predict outcome.

You may set the terms for this contract however you like. It contemporary Western civilization, the most common creative contract still seems to be one of suffering. This is the contract that says ‘I shall destroy myself and everyone around me in an effort to bring forth my inspiration, and my martyrdom shall be the badge of my creative legitimacy!’

If you choose to enter into a contract of suffering, you should try to identify yourself as much as possible with the stereotype of the Tormented Artist. You will find no shortage of role models. To honor their example, follow these fundamental rules: drink as much as you possibly can; sabotage all your relationships; wrestle so vehemently against yourself that you come up bloodied every time; express constant dissatisfaction with your work; jealoausly compete against your peers; begrudge anybody else’s victories; proclaim yourself cursed (not blessed) by your talents; attach your sense of self-worth to external rewards; be arrogant when you are successful and self-pitying when you fail; honor darkness above light; die young; blame creativity for having killed you.

Does it work, this method?

Yeah, sure. It works great. Till it kills you.

So you can do it this way if you really want to. (By all means, do not let me or anyone else ever take away your suffering, if you’re committed to it!) But I’m not sure this route is especially productive, or that it will bring you or your loved ones enduring satisfaction and peace. I will concede that this method of creative living can be extremely glamorous, and it can make for an excellent biopic after you die, so if you prefer a short life of tragic glamour to a long life of such satisfaction (and many do), knock yourself out.

However, I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist – while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums – is sitting quietly in a corner of the studio, buffing it’s fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work.

Because in the end, it’s all about the work, isn’t it? Or shouldn’t it be?”


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