Summary - Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear - Elizabeth Gilbert
The author acknowledges that creative living requires courage because many fears hold people back:
Fear of lack of talent, criticism, rejection, no market for your work, not being good enough, etc.
Fear of embarrassment, wasted time, lack of discipline or training
Fear of exposure, upsetting others, unleashing your demons
Fear of past failures or missed opportunities, being too young/old, etc.
The author says she knows fear intimately, having been a very fearful child. However, her mother did not tolerate her fear and drama and constantly pushed her to face the things she dreaded. Though the author resisted, her mother's exposure strategy helped build her courage.
In summary, the passage highlights how creative living requires courage to overcome fears and obstacles, using the example of the author's friend reclaiming her passion for figure skating in middle age. The author's experience overcoming fear through exposure and practice also shows how one can cultivate courage.
The author realized in adolescence that her fear was dull and limiting. Fear is an ancient instinct that protects us from danger, but it's not helpful for Creativity. While fear is necessary for survival, we don't need it regarding creative expression.
Creativity requires embracing uncertainty, and fear hates uncertainty. But fear and Creativity are conjoined - you can't have one without the other. So the author chooses not to fight or try to kill her fear. Instead, she makes space for it and allows it to coexist with her Creativity. She invites suspicion along for the journey, acknowledging its presence but not giving it any power over decisions or directions. This allows her to do exciting and meaningful creative work, despite the discomfort of fear.
Carrying your fear with you as you pursue creative endeavors isn't easy, but it's worth it. Otherwise, fear holds you back from discovering the extraordinary treasures within yourself and sharing them with the world. The clock is ticking, and we don't have time to limit ourselves with fear and small thinking. There are magical, enchanting parts of life waiting to be found if we can learn to live comfortably with fear rather than being ruled by it.
In summary, the key message is: Make space for your fear but don't give it power over your Creativity. Acknowledge fear as a natural and inevitable part of Creativity, but choose to move forward despite the uncertainty. The rewards of an enchanting, meaningful creative life are worth enduring the discomfort of fear. Stop arguing for your limitations, and open yourself to magic.
• The author had an idea for a novel in 2006 based on a story her partner told her about a failed highway project in the Brazilian Amazon. The story of the jungle devouring the bulldozers gave her chills and inspiration.
• She believes Creativity works through magical and mystical means. Ideas are disembodied life forms that search for human partners to help them manifest in the real world. When an idea finds a receptive human, it sends inspiration and signs to get their attention. The idea won't leave the person alone until they agree to work together.
• People usually ignore ideas and inspiration. But sometimes, they are open enough to receive the idea's messages. The idea sends chills, distracting thoughts, coincidences, and other signals to gain the person's attention. It eventually asks if the person wants to work together. They can say no or yes.
• Saying no means the idea leaves, and nothing happens. This can be for good reasons or due to obstacles like laziness or busyness. The picture moves on to find another partner.
• Saying yes means committing to working with the idea to manifest it, for better or worse. Often this is seen as a "contract of suffering" where the person destroys themselves to realize the inspiration, like the stereotypical tormented artist. But this way usually leads to unhappiness and even death.
• There are more productive ways to work with inspiration doesn't involve suffering. The key is showing up, doing the work, and trusting the magic of Creativity.
That covers the key highlights from the author's perspective on how ideas, inspiration, and creativity work—through a magical, mystical process of disembodied ideas searching for human partners. The outcome depends on whether the person says no or yes to the concept and how they approach the creative work. But in the end, Creativity unfolds through magical means.
The author suggests an alternative approach to Creativity, leading to enduring satisfaction and peace. Rather than the stereotypical tormented artist approach, she recommends cooperating fully with your inspiration and Creativity. Clear obstacles, nourish yourself, support others, measure yourself by your dedication, and work with your inspiration as a partner. This can lead to a long, creative, and meaningful life.
The author shares an example of adopting this approach. She had an idea for a novel set in 1960s Brazil about building a highway through the Amazon. She committed to the concept, researched extensively, and cleared space to work on it. Her publisher bought the idea. However, her life was upended soon after when her partner was detained at the border. She had to put the novel aside to deal with this situation.
Two years later, when she returned to the novel, she found that the heart and life of the idea had vanished. Though she tried, she couldn't revive it. She believes the thought left her because she broke her promise to dedicate herself to it. Studies are living things; some will only be noticed if addressed. The idea for her novel likely grew tired of waiting for her attention and left.
The key message is: to cooperate fully with your creative ideas and dedicate yourself to them. If you abandon them, they may leave you in turn. But if you work with them as partners, you can achieve enduring satisfaction and creative success.
Liz Gilbert had been working on an idea for a novel in the Amazon jungle, but she abandoned the project.
Around the same time, she became friends with the author Ann Patchett. They mostly communicated through letters.
Patchett mentioned she was also working on an Amazon jungle novel. When they met in person and compared ideas, they realized their books had the same plot, characters, and story.
They were shocked at the coincidence and tried to figure out how it happened. They believe the idea was "transmitted" when they first met and kissed in greeting.
Gilbert reflects that she could have had an adverse reaction to this turn of events, including:
Believing Patchett stole her idea. But that was implausible and scarcity-minded.
Blaming herself for being a failure who can never follow through. But that was needlessly self-punishing.
Blaming destiny or fate in a resentful way. But that could have been more productive.
- Instead, Gilbert took it as an example of "Big Magic" - the unexplained appearance and movement of ideas. She was ultimately glad the idea found a home with Patchett since she had abandoned the project.
• Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Gilbert experienced a strange moment of inspiration and connection regarding Patchett's new novel. Gilbert sees this as evidence that ideas have a life and will and will seek out available human collaborators to work with.
• Inspiration may choose to leave you if you are not ready to work with it and find another person to collaborate with instead. This often happens when people discover that someone else has executed an idea they once had. Although this can be frustrating, Gilbert believes you can't complain if you don't act on the picture.
• The experience between Gilbert and Patchett could be an example of "multiple discoveries," where two people come up with the same idea at the same time independently. This happens in science, business, and other realms. Gilbert sees it as inspiration "hedging its bets" by working with multiple people.
• Inspiration is unpredictable, irrational, and not obligated to explain itself. We should accept this strangeness and work with inspiration openly and diligently when it comes to us. We might eventually find inspiration if we show up for the work each day.
• The poet Ruth Stone described inspiration as ideas rushing toward her like galloping horses. She had to run to catch them and write them down before they passed her. Sometimes she would barely grab an idea "by the tail" before it got away, like seeing a tiger. Her metaphor illustrates the fleeting and powerful nature of inspiration.
• The overall message is that we should accept the mysterious and uncontrollable nature of inspiration, work with diligence, and be grateful for any ideas we can catch—because they could just as easily pass us by. Motivation follows its own will. All we can do is show up, work hard, and hope to get lucky.
Ruth Stone could physically pull poems out of the ether and dictate them. This demonstrated a kind of mystical inspiration and "Big Magic."
Most writing life involves unglamorous hard work, not mystical inspiration. But sometimes inspiration does strike, providing a sense of flow or being guided by something more significant.
The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in the idea of an external "genius" or guiding spirit that could inspire. This view helps protect the artist's ego by attributing success or failure to something outside the self.
Calling certain people "geniuses" puts too much pressure on humans and elevates artists to an unrealistic status. It may have caused writers like Harper Lee to struggle under the weight of expectation and fame.
The author wishes Harper Lee had kept writing freely after To Kill a Mockingbird, even if just to produce "cheap and easy" books. This could have liberated her Creativity and allowed her to escape her reputation.
Inspiration is a gift, but you can only expect it sometimes to be there. It comes and goes, and you have to accept that. The author's "genius" or inspiration operates on its schedule, not hers. Sometimes it seems to disappear, but you must keep working and trust it will return in time.
The most important thing is to show up for work, do the labor, and avoid waiting passively for inspiration to strike. It would help if you actively pursued Creativity by working consistently, even when not inspired. Inspiration will return but at its own pace. You can't control it; only prepare for it through work and practice.
That's the essence of the author's perspective on inspiration, hard work, and trust in the mysterious creative process. The key is accepting both the mystical and mundane aspects of Creativity.
The author comes from a practical, responsible family without an artistic background. Her grandparents and parents worked regular jobs and led orderly, conventional lives.
Her father, however, marched to the beat of his drum. Even though he worked as an engineer for 30 years, he pursued his interests on the side without restraint. He became a Christmas tree farmer and goat farmer without any prior experience. He did things his own way and didn't follow instructions or take advice from experts.
Her father had an anti-authoritarian streak and didn't like being told what to do. He once wrote a suggestion for his Navy captain to remove the suggestion box that he had been ordered to build.
Although her father's stubborn individualism could be taken to an extreme, the author sensed that it made him enjoyable. She intuited from an early age that he was doing his own thing and following his path in life.
Overall, the passage conveys that the author's practical family background instilled in her an admiration for creative self-direction and following one's own interests without restraint. Her father modeled an independent spirit disregarding convention and authority in pursuing one's passions.
The key ideas are:
The author's family was practical and conventional, but her father was creatively self-directed.
Her father pursued his interests freely without regard for authority or instructions.
His independent spirit modeled for the author the value of following one's path in life without restraint.
The author sensed from an early age that her father's insistence on doing his own thing made him an interesting person.
The overall message is that creative self-direction and following your passions without restraint can lead to an admirable independent spirit.
The author's father lived a creatively fulfilling life on his terms as a farmer and craftsman. He did not let societal expectations or conventions keep him from living the way he wanted. The author's mother was also competent and self-reliant. She did many things herself that people today would hire others to do.
The author's parents taught her through their example that she did not need permission from others to live her life the way she wanted. They encouraged her Creativity and self-sufficiency. The author argues that all humans have inherent Creativity and a drive to make things. Creativity has been an integral part of human existence for tens of thousands of years.
The author says that you do not need permission from anyone else to live a creative life. You have already been given that ability as a human. She says even if you don't think you are a "creative person," you are by being human. Creativity exists in all of us.
The author's neighbor sees her body as temporary, so she decorates it freely with tattoos. The author wants to live vividly and creatively in all areas before her temporary existence ends. She does this through writing rather than tattoos, but it comes from the same motivation to make the most of life while here.
To live freely and creatively, you need a strong sense of personal entitlement—the belief that you can live your life the way you want. You have to reject the notion that you need external permission or validation. Your Creativity is an innate gift, so embrace it. Make the most of this temporary life.
• Cultivate a sense of personal entitlement and creative arrogance. Believing you have a right to express yourself and share your creative works is vital. Without this, you will never take creative risks.
• Defend yourself against negative self-talk. Speak up and proclaim your intent to be creative. Define yourself as an artist or creator and stand by that definition. Engage in a constructive dialogue with your self-doubt.
• Don't worry so much about being completely original. Most ideas have been explored before. What matters is expressing yourself authentically. Putting your passion and voice into an idea makes it your own.
• You don't have to save the world or help others with Creativity. Do creative work for your enjoyment and to satisfy yourself. If it ends up helping others, that's a nice side effect. But the motivation should be personal fulfillment, not saving humankind.
• The most effective creative work and acts of service come from doing what you genuinely enjoy. If you like the job, it will translate to others. Don't turn your Creativity into grim duty or martyrdom. Find the path that brings you to life.
• In summary, believe in yourself, express yourself authentically, and do creative work for the right motivations—your fulfillment and joy. That is the path to living creatively.
The author suggests that formal advanced degrees or credentials are optional for a successful creative career. Pursuing an expensive degree in the arts can lead to crippling debt that stifles Creativity. The author argues that life experiences, personal discipline, and commitment to continual learning and growth are more valuable for an artist than a degree. For young artists, experiencing the world with open eyes leads to a worthwhile education. For older artists, life provides an education and a wealth of knowledge to draw from. The most important thing is simply doing the work, taking risks, and sharing one's unique perspective. An expensive degree is optional for legitimacy as an artist.
You already have everything you need to live a creative life except the confidence to do the work. Refrain from acquiring expensive education or training. Your teachers and mentors are all around you—in books, museums, recordings, etc. Ultimately, you have to do the work yourself.
When the author was in her twenties, instead of going to school to write, she worked various jobs like waitressing, bartending, tutoring, etc., to gain life experiences and hear people's stories. She wrote in her spare time and collected rejection letters. But she persisted, viewing writing as a lifelong endeavor. She started her free writers' workshop, The Fat Kids, to get feedback and encouragement.
A friend of the author wrote to filmmaker Werner Herzog complaining about how hard it was to make films. But Herzog told him to stop complaining, that it's not the world's fault he wanted to be an artist, and that the world doesn't owe him anything. The author's friend framed this letter, seeing it as liberating advice. The world does not owe you rewards or see you as weak. You must step forward into your self-respect and do the work.
The key messages are: you have what you need to be creative; don't worry about credentials or training and start working; persistence and self-reliance are essential; don't expect the world to owe you anything or see you as incapable; have confidence in yourself and just do the work. Liberate yourself from expectations of rewards or sympathy. Have self-respect and accomplish things on your own.
The author tried something brave and new by writing a deeply personal memoir called Eat Pray Love. She did not expect it to become a giant bestseller. The book's unexpected success thrust the author into a surreal experience where total strangers projected intense and opposing reactions onto her and the book. Some adored the book as their bible, while others detested everything about the author.
The author avoided letting these extreme reactions define or distract her by focusing on the work itself—the act of producing the book. She recognized that she could only control the work, not how people interpreted or judged it. The author accepted that if she put creative work into the world, positive and negative reactions were inevitable. She compared this to the natural inhale and exhale, the action and response of life.
Some reactions were bizarre or based on projections, like the woman who credited a passage in Eat Pray Love with inspiring her to leave an abusive marriage—even though no such path existed. The author theorized that the woman had subconsciously inserted her story into the memoir because she needed to believe that for some reason.
The critical point is that the author did not let extreme or irrational reactions to her creative work throw her off course or define her identity. She focused on the creation and accepted that diverse responses, judgments, and projections were unavoidable when publicly sharing creative work. Staying focused on the job not rather than the reactions allowed the author to remain focused and focused.
The author argues that we should not take our creative works too seriously or regard them as overly critical. While Creativity is a gift and a delight, most people's creative expression is low-stakes and not essential to society.
The author cites her work as an example. As a novelist, her work is not objectively valuable or necessary for the functioning of society. She compares herself to professions like teachers, doctors, and emergency responders, which are essential. Her work is a "luxury" and "the frosting."
The author acknowledges that creative expression comes with severe consequences and high stakes in some oppressive societies. But for most people in free communities, the stakes are low. Failure or criticism may hurt one's ego but won't end the world. As the author puts it, "There's probably never going to be any such thing in your life or mine as 'an arts emergency.'"
The author recounts an interview with musician Tom Waits, who has come to take a lighter, less angst-ridden view of his Creativity over time. Waits realized from watching his children's unselfconscious Creativity that "as a songwriter, the only thing I do is make jewelry for the inside of other people." His work did not need to be profound or essential to be meaningful.
The author argues we should follow Waits's lead and adopt a sense of "permission to deal with our creativity more lightly—without so much drama, without so much fear." Our creative works are a "gift" and a "delight," not something to torment ourselves or regard as life-or-death. The key is recognizing that "the stakes of our creative expression are low for most of us." We should make Art because we can.
The author took vows at age 16 to dedicate herself to writing for life. She always promised to support her writing, never ask for external rewards, and be devoted to it regardless of outcomes.
She kept these vows for decades through difficult life circumstances. Even when writing was hard or uninspired, she practiced for at least 30 minutes daily to stay close to her craft.
Though it took years of imitation and struggle, her daily practice and persistence eventually led to improvement and mastery. Consistent practice and dedication over time lead to knowledge in any field.
The story of Winifred, who began studying ancient Mesopotamian history at age 90 and became an expert over ten years, shows that it's always possible to start pursuing your passions. Devotion and persistence over time can lead to mastery at any age.
The key messages are: stay devoted to your creative pursuits for their own sake, not for external rewards or outcomes; persistent practice and work overtime are crucial to mastery; and it's never too late to start. Passion and dedication can expand your life's possibilities at any age.
Winifred was an expert on ancient Mesopotamia. She had advanced degrees, had been on archaeological digs, and knew cuneiform script. She was considered an authority on the subject.
Meeting Winifred taught the author that your education is over when you decide it's over. You can pursue your creative passions whenever you choose to start.
The author kept working and writing for years without getting published, but she gained an education. She learned to recognize the patterns of her creative process, including the anxieties and fears that arose at different points. If she endured these stages, she could continue progressing.
The author cites Seamus Heaney, who said that learning to write poetry involves constantly "lowering a bucket only halfway down a well, coming up time and again with nothing but empty air." But if you persist, eventually, "the chain draws unexpectedly tight, and you have dipped into waters that will continue to entice you back."
A friend of the author's wanted to be a writer but wasn't willing to endure the frustrations and lack of success. The author realized that dealing with disappointment is part of the job of a creative person. Creating something great is rare; how you handle yourself the rest of the time matters.
According to Mark Manson, the key to finding your purpose is determining what "flavor of shit sandwich" you're willing to eat—what downsides and frustrations you can endure for the sake of the work you care about. Everything has unpleasant aspects, so you must find work you care enough about to sustain you through them.
The author continued her day job for a long time, even after becoming a successful published author. She wanted her writing to be independent of paying her bills. Demanding that your Creativity provides your income can crush your inspiration and drive artists to anxiety, resentment, bankruptcy, and abandoning their craft. It's better to find other ways to provide for yourself financially.
The idea of finding a "studio wife" who will care for your mundane needs so you can focus solely on your Creativity is unrealistic. You need to be able to handle the practical concerns of life while also making time for your Art.
There may be seasons where you can live off your Creativity and seasons where you can't. Don't see this as a crisis, just a natural ebb and flow. Having a steady job to fall back on in lean times is perfectly honorable.
Putting pressure on your Creativity to fully support you financially risk scaring it away. It's best to find other sources of income to give your creativity space to unfold in its own time.
Many successful artists kept their day jobs for a long time, making Art on the side in stolen moments and with whatever resources they had. Creativity persists because it matters to people, not because circumstances are ideal.
While abundant resources and time can help, the essential ingredients for Creativity—courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust—are available to everyone. Creative living is always possible, if not always easy.
Even highly successful artists struggle to find enough calm, uninterrupted time for their work. But Creativity finds a way, as in the case of Herman Melville writing Moby Dick, despite a lack of time and difficult circumstances.
People persist in creating because they love their craft or are "hot" for their vocation. Like lovers conducting an affair, they find a way to make time for what matters most to them, overcoming obstacles. Let yourself fall in love with your Creativity with that same passion and devotion.
Even if you only have 15 minutes daily, take that time to "make out" with your Art. Sneak away from other obligations the way lovers sneak away to be together. Your Creativity deserves your full, passionate attention, even in short bursts.
• The author suggests giving up pursuing perfection to complete your creative work. Perfectionism often prevents people from starting or finishing their creative projects because the result will never meet their high standards.
• The author argues that perfectionism is a form of fear and anxiety in disguise. It suggests you are not good enough and never will be. This is especially damaging for women, who often hold themselves to unreasonably high standards.
• The author encourages embracing the idea of the "deeply disciplined half-ass." This means doing your best and finishing your work instead of striving for an unachievable standard of perfection. Putting in effort and completing projects is more admirable than refusing to create.
• The author cites examples from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who struggled with motivation and perfectionism. His private diaries show how he worked to overcome these obstacles, focus on the task at hand, and find meaning through action. This serves as an inspiring example.
• In summary, the passage argues for releasing the need for perfection in favor of action. Completing creative work, despite its imperfections, is the most important and admirable goal. Perfectionism should not be an excuse to avoid creating or participating fully in life. Meaning comes from committed action, not flawless outcomes.
The passage discusses the author's journey to complete her first novel despite its imperfections and her desire for perfection. She pushed through feelings of embarrassment and shame about her writing by reminding herself that "done is better than good." Her mother used to say that finishing a task, even imperfectly, is better than striving for perfection and never completing it.
The author believes most people don't finish ambitious projects because they get stuck obsessing over details and seeking perfection. So merely completing something, however imperfectly, puts you ahead of most. While the author could point out many flaws and imperfections in her published books, she offers one example from her recent novel where an underdeveloped character was a plot convenience. She knew the character wasn't exemplary but hoped readers wouldn't notice and she could "get away with it."
The key message is that perfectionism often prevents completion and "done is better than good." Pushing past the desire for perfection and finishing creative works imperfectly is an achievement. Readers likely won't notice or mind imperfections that authors agonize over. Completing and sharing creative works, however imperfect, is more important than striving for perfection. Perfectionism is the enemy of done.
The author wrote a short story called "Elk Talk" in her early twenties based on her experience working as a cook on a ranch in Wyoming.
She stayed up late one-night telling jokes and drinking with the cowboys, who were hunters.
She submitted the story to magazines for years but kept receiving rejections. She grew discouraged, but a friend encouraged her to keep trying.
After five years and over 60 rejections, a small literary magazine finally accepted the story. Though it didn't lead to anything career-wise, she was proud she persevered.
The experience taught her that persistence and patience are required to succeed as a writer. Rejection and failure are inevitable, but you must continue believing in yourself and doing the work.
She says not to be in a rush for success or validation. Stay devoted to your vocation, focus on growth, and appreciate small victories. External rewards are not the only measure of success.
The story highlights that uncertainty, difficulty, and obstacles are inherent in a creative life. But you can choose whether or not you will suffer from them. The key is maintaining your passion for the work itself.
In summary, the key lessons are: cultivate patience and persistence; stay devoted to continuous growth; do not rely on external rewards or validation; and you can choose your attitude in the face of challenges. Focus on your vocation, not your career. You can achieve modest success with time and devotion, though uncertainty always remains. The true rewards of creative work are intrinsic.
The author was talking with some cowboys about elk calling and found a recording by "Larry D. Jones" hilariously funny.
While drunk, the author and his friend Hank played the recording in the woods to see what would happen. An angry bull elk charged out of the woods toward them, frightening them.
The experience inspired the author to write a short story called "Elk Talk," which he submitted to Story magazine. The editor, Lois Rosenthal, sent him an encouraging rejection letter saying she liked the story, but the ending fell short.
A few years later, the author's agent submitted "Elk Talk" again, and Lois Rosenthal accepted it, saying she loved it. When asked, she couldn't recall rejecting it earlier or specify why she now liked it, attributing it to the story feeling "mythical."
The author notes this shows the cynical view that "it's not what you know, it's who you know," and success is unfair. However, he interprets it more positively as showing you should never give up, rejection isn't always final, and miraculous things can happen if you persist.
He also notes the context for the rejections and acceptances were quite different and variable, and there's no way to predict what will capture someone's imagination. The story was only accepted the second time because he had submitted it again after the initial rejection.
In summary, the key message is about persistence and believing in your work despite rejection because many factors influence decisions. What seems like a final rejection may only sometimes be the case. Success comes from continual cultivation and showing up.
Many creative people believe that Creativity does not care for them or reciprocate their love in return. They believe Creativity is indifferent or even hostile toward them. This is problematic because it prevents a sense of connection and co-creation. It leads to feelings of suffering, desperation, and dysfunction.
The author's friend, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, asks her students two questions:
Do you love nature? (They all say yes.)
Do you believe nature loves you in return? (They all say no.)
She says this is a problem because it prevents us from becoming "cocreators of life." We need a sense of reciprocal relationship and exchange with nature.
The author asks young writers similar questions:
Do you love writing? (They all say yes.)
Do you believe writing loves you in return? (They all say no.)
Most report that writing is indifferent or hates them. They describe dysfunctional, anguished relationships with paper that make them suffer.
Many established writers and artists describe similar painful relationships with their craft. They believe misery, desperation, and unhappiness fuel creativity.
The author argues this view of Creativity is problematic. It leads to isolation, dysfunction, and disconnection from Creativity itself.
In summary, the critical point is that we need to cultivate a sense of love and reciprocity with Creativity and nature. We must believe that spirit and Creativity can love us in return. This will allow us to become cocreators and experience a healthy, life-giving exchange with these forces.
Many writers and artists are taught that creative work must be emotionally difficult and painful to have value. This belief can be damaging and counterproductive.
The author's friend Katie Arnold-Ratliff avoided writing a novel she was excited about for years because her professor told her that valuable Art must be emotionally uncomfortable to produce. This blocked her Creativity.
The notion that suffering and anguish are required for authentic Creativity is common but misguided. It can lead to addiction, mental health issues, and even the abandonment of creative pursuits.
The "Tormented Artist" persona is sometimes adopted as an excuse for bad behavior. But Creativity does not require cruelty or madness. It is possible to live creatively and still behave decently.
The author does not believe that Creativity comes from suffering or pathologies. While acknowledging the reality of suffering, she refuses to see it as necessary or generative for good Art. Her Creativity is stifled when she is unhappy or unstable.
Many revere their "devils" and cling to suffering out of a mistaken belief that letting go of anguish means losing identity or Creativity. But the author believes Creativity grows from "the cracks between our pathologies, not from the pathologies themselves."
In summary, the notion that Art must stem from suffering is a dangerous fallacy that has caused harm. Creativity and decency can coexist. One need not court pain or madness to make meaningful work.
The author argues that trusting in creative inspiration and Art can lead to a healthier mindset for producing creative work rather than cultivating creative suffering.
She says that believing Creativity is out to harm you is illogical since Creativity needs the artist to manifest works of Art. A mutually beneficial relationship is hampered when the artist chooses to suffer.
The author approaches her work with "stubborn gladness"—a willful optimism and trust in the creative process. She believes inspiration always tries to help her, even if she can't always understand it. This allows her to work steadily regardless of outside criticism or validation.
This optimism could be seen as delusional. Still, the author argues it is no more delusional than other harmful beliefs artists often cultivate, like believing they are cursed or that only suffering produces authentic Art. Selecting a helpful delusion is preferable.
The author contrasts the martyr mindset, which cultivates suffering, with the trickster mindset, which is playful, lighthearted, and looks to game the system rather than lament it. She argues artists should embrace the trickster mindset rather than the martyr mindset.
The original human creative impulse, the author believes, arose from the trickster mindset. But over time, Creativity has been "kidnapped by the martyrs" and caught in a suffering mood—which helps no one. Embracing the trickster mindset can help free Creativity and lead to healthier Art and artists.
You feel sad. To remedy this, you suggest giving Creativity back to tricksters. Tricksters trust themselves and the universe and love subverting things playfully. Your friend Brené Brown struggled while writing her books until she tapped into trickster energy. She had colleagues take notes as she told stories, then she turned the stories into writing. This helped her writing flow more easily and produced a great result.
You had a similar experience getting your first short story published. Though told to cut it down significantly for publication, you found a way to make it work, and the leaner version was quite good. The experience showed how Creativity can emerge from constraints and subvert the usual way of doing things.
The author discovered she could revise her writing drastically, and it would still thrive. This showed her that her creative work was not sacred just because she deemed it so. What matters is the time and effort that goes into creating the job and how that process expands one's imagination and life.
Taking one's creative work too seriously, like seeing it as one's "baby," often makes it difficult to let go of parts of the work or handle criticism. It can even make sharing or releasing the work challenging. The author's short story "Pilgrims" taught her not to be too prideful about her writing. After cutting it down and publishing it in Esquire, she moved on to new work. Had she not been willing to revise it, the story would have remained unpublished, and her career may have stalled.
The author argues against waiting for passion or inspiration to strike before creating. Following your curiosity instead leads to more accessible and sustainable Creativity. Curiosity only asks what interests you, even in a small way, and prompts you to explore those interests. While passion can demand radical life changes, curiosity leads to a more gentle "scavenger hunt" through many clues, some leading to dead ends and some to unexpected places. The author shares an example of how, after a passionate idea for a novel left her, following her curiosity led her to a new book project. Paying close attention to details in the every day often reveals clues that can spark new ideas or works. While waiting for inspiration, continuing to engage with the world around you sets the stage for Creativity to find you.
In summary, taking a light, curious, and playful approach to Creativity leads to more productive and transforming work than does demand passion or inspiration. Treating your creative work as something living and changeable rather than something sacred allows for greater openness, development, and sharing of that work with others. And following where your curiosity leads opens up more possibilities for Creativity than waiting for passion alone.
The author realizes she didn't have a passion to inspire her for a new writing project. Instead of panicking, she followed her curiosity. She asked herself what small interests she had and discovered an interest in gardening, even though she never cared much for it as a child.
She started gardening and researching the origins of the plants. This led her to research botanical history, travel the world, and ultimately write a novel about 19th-century botanical exploration.
The author says Big Magic can work in small, quiet ways if you follow every clue of curiosity. You have to learn to trust it. It's about saying yes.
The creators who inspire the author the most are the curious ones, not necessarily the most passionate ones. Curiosity is what fuels steady work. She gives examples of prolific creators who pursue a wide range of interests.
A director said he was most interested in analyzing his failures or "interesting outcomes," not just his successes. The author says the difference between a tormented creative life and a tranquil one is thinking of outcomes as "awful" or "interesting." Many quit pursuing creative lives because they fear "interesting."
The author's meditation teacher said the most significant problem she sees is that people quit meditating when it starts to get interesting, i.e., when it gets hard or painful. The author says this applies to any creative pursuit. Don't quit when things stop being easy or rewarding. That's when it starts to get interesting.
The author acknowledges you will fail. She threw away an entire book once. Failure is disappointing, but she has learned not to spiral into shame. She sees falling as a natural part of Creativity.
The author has realized that when he fails or experiences setbacks, his ego suffers, not his deeper self or soul. The ego craves rewards and praise and is never satisfied. If left unchecked, the ego can lead to constant disappointment and dissatisfaction.
The author refers to the ego as a "hungry ghost" - always wanting more and never being fulfilled. While we all need egos to define ourselves, we must not let our egos be the only thing guiding us. The author finds refuge from his ego in Creativity and connecting with his soul, which desires wonder and beauty.
The first step is to forgive yourself to move past failure and shame. Dwelling on failure and conducting "autopsies" on what went wrong won't help. Accept the loss and move on to the next project. Stay busy by doing other activities, like drawing or exercise. This "combinatory play" helps quiet the ego by lowering the stakes. Motion and movement also draw inspiration.
For example, the author tells the story of Clive James. After a colossal failure - a play that bombed and ruined him financially - James fell into a deep depression. His daughters asked him to paint their bikes to cheer them up. As James painted, adding intricate stars and details, he found the work satisfying and fulfilling. Soon, neighborhood children were asking him to paint their bikes too. James could reconnect with his Creativity through this simple act and overcome his shame and failure.
Don't dwell on failure; forgive yourself, quiet your ego, stay active and creative, and follow any small insights or clues that could lead you to inspiration. Keep moving forward.
A successful writer spent weeks painting stars on children's bicycles after facing failure and difficulties in his writing. At first, he was doubtful about continuing to create, but while painting the bikes, he realized he still wanted to write. When done, he felt free from his creative block and could write again.
Fully immersing himself in another creative endeavor helped renew his writing ability and motivation. This illustrates the power of "fierce trust"—continuing to create without worrying about outcomes or success. Creating for its own sake or out of love for the work leads to a kind of grace or magic.
The story of the aspiring artist who attended a fancy masquerade ball in a handmade lobster costume further shows how fierce trust and perseverance in the face of potential embarrassment or failure can lead to unexpected joy and success. By fully embracing the absurdity and vulnerability of the situation, the artist ended up the life of the party, even dancing with royalty. The lesson is that you must bravely and stubbornly see your creative works through to the end and share them with the world to have a chance at such accidental grace.
A final story from Bali reinforces how devotion to Creativity for its own sake without regard for outcomes can lead to a sense of Divinity or grace. In Balinese culture, Creativity is seen as a spiritual practice, not a means to an end. This reflects a kind of "accidental grace" that emerges from wholehearted creative acts. Overall, these stories argue for the power of trusting in your Creativity by focusing on the work rather than success or failure. This can unlock a sense of magic, satisfaction, and connection greater than what external measures of success or failure might indicate.
• Ketut Liyer, a Balinese medicine man, shared his wisdom with the author. He explained that Balinese dance is a sacred, ancient art form.
• In the 1960s, tourists became fascinated with the sacred dances and paid to watch them in temples. As interest grew, the temples became overcrowded. Some suggested performing the dances at resorts instead.
• Some Western visitors opposed this, seeing it as sinful. The Balinese did not fully understand these objections but sought to address them.
• The Balinese created new, meaningless dances to perform for tourists at resorts. But over time, these new dances became increasingly refined and transcendent.
• The Balinese priests then incorporated these new dances into their religious ceremonies. The meaningless dances became holy, and the sacred dances became meaningless.
• This blurred the lines between sacred and profane, confusing the Westerners who had demanded the distinction. But it allowed both tourists and Balinese to experience transcendence.
• The story illustrates several paradoxes, including:
› Creativity is both sacred and not sacred.
› What we make matters enormously and doesn't matter at all.
› We work alone but are accompanied by spirits.
› Art is both a privilege and a chore.
› Divinity becomes serious with us when we are most playful.
• We must embrace these paradoxes and continue creating. The treasures inside us are hoping we say yes.
Here are summaries for the requested titles:
Paint Your Bicycle: This seems to advise the reader to personalize and customize something to make it their own, potentially as a metaphor for life.
Fierce Trust: Appears to advocate having an intense yet compassionate belief in someone or something, perhaps Suggesting that one should have confidence in themselves or others.
Walk Proudly - Conveys a message of self-confidence and courage. Recommending that one carries themselves with pride and dignity.
Divinity Accidental Grace: Suggests that spiritual enlightenment or transcendence can happen by chance or unexpectedly. That grace and insight may come to us inadvertently.
In Conclusion - Indicates that a summary or final thoughts on a topic are being conveyed. The phrase is often used to transition to the concluding portion of a speech, essay, or argument.
Acknowledgments: Expresses gratitude and recognition of others who have contributed or supported in some way. Typically appears after work to thank individuals for their assistance, collaboration, or inspiration.
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