Welcome to the first real Annotated Inspiration post and the start of Big Magic! Last Friday I gave you the info on how to make close reading work for you, today we are using those observations and notes to talk about the first part of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: Courage.
So the way I'm going to structure these is to write an editorial each week drawing out what I got from the reading and then asking a question or two for those who are reading along to answer either in the comments here or on the Instagram account. Hope you'll join in the talks. Here we go!
This first part or chapter discusses fear and courage. Fear of going whole hog and giving your creative needs their full power. Gilbert opens the book talking about a favorite poet, Jack Gilbert, writing about how he came into his vocation.
"He became a poet the way other men become monks: as a devotional practice, as an act of love, and as a lifelong commitment to the search for grace and transcendence."
Shouldn't we all be doing that? Following a passion devotedly? Obviously there are many reasons we tell ourselves we can't over the years. Money, work, parenting those little miracles we've made... but it seems to me that those reasons are more like excuses to keep from working with your creative resourcefulness. You can be poor and still be creative. You can have a job and still find an outlet that fits with your work schedule. You can be an amazing parent but also claim a little time for yourself.
Gilbert (both Elizabeth and Jack) tells us to be brave. Asking whether we are brave enough to "bring forth the treasures that are hidden within". I think that everyone has some kind of creative need that lives inside them quietly asking for a little attention and love. It doesn't matter what that is, just give it some focus. If you don't know what that gift is, spend a little time searching yourself to see what you find.
It takes courage for you to identify those gifts and needs of creativity. To carve out time for yourself in the midst of a busy life and claim it for your talents, that's some brave shit guys. I'm a mom of three with a husband who travels constantly so I seriously struggle with this. Taking time for myself means taking time away from my job as a mom or missing out on some of the precious few hours we all have together as a family. It's hard to miss out on those hours and many times a choose to wake up early or stay up late so that I don't sacrifice them. But I also know what it is to wander through my life without giving weight to the creative part of me and feeding it in whatever way I can. I spent years fighting a war with myself over being a good mom and fulfilling the needs I have as a person before I finally realized I can be both. And I am better at each because of the love and attention I give to both.
It's hard to continually let my creativity and curiosity lead my life. And often it doesn't. But Gilbert asks us to live a life that is "driven more strongly by curiosity than fear." We have to embrace that question that used to rule our existence as children. To try new things, without pressuring ourselves to be creator of the next Apple or writer of the next great American novel. Do things because you enjoy them! We don't have to be amazing at everything, we just have to be fed by it. Go on adventures instead of worrying about what you need to finish at work tomorrow (I promise, it'll still be there waiting for you). Take the leap and choose to be a braver person.
Writing about a friend who returned to a childhood passion of figure skating as an adult, Gilbert shares, "She loved it even more than ever, perhaps, because now, as an adult, she finally had the perspective to appreciate the value of her own joy. [...] She stopped feeling like she was nothing more than a consumer, nothing more than the sum of her daily obligations and duties. She was making something of herself, making something with herself."
For me, this is running. (It's starting this business as well.) I started running again two years ago, finally allowing myself to be content with my slow pace compared to what it once was in my teen years. I started waking up before dawn to put miles under me before my kids were awake. I crossed new distances off my list and trained for my first half marathon. And then I failed to finish because of injuries. But I didn't stop. I'm training again now for two halfs this winter and I want to try for my first full marathon sometime in 2017. Running has no benefits to anyone but myself, but it makes me happy. It fills me and cleans my soul. I don't have to be a great runner like so many I know. Each run completed is still more miles than I would have done sitting on a couch watching Netflix.
Gilbert writes through the chapter about letting go of the fears you have - or rather acknowledging them but taking away their power. Writing a list of the fears in your heart over living a creative life, but then choosing to let go and overcome your weaknesses rather than being defined by them. Choose adventure. She explains that it's not about being fearless but about being brave. Overcoming your fears and doing what you want in spite of them. She closes the chapter explaining that she invites Fear to come along on the road trip of life with herself and Creativity but that it will not be allowed to make any choices or cast a vote on any decisions. It's allowed to be acknowledged and sit in the car. To exist but not to control.
Are you brave enough to reclaim your spot in the driver's seat?
Do you recognize the fears that are stopping you from embracing a creative life?
Will you choose to go after your happiness and joy?
I hope you'll join in the discussion be commenting below or on Instagram. Next Wednesday we'll be discussing Part II: Enchantment.
Enjoy the rest of your week!