But what if you could make an impact by doing something that’s already there, inside you? That’s where Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, begins.
The Eat, Pray, Love author pivots away from finding self awareness through globe-trotting (as awesome as a trip to Bali would be), and points instead towards creative living as an exhilarating lifestyle that we all have the potential for, no passport needed.
So first things first: What’s creative living? “[When] I refer to ‘creative living,’ I am speaking more broadly,” Gilbert writes. “I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
She believes that we have “treasures” hidden within all of us—as photographers, writers, painters, bakers, origami makers, plant growers…really, anything that we feel that, deep down in the depths of our souls, we were meant to create.
They don’t have to be big, and they don’t have to be earth-shattering, but they’re there—and if we were to leave our trepidation behind (what, you’re not terrified of failure?!) and let these creative urges loose, we’d find a bit more happiness in our lives.
The end result, she posits, is Big Magic—that moment of excitement, happiness, and contentment that can only come when you’ve opened yourself up to creative living.
So where to start? Before you tell your boss that you’re quitting to become an illustrator of children’s books, here are seven things Gilbert believes you need to know about creative living—and reaping all of the benefits that come with it.
(Photos: Unsplash/Mario Calvo, Elizabeth Gilbert)
If you felt pangs of envy while reading Eat, Pray, Love, you may have finished the book (okay, or movie) thinking that the only way to shake up life is by putting all your belongings in storage and splurging on a one-way plane ticket to somewhere exotic. But according to Gilbert, you already have access to that thrill of adventure. “A creative life is an amplified life,” she writes. “It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”
Gilbert recalls a famous question that, she says, shows up “in every single self-help book ever written: What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?” But in her opinion, that’s the wrong way to figure out what you should be doing. “I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?”
“You are not required to save the world with your creativity. Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words; it also doesn’t have to be important,” she writes. If you feel inspiration, follow it wherever it takes you, even if eventually it’s to the trash can. (And if you don’t feel inspiration? Create anyway—Gilbert notes that on days when she feels out of ideas, she’ll set a timer and force herself to write for 30 minutes.)
The world may be inundated with creative types, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing valuable to add to the conversation. In fact, you have something no one else has: your unique point-of-view. Trust that you have something worthwhile to say, make, or create.
According to Gilbert, opening up to the world and letting your creative impulses see the light of day is inherently scary. But that fear you feel? It’s a good sign, as long as you can accept it without feeling paralyzed by it. Women, she believes, are way more prone to not committing to something unless they’re convinced they’ll be perfect at it. “I’ve watched far too many brilliant and gifted female creators say, ‘I am 99.8 percent qualified for this task, but until I master that last smidgen of ability, I will hold myself back, just to be on the safe side,” she writes, adding that we “must break this habit in ourselves.”
Opening yourself up to creative living means opening yourself up to failure. Accept your feelings of disappointment when that happens, then forgive yourself and move on. In fact, Gilbert recommends using those emotions as fuel to power you through your next project. “Chop up that failure and use it for bait to try to catch another project,” says Gilbert, who recounts the many rejection letters she received for years before finally getting her big break.
What often stifles creativity is not the fear of failing, but the fear that people will judge you for failing. Which, Gilbert believes, is silly—because people are probably paying way less attention to you than you think. “While it may seem lonely and horrible at first to imagine that you aren’t anyone else’s first order of business, there is also great release to be found in this idea,” she writes, adding that you’re then free to be yourself without impunity. Go on, we promise we’re not watching either. (But we are virtually cheering you on!)