image by Justine
My friend and one of my favorite bloggers Justine is hosting a read-a-long for Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Justine provides prompts for each section of the book on her blog, and invites readers to respond in the comments or send her an email. I decided to blog my responses.
Justine’s prompts for the third section of the book are:
- As you read about the idea of permission what came up for you? Are you seeking permission in any areas of your life / creativity? Permission is a huge issue for me in terms of my creative life, my life. For many many years, I knew what I wanted, who I was, but I thought I had to wait for permission. I thought there would be an invitation, or that I had to earn a certification. I misunderstood completely how the whole thing worked, so I waited, got stuck there, almost gave up. The permission I’m looking for now is to live without apology, to want without guilt, to know that I don’t have to earn the right to be here.
- Gilbert explains the attitude of “insouciance” that allowed her parents to do whatever they liked when it came to their creative living, and how that influenced her own path. What are some of the attitudes and assumptions of your family-of-origin? And, as Gilbert suggests, go back through your family history, where are the makers? Where do you come from? And then, it doesn’t matter. We’re all creators. Make your art. I think there was a lot of fear and compliance in my family history, being rewarded for doing as required or expected, punished for not, and trying to control the chaos in a way that stunted freedom and joy. There was a lot of hurt and struggle. The conditions of living were just so different. Gilbert’s own experience with strong willed, stubborn, smart and gifted parents felt familiar to me. I come from a long line of teachers, fixers, farmers. All the women are crafty and all the men can repair stuff. They built things with their bare hands. They were funny and smart. The conditions of their lives didn’t always allow for full expression of their creativity, but it was right there, just below the surface all the time. In my family of origin, there’s a writer and a photographer and an artist, all who didn’t get to fully experience or express that, which only fuels my desire to keep trying.
- Gilbert writes of her dad: “He didn’t quit his day job to follow his dream; he just folded his dream into his everyday life.” How can you fold your dreams into your everyday life? Gah. I’m totally doing it. I complain and want out of it (all of which I wanted to take back after reading this chapter), but this is how it’s working. I wake up early so I can practice before going to work at CSU, and then my days are a mix of work I do in the service of others and my own creativity — but they don’t really stay neatly separated, are blurring together and tripping over each other all the time. Like conjoined twins, they are two separate beings and yet they aren’t independent at all. They feed each other at the same time they steal from each other.
- How are you living your “most vividly decorated temporary life”? By not compartmentalizing things. Practice isn’t just practice. My CSU work isn’t just work. My creativity isn’t just of and for itself. When I teach I learn. When I write, I simultaneously dig in and let go. When I’m by myself, I’m not alone. Being tired is its own form of energy, and work can be its own kind of rest. The lines between things, the boundaries fall away, and there’s nothing but wide open space.
- Pretend you’re in your own hostage negotiation with those negative, internal voices. Speak directly, but lovingly and make your “statement of intent”. I’m not giving up. It’s that simple.
- “I enjoy my creativity.” Go on, say it. The whole thing she says right before that is so great. “I told the universe (and anyone who would listen) that I was committed to living a creative life not in order to save the world, not as an act of protest, no to become famous, not to gain entrance into the canon, not to challenge the system, not to show the bastards, not to prove to my family that I was worthy, not as a form of deep therapeutic emotional catharsis…but simply because I liked it.”
image by Justine
In case you missed my first post, let me explain. My friend and one of my favorite bloggers Justine is hosting a read-a-long for Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Justine provides prompts for each section of the book on her blog, and invites readers to respond in the comments or send her an email. I decided to blog my response.
Justine’s prompt for the second section of the book are:
- When it hits you, what does inspiration feel like in your body? Fluttery, like my whole body is suddenly buzzing and jittery, stomach full of butterflies and head full of bees, but also floaty, like gravity has stopped working, and hot, on fire — but weirdly, considering the previous descriptors, completely still and quiet, calm.
- How have you said “yes” and how have you said “no” to ideas and inspiration in the past? I’m going to flip my answer and give the bad news first — I said “no” to ideas and inspiration for almost 35+ years. I got “the call” in the 2nd grade. It was so clear and I was so sure, so excited and ready, but from then on it got very, very confusing. There was still the occasional buzz, but I just wasn’t available. I had to work through so much before I could be ready, and yet, in the end, it wasn’t about being ready at all. I wasn’t ready when my first dog and my dear friend were both diagnosed with cancer. I wasn’t ready when they died. And yet, that experience happened anyway, and it broke me open. I couldn’t go back to the way things were, so I really didn’t have a choice. I said the biggest yes ever — to finding myself again, to living a creative life, to staying awake, to being present, to keeping my heart open.
And with that, I said “yes” to starting a blog, reading and studying and learning, attending workshops and retreats and conferences, finding a community, publishing places other than on my blog, being a teaching assistant for Mondo Beyondo, putting together the Self-Compassion Saturday series and then the ebook, becoming certified to teach yoga, getting another dog (then losing another dog to cancer and getting yet another dog), becoming the Communications Coordinator for the English department at CSU, shifting the way I thought about money, working to simplify my life, taking Buddhist vows, teaching yoga, teaching workshops and classes that are a mix of yoga and writing and meditation, working on a book, forgiving myself, befriending myself.
I said “no” to doing things because I thought I should, pleasing/perfecting/pretending/performing, staying in projects and relationships that were toxic, alcohol, waiting for permission, dieting, starving and stuffing myself, people who don’t love or even see me, anyone else’s idea of what I’m supposed to look like, things I don’t need anymore, teaching for CSU, denying myself, smashing myself to bits. Maybe these yeses and nos don’t seem like they are all related to inspiration and creativity, but believe me, they are.
- Is there an idea trying to “wave you down” right now? What’s keeping you from saying “yes” to it? There are a few — some classes and workshops I want to offer, a creativity club I want to start, and “the book.” The poor book doesn’t get the time or space it needs to come together, even though I’ve already written probably at least 70% of it. I let myself get distracted by work, by constructing new work, by other writing, by all the stuff and projects of my life. I sure hope it doesn’t give up on me, pass me by. When I think about it, I feel like I should pray or something, but all I can think of to say is “please don’t give up on me, please wait for me.” I think there’s some part of me that doesn’t understand how to write a book, worries I won’t be able to figure it out.
- Do you identify with the tormented artist or the cooperating joyfully approach more? What can you do to make creativity more of a partnership? I think I’m a tormented person in general, dissatisfied because I want SO MUCH but I’m only human, only have so much time and energy. I see the list of ALL THE THINGS, hold it in my mind and heart all the time, and the longing can feel overwhelming, so much bigger than what I can actually do. And I skip right past celebrating where I am, enjoying what I’m doing, into “but what about…” I do try in my regular practices to offer an invitation, to open myself up to what might arise. I do this when I meditate every morning, and I do it when I write my morning pages, even addressing them to “Dear One” and signing off with “Thank you.” A partnership would require more focused attention from me, I think. To be with what is right now without rushing off, to slow down, to balance my effort with ease. I think creativity needs me to spend more time staring at my toes, day dreaming, doing nothing.
- What are your expectations surrounding your creative genius? Are you showing up consistently, upholding your end of the partnership? I am definitely doing the work. I show up every day. Discipline in that way isn’t my issue. I think my problem right now is I’m not letting my creative genius help. I’m so busy with the doing that there’s no room for it, no space. It can’t get a word in edgewise. I haven’t left a place for it, need to scoot over, slow down, surrender to it.