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.”