Donâ€™t have a creative bone in your body? Codswallop. So says Elizabeth Gilbert, author to several literary gems including the especially sparkly Eat Pray Love. In 2015, Liz thrust another jewel into our hands â€“ Big Magic â€“ a guide to â€œcreative living beyond fearâ€ that reads like tough love from a dear, witty friend who insists you get to making something. Anything. Bring out the brushes, baking trays or, as one of Lizâ€™s friends does, the ice-skates. Something holding you back? Letâ€™s hear it.
â€œI have no talentâ€
Liz sang this tune throughout the majority of her childhood. But, thankfully, Mum wasnâ€™t having a bar of it. â€œI spent years pushing back against my motherâ€™s unshakeable faith in my strength and abilities,â€ she shares. â€œThen one day, somewhere in adolescence, I finally realised that this was a really weird battle for me to be fighting. Defending my weakness? Thatâ€™s seriously the hill I want to die on?â€ As the saying goes: â€˜Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.â€™â€
â€œIâ€™m just not creativeâ€
You are, actually. But you might be on to something in not needing to admit it. Calling someone â€˜creativeâ€™ is â€œlaughably redundantâ€, according to Liz, who deems creativity a trait so inherent that itâ€™s completely unavoidable. â€œWe have the senses for it; we have the curiosity for it; we have the opposable thumbs for it; we have the rhythm for it; we have the language and the excitement and the innate connection to divinity for it,â€ she writes. â€œIf youâ€™re alive, youâ€™re a creative person.â€
â€œBut someone else already did itâ€
Originality shouldn’t be your focus (or concern). Try authenticity, instead. As Liz points out, Shakespeare pretty much penned every story line, but that didn’t stop centuries of writers whipping them out over and over again. â€œEverything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours…â€ promises Liz. â€œShare whatever you are driven to share. If itâ€™s authentic enough, believe me â€“ it will feel original.â€
â€œMy work wonâ€™t be importantâ€
Steady on there, Superman. Listen to Liz: â€œYou are not required to save the world with your creativity.â€ Pressureâ€™s off! Your art need not move mountains. â€œWhenever anybody tells me they want to write a book in order to help other people, I always think, Oh, please donâ€™tâ€¦â€ Liz begs. â€œYour own reasons to create are reason enough.â€ Hereâ€™s a delicious opportunity to be selfish, so take it!
â€œBut Iâ€™m not trained in anythingâ€
Neither was Vincent van Gogh. And when it comes to Lizâ€™s chosen craft, sheâ€™s not convinced that we need officially credentialed novelists. â€œHistory seems to agree with me on this point. Twelve North American writers have won the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901: Not one of them had an MFA [Master of Fine Arts]. Four of them never even got past high school.â€
â€œIt wonâ€™t make moneyâ€
So donâ€™t ask it to. Liz kept her day jobs (weâ€™re talking waitressing and working on a ranch in Wyoming) until her fourth book â€“ and that was freaking Eat Pray Love. â€œTo yell at your creativity, saying, â€˜You must earn money for me!â€™ is sort of like yelling at a cat,â€ she writes. â€œIt has no idea what youâ€™re talking about, and all youâ€™re doing is scaring it away, because youâ€™re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.â€ Donâ€™t do that.
â€œI donâ€™t have timeâ€
â€œYou know how people who are having extramarital affairs always seem to manage to find time to see each other in order to have wild, transgressive sex?â€ asks Liz. â€œIt doesnâ€™t seem to matter if those people have full-time jobs and families at home to support; they still somehow always manage to find the time to sneak off and see their lover.â€ Get hot for your creativity. Go on. How about a dirty weekend? Or even a sneaky five minutes on the stairwellâ€¦
â€œBut what if everyone hates it?â€
Hereâ€™s the thing. You have zero control over other peopleâ€™s response to your art. â€œRecognising this reality â€“ that the reaction doesn’t belong to you â€“ is the only sane way to create.â€ If they like it, great. They donâ€™t get it? Too bad. And if haters be hatinâ€™, Liz gives you permission to â€œsmile sweetly and suggest â€“ as politely as you possibly can â€“ that they go make their own f**king art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.â€