In January I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I absolutely loved it, it inspired me and changed the way I think about my art, and was the push I needed to start a creative morning routine-something that shocks even me (as I am definitely not a morning person!).
I keep Big Magic beside my art table so that when ever I am feeling low or not inspired I can read from it. I have probably read it at least one and a half times and now am getting ready to read it again, to share my thoughts and inspirations from each part of the book.
The book is divided into 6 parts, my goal is to write one post about the book for each part for the next 6 weeks. If you have read it or would like to join along with me in reading it, I would love some conversation and your thoughts on the book.
So here we go, lets start with part 1...
Part 1: Courage
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how your day to day responsibilities don't define who you are. And encourages you to find that piece of your life that lights us up inside-maybe you have been saving it for a rainy day, or the right moment to start, but really the time is now, no excuses. She reminds you, you don't have to quit our job to do our dream or even start, but it does require you to make time and have courage to pursue it.
Elizabeth uses the analogy that there are hidden jewels inside of you and it is the courage to search for them and bring them to light that separates a mundane life from an enchanted one. My favourite quote from this section of the book is "Something wonderful is sheltered inside of you". I believe this, even if it takes some digging to find.
She mentions a professor that taught at the university she teaches at, whom the students said he "Didn't teach the how but the why" of writing-the word writing could be replaced with any activity. This sentence resonated with me fully, as it is part of my calling. It isn't about the how, or what the final product will be, but the why we do it and the intention in the process we use to get there; the journey rather than the destination.
She talks about bravery and how living a creative life takes courage. All of life is art-it is all in our perspective how we live it. Do we choose to live each day in our comfort zone, or embrace curiosity and have the courage to branch out and explore. To take delight in our life. She describes bravery as knowing something is scary and doing it anyway and how fearlessness is not evening knowing what the word scary means, which isn't great way to live.
Fear is an instinct we need it to survive, but our bodies have a hard time telling the difference between fear of something that could hurt us and fear of paper tigers. I read something a few years ago that explained our bodies fear response. Our body reacts to all fears the same-regardless if it is from a true threat that will injure you, reading a scary novel, or thinking about all the terrible what if scenarios could happen from an up coming decision. Fight or flight and adrenaline kick in. That fear of uncertainty of what will happen if you step outside your comfort zone can affect you the same way as if you were terrified face to face with a tiger, if you let it.
The unknown of embracing your creativity is scary. Failure can be scary. Elizabeth uses the analogy of a road trip with you, your creativity and your fear. Make space for your fear in the car, acknowledge it but never let it drive. For me, sometimes when I am painting or afraid to do something, talk to someone, or do something, I feel that fear and anxiousness and talk to it like a toddler and step forward to show the fear there is nothing to worry about. Maybe it could also be described as using logic and my heart to talk to my primitive brain.
Elizabeth lists 27 fears that may stop you or make you hesitate from living a creative life or following a passion. Out of those 27 I have a strong yes to 14 of them and at least 5 maybes. Some of the fears that really stuck out for me were: fear of rejection, misunderstanding and ignored; my work/passion not being important enough; being seen as an imposter or fraud; and not being original enough.
I would categorize my self as a fearful, anxious, self-conscious, quiet, introverted, and sensitive. I find that I am a good observer, I am very sensitive to what I think others are feeling or thinking of me and others, and how I may affect someone. I constantly have 'what if...' scenarios running through my head, and I will admit it is exhausting. Especially as a public school teacher I feel I am always on the clock as a role model, and being a teacher has also become an excuse I use often to keep myself with in my comfort zone. But being in your comfort zone is boring. As Elizabeth says fear is boring-it says stop, and keeps everything the same. Starting my creative commitment to my self 6 years ago has really pushed me to expand my comfort zone, and while fear still paralyzes me sometimes-I have said yes to enough opportunities to know that I am still growing and changing. I am not stuck and will no longer allow myself to be stuck in stasis due to fear. I still have a long way to go, but I am making progress, Fear is uncomfortable but is worth pushing past it to live a creative life, a life where you feel lit up from the inside and excited to greet the day.
Searching for and digging up your jewels is hard work and takes time-life is to short to let fear hold you back from your jewels. Live each day with a sense of wonder and curiosity, bring it into your work. Tune into your heart and see where your fears lie, don't shut them down, but reach into them, interrogate them, see where they stem from and if you can soothe them enough to make baby steps towards living a creative life.
who inspires you? What lights you up inside and calls you forward?
When was the last time you felt truly alive, excited and lit up? What were you doing? How old were you? Would you do it again if you could? What is stopping you? Are there small steps you can take to do what is calling you right now?
Do you have the courage to start the journey to find your hidden treasure?
Why are we afraid to embrace/claim our creativity?
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Jennifer Russell was born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada.She is an Intentional artist who focuses on creating meaning full connections to her work for herself and others. Nothing is more satisfying to her than hearing that her work has inspired someone in their own life.