Creative Living Without Fear: 3 Tips.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic explores creativity and inspiration. The tagline reads as follows: Creative living beyond fear. I finished it in a couple of days and was left with a heavily highlighted copy.
For a long time, I felt that if I wanted to be creative and act or sing I had to be perfect. I felt like I only wanted to do it if I was going to succeed at it.
I’ve now come to see that this almost dictatorial tone directed from and to myself, is the wrong approach.
I’m on a journey of rediscovering my love for creative expression. Not because I need to win an award for it but because it gives me genuine joy. It makes me a better person. It makes me feel more complete.
The takeaways below from Big Magic will hopefully help you embark on your creative journey in a more sustainable way this year. It definitely helped me approach creativity from a different point of view.
- Stop Waiting for Permission
In life we’re generally waiting for someone to give us permission to do something. It makes sense. Ever since we’re kids, we’re taught to first listen to our parents and ask for their permission, then we learn to ask permission from our teachers. Later still, we go to university or get a job where once again there are rules to follow and people to please. So, when do we fully become independent of that permission asking? The lack of educating independent thought is a problem I believe which is keeping the human race from soaring forwards. I believe we should learn to question the things we’re told and, above all, trust our instincts when it comes to living how we want to live.
In Big Magic Gilbert says: You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life.
You don’t become a great artist by listening to your teachers. Teachers can tell you about techniques and educate you on how things have worked up until this point, but never can they teach you how to take that information and transform it to express what truly represents who you are. Regardless of theories and predictions, they can never teach you about what will be, only what has been and what currently is.
Surround yourself with innovative thinkers: people who encourage experimentation and colouring outside of the lines, the ones who question what the textbook says. Those are the leaders who can truly make an impact.
- Recognise Fear As That Annoying Relative You Have To Put Up With.
We all have that one relative who you’re just going to have to learn to put up with during family gatherings. The sooner you realise this, the easier it gets! The same goes with fear.
Gilbert realised at one point that if she wanted to live a creative life, she was going to have to learn to accept that Fear will tag along on the journey. There is no way around it. Fear and creativity go hand in hand. She says that the two are like conjoined twins so when you attempt to kill off Fear, you normally end up killing creativity in the process.
She shares a welcoming speech she prepared for Fear which she delivers as she embarks on a new creative project. Take from it what you will:
“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting - and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing you job if you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And creativity will be doing it’s job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way.”
She goes to explain how Fear under no circumstance is allowed to vote when faced with a dilemma, touch the road maps, change the temperature and above all Fear is not allowed to drive.
I found this quite a beautiful way in which to approach Fear. Acknowledge that it’s there and it’s part of the creative journey but never allow it to take over and guide the choices you make - or don’t make.
- Follow Your Curiosity
We live in a society where we’re constantly asked ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ It’s a fair enough question. But in a society which shines the spotlight on success and positions it as the number one thing to strive for, it can have detrimental side effects.
Gilbert suggests that perhaps instead of putting such immense pressure on ourselves as creators, we could simply just follow our curiosity.
Follow your love for the theatre, organise a show even if only your mom shows up. Follow your interest in songwriting, release singles based on different concepts, try out different forms of creativity in different avenues in life. We don’t always have all the answers from day one so all you can really do is follow what interests you, what intrigues you, what ignites your curiosity. But we must act on it. Too many people let their curiosities remain just that. Curiosities that never see the light of day.
Call To Action: What are your fears when it comes to your art? Can the approaches above help? What's the worst that could happen if you went for it? In three years time will you regret not having taken that chance?
Your voice matters. Let us know what you’re thinking and leave a comment below.