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I asked for (and received) a copy of Big Magic for Christmas, 2015. I didn’t get the chance to read it until a year later. When I finally did read it, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t read it sooner. I mean, Elizabeth Gilbert obviously wrote this book just for me, so why did it take me so long to read it?
Ms. Gilbert’s words brought me to tears within a few pages. It took me several tries just to get through the first chapter.
Because her book is filled with truth. Her words spoke to me in a way that I’ve only experienced on rare occasions. In fact, I did something I’ve never done before—I read slower so the book would last longer (on purpose!).
It’s the kind of book you need to chew slowly, savoring the flavors before you swallow. You need to let each bite digest before you take another one.
Ten Truths I Learned From Big Magic.
1. Art Makes Life Better
If you let it. I already knew this, on some level, but forgot it somewhere along the way. Sometime in my life, art became serious, demanding, and difficult.
Art is supposed to fill your soul up to bursting. It exists for the sole purpose of giving people something beautiful, something joyful. If making art isn’t making me happy, then why am I doing it?
2. I am Entitled to Make Art
This is another truth that I knew once upon a time and lost sight of over the years. God made me creative. I have just as much right as anyone else to create art and share it with the world.
As a human being, I get to be creative because I’m alive, I exist. The only person that can take that away from me is myself. And I refuse to deprive myself of something that will make my life richer.
3. Art is Not Income
Art needs to be made for art’s sake. Demanding that it pay my bills will get me nowhere but disappointed and bitter.
I’ll admit, this was a new one for me. I always expected my art to pay the bills…eventually. I always expected monetary success from my art. And when it didn’t happen? I spent several years disappointed and bitter.
Reading Big Magic was such a relief for me. I should create art for the sake of doing something creative, because it brings me joy, no other reason. If it makes me money, great, if it doesn’t, great. Make art because you love making art and because you need a creative outlet. That is all.
4. Ignore the Haters
Because there will be haters. There will be naysayers, people who don’t understand, who think you’re nuts, who think you’re wasting your time. That’s okay.
They can think that. You know why? Because what I do with my time is none of their business. The time I have been allotted belongs to me and me alone. The things I create are not for them, anyway. If they don’t like what I make, then they can go fly a kite.
5. Ideas are Alive
And if you don’t use an idea, it will find someone else who will. I know this to be true. I’ve had many many ideas in my life which, due to my young age, my skill level, or my circumstances, I didn’t create. Years later, I would see my idea, painted with someone else’s brush, written by someone else’s fingers.
But that’s okay, too. Ideas are never ending. There are thousands of them floating around at any given moment, and not all of them are right for me, and I’m not right for all of them. It’s better that someone made them than that they should sit, unused, waiting for me.
6. Let Go of Failures
Not all ideas will be winners. I know this. I’ve failed many many times. Paintings have failed, illustrations have failed, music has failed, books have failed, poems, short stories, essays, articles, pottery, and beadwork have all failed. But the important thing is that I keep making things. I keep trying.
Failures are simply experiences. Things to learn from. They don’t define me. There is always something else, something better, on the horizon.
7. None of it Matters, Anyway
This was a hard pill for me to swallow and yet it was probably the most liberating statement in the whole book. None of it matters. Yes, we create, but who is really going to read what we’ve written in another hundred years? Nobody.
Nobody is going to see my paintings, read my books, or even talk about me after I’m gone. I’m not important. What I create is not important. So I need to get over my ideas of grandiosity and immortality via history books and just create something beautiful. Because in the end, none of it matters anyway.
I’m not going down in history. Odds are that I’ll never change anyone’s life through my art. So what does it matter? I’ll make what I want to make because it makes me happy.
8. Inspiration Comes to Those Who Work
Ideas, inspiration, and improvement won’t come unless I’m giving it my all. Creativity requires sacrifice, time, commitment, and collaboration.
You can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. Sometimes you have to trick it into visiting you, and sometimes it just appears, but it almost always shows up when you’re working hard.
9. Never Apologize for Your Art
I have a hard time with this. I love apologizing, explaining, and feeling embarrassed about what I’ve made. Why? I don’t know. I’m too eager to please, maybe. But I can’t please everyone. In fact, I can’t please anyone if I don’t please myself.
I made my art. It’s mine, and I get to throw it proudly out into the world. It’s my right as the artist.
10. Fear is Useless
When it comes to art. What am I so afraid of anyway? Failure? Success? That I wear glasses? Who cares? None of that matters.
Fear serves no purpose when it comes to art, I still struggle with it. Most days, I’m afraid of my own shadow. When it comes to my art, I need to strap my fear into the passenger seat and tell it that I’m the driver.
I can acknowledge my fear, but I must never let it take control.
Big Magic was the perfect book to give me the kick in the pants I needed. It inspired me and helped me understand where I’ve been running into roadblocks. I feel like I can move forward, do something brave, and put myself out there, because in the end, what does it matter, anyway?
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