Happy New Year! Wanted to share this one with you. I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilberts’ latest book , Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear on Audible. Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love, in 2006 which was a massive best seller. There is something about listening to an author read her own book that makes it feel like an intimate conversation which is kind of nice.
As a person who places enormous value on making art, I was fascinated to hear her take on how creativity works in her life. Her profound belief is that everyone is creative if we are open to it even though most people don’t buy into that. On this point, I couldn’t agree more. Whenever we run a workshop, the primary goal is to provide an experience during which each student feels what it’s like to be in the process of making things. And often, they make something beautiful which is a nice bonus. It’s not an understatement to say that for those who believe they have no artistic talent, it can be kind of magical.
This post is about how the book made me feel about the “magic” of creating. There was a lot in this book that resinated but one of the most impactful was the concept of “letting go of the outcome when a work is finished”. Invariably we look at it, judge it and make a decision about it’s worth. Or worse, listen to other people’s opinions as to it’s worth. Human nature being what it is, we often decide it’s crap. But Gilbert’s take on this topic make me rethink this.
She recounts the tale of the first published short story she every wrote…it was an assignment for Esquire Magazine and at the 12th hour, just before going to press, the editor called to say that she would have to shorten her story because of a space issue or forfeit being in the magazine at all. She was tormented…hack up her baby or throw away her shot at being nationally published for the first time. In the end, she edited the piece and submitted it. And was amazed to find that it was just as good as the original…not the same, but different and good none the less. She let go of the outcome, stayed in the process and embraced her work in a different form.
This story resonated with me as a reminder to focus on the process and not the end result. Case in point, shortly after listening to the book, I was practicing some watercolor techniques, trying to teach myself how to marry the paint, water and paper into something pleasing…not a masterpiece, just pleasing. While practicing with florals, I created some paintings that fell completely short of my expectations. I was frustrated and disappointed in everything I made but something instructive happened. Since I didn’t like any of them, I picked up a pair of scissors and started to cut them up. And low and behold they made beautiful little abstracts. Something that had disappointed me as a painting found life as something quite nice in a different form. Moral of the story.. let go of the outcome, stay in the process and embrace the work in a different form.
There are a ton of these little gems in the book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So whether you don’t think you have an artistic bone in your body or you make art all the time, read or better yet, listen to this book. Felt a little like being in the maker’s circle chatting with a girlfriend. Nice.