I’ve never thought of myself – nor indeed the art of writing – as creative. It was only after a recent blog post in which I bemoaned my lack of artistic talents and creativity that I received a text from my father, insisting that while some people paint, and others sew, words – and writing – are simply a different medium through which I express my creativity. I pondered on this for a while – having spent almost thirty years not seeing myself as creative, it was something of a revelation to think that perhaps I was.
Consequently, I was excited to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest publication – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Part memoir, part guide, in Big Magic, Gilbert’s shares her musings and wisdom on creativity for artists of all kinds – actors, sculptors and, of course, being one herself, writers.
With the triumph of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, it would have been easy to pigeon-hole Gilbert as a fluke success – the type of writer that had something happen to her and was then lucky enough to turn this into a novel which saw her achieving overnight stardom. I must confess that I’m guilty of having thought this – and it was only when her most recent novel – The Signature of All Things – made the Baileys Prize longlist that I bothered to discover that she had indeed published books long before Eat, Pray, Love.
Big Magic, then, is further proof of a life that she has dedicated to writing; the vows she took to write, the sacrifices she made; and the endless rejections she received before being published. She offers guidance and inspiration to would-be artists – whether their channel be words, music, or paint – treat your creativity like a lover; always make time for it, nurture it; be ruthlessly passionate when it comes to you art.
It’s easy to make excuses for not pursuing one’s passion – but perhaps the biggest factor that holds us back is fear; fear of not finishing, fear of the finished piece not being perfect. fear of never ‘making it’. Gilbert instructs her reader to set free the fear and simply do, which reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from novelist Paulo Cohello: ‘There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.’