One of the things I love about Gilbert is how she appeals to those of us who are not dewy-eyed and wet behind the ears.
She knows where us ‘second-acters’ are coming from.
In fact, it turns out that her book is packed with advice and reflections that are perfect for those of us building a writing life a little later … but not too late.
It’s never too late
A lot of us, at one time or another, have experienced the feeling that it could be too late to reinvent, redirect or recreate our lives.
But that’s simply not the case.
Ten years later (the time it takes to complete two Masters Degrees and a PhD) museums and universities were calling upon Winifred for her expertise.
“So when can you start pursuing your most creative and passionate life?
You can start whenever you decide to start.”
But, just in case you feel overwhelmed by the notion of starting a writing life later than ‘usual’, remember that we are all beginners,
“… even if you’ve been working on your craft for fifty years. We are all just beginners here, and we shall all die beginners.”
So, how do you start?
Many times, it all starts with an idea.
The trouble is, when we try too hard, or we keep ourselves busy and distracted, our idea machine gets all blocked up.
In Gilbert’s world, that machine is fed by “energetic life-forms” (disembodied ideas) flying about in search of a willing human through which they can become manifest. It’s a beautiful notion and she shares evidence that, for her, this has been the case. The story of how an idea flew from Gilbert over to Ann Patchett is pretty crazy. (Sorry, I won’t give it away. You’ll have to read the book.)
How do we get, or catch, an idea?
” … there comes a day when you’re open and relaxed enough to actually receive something. Your defenses might slacken and your anxieties might ease, and then magic can slip through. The idea, sensing your openness, will start to do its work on you. … And then, in a quiet moment, it will ask, “Do you want to work with me?”
Considered this way, can you ever imagine saying “no”?!
But we do all the time, choosing instead the distractions and responsibilities that fill our days, often because of ever-present doubts triggered by such things as fear, worry, and a lack of belief in our creative selves.
Fear, Worry, Despair … oh my!
“Do you have the courage? … The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
Gilbert goes on to list fear after fear after fear … providing two and a half pages of them before she stops and concludes:
“Everything is so goddamn scary.”
However, while fear on an evolutionary level is natural for the survival of the species, “you do not need your fear in the realm of creative expression.”
So, how does Gilbert suggest we wrangle this fear thing? Do we ignore it? Beat it down? Bury it alive?
None of the above. Rather, we learn to live with it as part of our journey. Here’s what she says to her Fear:
“Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be allowed.”
And here’s something pretty neat to think about … if fear stands at your doorway with the mere mention of your writing project, there’s a pretty good chance it’s awesome.
Creativity challenges the edges of life where uncertainty dwells. Who doesn’t want to challenge the edges? It makes me want to feel the fear.
In search of time
As I’ve written about in the past, worries about time and money have been constant companions, as they are for many people.
Enter my favorite analogy in Big Magic, in which Gilbert compares writing to a love affair.
Think back to when you were in the throes of a passionate affair. You may have had work, school, or family commitments. (These days, time tends to be tight past the age of six.)
But, no way would you have ever said “I don’t have time” when planning your next chance to be alone with your lover.
Seriously! Even if it had to happen at three o’clock in the morning in some seedy motel, you were there with bells on!
[bctt tweet=”Have an affair with your writing.”]
Do I have what it takes?
As the “second-acters” that we are, we are more likely to have what it takes than at any other time in our lives up to this point.
And what’s really great is, if we don’t, we are more capable of getting what we need than ever before … thank you very much.
Foundational to it all is having that belief. You must have that knowing, deep down in your gut, that you either have it, or you can go out and get it.
Gilbert writes that we are all born to be creators. It’s built into our DNA. From as little as 100 years ago and extending back to the beginnings of human culture, it’s what our ancestors did as a matter of course, every single day.
They didn’t consume. They made things. They created.
Why would you ever wonder if you can make things too?
“Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvelous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day.”
However, it goes without saying … but I’m going to say it anyway … that inspiration will come and go. When it goes, we must continue to work.
“I work either way, you see—assisted or unassisted—because that is what you must do in order to live a fully creative life. I work steadily, and I always thank the process. Whether I am touched by grace or not, I thank creativity for allowing me to engage with it at all.”
In other words, claim it with gratitude. And always remember:
Gratitude Is All
” … it’s all kind of amazing—what we get to do, what we get to attempt, what we sometimes get to commune with.
This time of year we are reminded of how important gratitude is to our physical, emotional and spiritual selves.
When we express gratitude, our hearts grow stronger, our emotions are more positive and our spirit expands … and, I’d like to add, our creativity can flourish.
In closing, as I’m reminded of all I have to be grateful for, I’d like to express my gratitude that you have joined me on this journey. (My longtime companions, Creativity and Fear, are also waving to you happily as they sit, side-by-side, in the backseat.)
One of the best parts of writing this blog is our conversations, so please share your thoughts below.
Did an idea fly by while you were reading this post? Did you welcome it to stay? Have you read Big Magic? If so, what was your favorite part?