Disclaimer: This is my version of a book review for Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. The ideas are Liz's, but the stories are mine. Thank you so much for the inspiration, Liz.
As I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I recall the times when I read this kind of thing on the regular. Eight years ago, I had just started University and went into the U.S. for a summer job of knocking on doors and being chased by dogs, a.k.a. "door-to-door sales".
In my free time - which was measly - I spent every minute pouring over books about writing because I had never had access to those before. You know the usuals - Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, and so on.
I can hardly remember a time when I was more inspired than I was back then. And I wasn't writing, don't get me wrong. I was just consuming all the inspiration I could get from those people - it was my morning breakfast and my evening meal. It was what kept me sane and growing and just full of joy. All summer, amidst my inability to sell a thing.
Eventually, I ended up making sandwiches to pay my host family, but I never stopped reading those books. It was my summer of literary luxury.
Then something horrible happened.
Don't worry. Nobody died. I didn't lose everything I possessed or go homeless (ok, I was close) or lose a lover in a tragic accident. In fact, the horrible thing didn't happen outside of me, it happened within. Basically, I stopped reading for pleasure.
It was horrible because - with the exception of a few books I read and a few ideas I tried to write - I decided to focus on "progress" and "hustling" and "finding myself", and in the process, I kicked creativity to the curb and only paid attention to it when it brought me money or progress or accolades. Which is ridiculous because it means that I value money more than creating things. Wait... what?! Just... no.
So there I was, hustling, thinking I was going to discover some magic solution, but all I was doing was creating a person I didn't want to be. You see?
I've always believed in the "do what you love" maxim. But a coin always has two sides, and in this case, it's the pressure of making what you love pay. It's almost as if there is no such thing as a job that can both feed and fulfill you. And because the road to success is paved in compromise, you have to choose wisely, and carefully.
Compromises blind us, make us think we've won the battle, even though they've won the war.
But this is not a sad story. It's a happy one. Because once you see what you've done and what you've lost, there's always a way to take a step back.
I opened up myself again.
So I just changed my brand completely, and even though I had my terrified moments, it was the best decision, and this feeling proves that.
The goose bumps. As you and I and Liz know very well, goose bumps mean pure inspiration. And as I read and write for joy again, I feel it all over. Too often we close the door on inspiration because we're too busy or too tired, and it's tragic. But when we finally re-open them, it's like no time had passed.
Big Magic is just like the books I used to read. Another book that gave me goose bumps was Beth Grant's The Four States of Being. The fact that I've had more than one "close encounters" recently means that I'm finally back on the right path.
I do believe that if you listen carefully, the Universe will validate some of your crazy ideas.
Isn't it beautiful when words on paper invalidate your fears and validate your desires? And no, I don't mean silly qualifications. I mean real words by real people who make mistakes and then succeed because they were brave enough to try again. And again.
(You're brave, too. You just need to keep your doors open.)
This is highly unusual.
This kind of "blog post" is highly unusual for me. So what gives?
I just wanted to share this "magic" with you and remind you to be child-like and play with ideas, like Liz Gilbert says. We all tend to get distracted and tempted by some big reward at the end, and forget we're also supposed to enjoy the process.
It's not that I don't enjoy my new business or that you're not enjoying yours. But I worry that we let go of parts of us sometimes, parts that make us happier and more at peace with the world. Maybe you don't knit anymore or sing anymore. Just like I don't work on my novel anymore and I can't remember the last time I went dancing.
I want us - you and me - to keep ourselves entirely. And to achieve this, we need those quirky parts that make zero money and/or progress. The parts that are all luxury and no expectation. You don't have to make money off your passion as long as you get to keep it for the rest of your life. Your gift is precious, and maybe you're not meant to make millions from it. Maybe it's just meant to help you come alive.
Just for the record, I do agree with Marie Forleo that it's required reading for every human being. Especially if you're a "creative". There's so much more in it - from shit sandwiches to creativity contracts to finishing things - that you need to know.
Finally, I'm going to ask you something and hope you'll do it. Pick up something you LOVED doing but no longer have time or energy to do. Take the weekend off and do it for at least a few hours. Does it make you come alive?