on creativity, dedication and joy

Elizabeth Gilbert

We have reached the end of our online bookclub and the question Elaine, Amanda and I have for this last post is:

What have we learned about creativity from Big Magic?

For me it can be summed up in two phrases: Take it seriously and hold it lightly. These two phrases seem to be contradictory, but it is important that they both exist side by side in my journey with my creativity.

At night-time we get the house closed up and cosy, and we settle our girls to bed. Our eldest asks for a goodnight tickle, and so the fun begins, with giggles and wriggles, laughter and joy. But we are all aware that you can’t actually go to sleep whilst being tickled. So eventually we have to calm her down. And get her to just do the work of going to sleep.

It takes effort and dedication to be a parent. But it that is all you bring to the role then there is no joy in these amazing beings you have birthed. If all you have is fun and no work, then the family won’t function. There is a balance between the two that needs to be kept.

In creativity, as with parenting, I need these dual ideas of joy and dedication to sit side by side.

So what does dedication mean for me in relation to my creativity? It means that I commit myself to the work, and don’t rely on the muse to appear before I work. It means I set my alarm for 5:30 some mornings to write. It means I keep my writing days clear of other commitments. It means I show up and the muse will follow. After all as Elizabeth Gilbert reminds me:

It is a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.

Yet my writing can not be all work. The joy I get from my writing can not be solely in the final product. Somewhere along the way I have lost the joy in the writing. I have made it work, which it is. But it is also my passion. Something I love.

So while there is joy in the final product, there also needs to be joy in the process. I need to give myself over to what Gilbert calls:

the quiet glory of merely making things

When I write a new blog post I need to celebrate. When I get the next chapter of the book completed, have a happy dance. But also celebrate those days when nothing has been finished but I have been oh so privileged to spend my day writing.

Continuing my creative journey with dedication and joy,


Big Magic Discussion Question:

What have you learned from Big Magic?

PS: all book club posts are linked here