I make no apologies for jumping straight in with a short, sharp dose of tough love & two big questions.
How can you be that person without being creative?
In my blog for episode one of our Unlocking Big Magic videos I described how the best way to answer the ‘what will I do with my life now that I’m not going to be a mother’ question is by using your creativity. I explained how many of us stop ourselves by making up excuses (& stories) and our aim with these videos was to talk about & dismantle these stories therefore enabling you to be more creative.
This week is our final Unlocking Big Magic video and Cali & I talk about these questions, we also pick out what we’ve learned from recording the videos and choose our favourite quote.
We also discussed the workshop we both attended, run by Elizabeth Gilbert, where we learned writing prompts to work through the different chapters of the book. As she described it, inside each of us there’s a fight between different aspects of our personality, so by giving them space to be heard, they can come to an agreement & therefore make life smoother for us. Cali described this exercise in more detail & how useful she finds it.
If you’ve watched the previous videos or read my blogs you might guess my 3 revelations, & if you didn’t, here they are briefly:
How following my curiosity is a lighter & gentler alternative to passion/purpose.
That perfectionism is not just about being perfect, it’s about what other people think (which I knew already but now I really know it) & one way I side-step perfectionism is not to try.
How stopping part way through projects or rushing to the end avoids growth & learning.
As has often been the case, Cali’s highlights where different & more about how to balance a busy career with creative living.
I’ll be writing more on some of these topics in due course and Cali will also be exploring those subjects which resonated most with her so please sign up to her newsletter to continue your exploration.
Here’s the video, the audio & the transcript is below.
It’s fair to say that there’s so much in Big Magic and in the time available we’ve only touched the surface. Even though we’d both read it twice before, we both learned a lot from reading it again & also had a lot of fun & as Liz says.
‘…..in the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience’.
Thank you so much for watching, we really hope that what we’ve done has been a gift to you & you’ve learned something from us
We’d love to know what you think of our conversation, & whether this series of videos have helped you (please comment below)
And I’d like to end by sending these words from our hearts to yours.
Cali Bird loves to encourage people to make a start on their creative projects no matter what else they have going on in their lives. She is in her mid-fifties, has practised Buddhism for over thirty years and is a self-confessed tree-hugger. Download the Gentle Creative manifesto now – 28 brilliant tips on making time to be creative, overcoming fear and recognising the value of your artistic life. She has recently published her first novel, Tales of the Countess, which is a romantic comedy featuring handbags that talk!
You can read book reviews and interviews I’ve done here.
You can find the other blogs in the series on the links below:
Unlocking Big Magic; Episode 5, To Divinity and Beyond, Transcription
Lesley. Hello, and welcome to Episode Six of Unlocking Big Magic. I’m Lesley Pyne, author of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness, blogger and all round creative person. And this week, we’re going to talk about divinity and beyond, whatever beyond is. We’re recording this in January 2021. We recorded the other episodes in November, December last year & for me, that’s been really helpful. It’s been a great time to reflect and I don’t think I would have come up with the sort of things that changed me quite as much. So I’m gonna hand straight over to Cali. Welcome.
Cali. I’m Cali Bird. I am author of this book, Tales of the Countess. If you like talking handbags, you might like it. Talking handbags meets Sex and the City, meets Toy Story. And I also blog about creativity at Gentle Creative. And it’s been amazing doing these six episodes. We’ve done this, what I call a tooth-comb read of Big Magic [holds up Big Magic book]
Which we did mainly last year. And I’ve read the book twice before, and I got so much out of going through it and then typing up quotes. And certainly, in my Gentle Creative community, you can expect blogs to come over the next few months, from the things we’ve just touched on here. And quotes that I’ve picked out because I think there’s a lot more you could say on any one point. And the book is absolutely loaded with great stuff about creativity, any barriers you might be having, any reasons why you’re not doing it. You’ll find a reference in the book, just read it, get on with it, do it.
So, the last chapter, it’s six chapters in the book. This is Chapter Six. It’s called Divinity. Now I have to say it’s the shortest chapter. It’s just a few pages. It’s an anecdote about Balinese dancing, and the sacredness and not sacredness of this. And I can’t really summarise the story. It does make a point, but I can’t summarise it. It’s great story. But … so I’m not gonna say any more on that.
But Lesley and I, that’s coming up for a couple of years ago now, isn’t it? We did a workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert in London, based on this book. And what she had us doing in the workshop, and it took all day, it was like 10 till 4, wasn’t it. And it was the day Harry and Megan got married. I remember looking at the dress on my phone at lunchtime. And so basically, she had us write a letter from each of these personalities. So we wrote a letter to ourselves from our fear. Imagine your fear sitting at the kitchen table, just spilling out all its worries. And we did enchantment where your playful side gets to speak. We talked about permission where we wrote ourselves a permission slip from the headmaster. Again, we’ve talked about all of these things. And in the episodes we’ve done in this series, we talked about persistence, we talked about trust.
And then the last one was divinity. And I found this really profound. It doesn’t have to be about you know, God, or whatever your spiritual beliefs are. I’m a Buddhist, so, don’t do God in the traditional sense. But divinity, I really think is your inner wisdom. So we wrote to ourselves, from our inner wisdom. Inside, we have all the fear and whatnot, and all the crap and all this stuff that stops us. But underneath that, we’ve got this amazing world of wisdom, of courage, compassion, creativity. And I think by the end of this workshop and listening to her wisdom, we were able to write to ourselves from this point. And I found it really profound, and I can feel myself just catching a tear with it as I say that. And it was a really amazing exercise.
And I do this exercise every few weeks. In fact, when we finish recording I’m gonna sit here and do it again. It takes me about half an hour and I call it “the selves” – all of these are a side of ourselves. And I work through them all and then Divinity tells me all the stuff I’m worried about. Divinity just tells me do this, don’t do that, don’t worry about this. Yeah, that’s a risk but you could do this about it. Or you’ve got it Cali, you can do it. It will be okay. So Divinity is that side that just knows, and that you can trust in yourself.
Lesley. It’s like it’s all going to be okay, isn’t it?
Lesley. …the message. I think some of it.
Cali. Yeah. We have the resources that we need. So, that’s what Divinity means to me. And it’s been really profound. And it’s two years since we did that workshop and I regularly do this exercise. It grounds me in my creativity, in any choices or decisions I need to make.
Lesley. Yeah, that’s lovely, isn’t it? I think one of the things Liz said was there’s a fight going on between us, between all these different personalities. And so, if you give them a voice, then they, they sort of calm down?
Cali. Yeah, let them speak
Lesley. Give them space to be heard, so you we can come to an agreement between all of them. That’s partly what the exercise did. It’s interesting, you say that. I do it, but I’ve not had anything quite as profound with a Divinity. But that’s the beauty of this. We’re all different. And, I’d be interested to see, we’re going to talk in a minute about are the three things that have been profound for us this time, and I’d be interested to see what yours are. And I bet they’re all different. That’s just great isn’t it.
Cali. Do you want to talk your… your sort of, creative project ever… that you wrote to me.
Lesley. Yeah, I think for me, that was one thing … it was, what’s a creative life? And it’s, for me, it’s about living your best life. And grief, which we’ve all been through, and particularly a lot of those who are on my blog list will have been through that childless grief. And grief is a creative opportunity, I think, because – there’s a life you thought you were going to have. But it’s about how do you have this one. And particularly where we are at the moment in the world, you know, we’re all going through a grief process, you’re working from home, and you used to go into the office – so how do you do that? That’s a creative opportunity too. So I think it’s not just about making things, creativity is about how you live your life. And I think for my tribe, it will be – Who can you be that you couldn’t have been if you’d been a mother? That’s a nice question.
Cali. That’s really profound. Who could you be, if you couldn’t… no… you say it.
Lesley. I’m reading it. Who could you be that you couldn’t have been, if you were a mother?
Lesley. That’s an opportunity. And that takes a lot of creativity to answer. And courage. You know, we’ve talked about courage. It requires a bit of everything doesn’t it. So giving yourself permission, listening to your intuition, trusting yourself – all of that. We’ve all, everybody’s been through grief. Everybody will go through grief. And so that’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity.
Cali. And creative life, because you do all kinds of creative pursuits, don’t you? Because I’m more focused around like writing, art, work. But you do a wide range of things.
Lesley I do. And more so, I think, this last few weeks, it seems to be blossoming. Actually, I’ve been doing a bit more cooking recently. And I just follow. We’ll talk about this in a minute, but just follow what you’re interested in. I would say do what you’re curious about.
Cali. Yeah, creative life can be many things, can’t it.
Lesley. It can, yes. So we’re going to talk about three revelations, each. We’ve got eight and a half minutes. So we’re okay.
Cali. We’ve got about four minutes each.
Lesley. Yeah, yeah. So what would be your first then?
Cali. Okay, so, based on this reading, and the work we’ve done and what’s come out, I kind of picked my three favourite sections, really. There’s a sentence which reads from our first episode, the Courage episode. And I’ll just read it, it’s on page 13. And I hadn’t noticed this sentence when I’ve read this book before, was two sentences, but it’s the latter one. And we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it. [And here we go]. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun. As a writer, I’m like, oh, that’s so good. I can read it again.We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun. And I think in my world, in my Gentle Creative blog, and what I do, I just encourage people to do their thing, anyway. Fear, in all its manifestations is what stops us. And it’s so tragic. Yeah. So I suppose my work and what I write about, it’s just about, nudging yourself through that, one baby step at a time. So I think that’s summarises why I do what I do. Because I don’t want people to go through that, and I don’t want to go through that.
Lesley. You don’t want to get the boneyard.
Lesley. I knew you’d pick that one. And my first is about following your curiosity. I never knew what my passion is. I don’t know what my passion or purpose is. And she, she has that fabulous alternative, about following your curiosity, which is a word I struggle to say for some strange reason. But so what are you interested in, follow it a little bit, follow it. And you know, and it’s as permanent or as temporary as you want it to be. Whereas passion and purpose is like, feels like finite, certain. So you’ve got to do that. Follow this.
Cali. To the exclusion of all others, isn’t it?
Cali. It doesn’t mean that. But it’s got those connotations the way we use it at the moment.
Lesley. I’m curious about this at the moment. I’m curious about and, and doesn’t mean to say just, I’m curious about it now, I might not be curious about it next year. And that’s okay. So it, it gives me, following back to intuition, you know, intuition strikes. I’m interested in this, let’s go with it for a bit, give myself permission to go with it for a little while. And just see what happens. And that has changed my life hugely. And I write about this it in my book. When I first read Big Magic, that was the big thing that came out from it. So yeah, follow your curiosity.
Cali. I’m like, this wasn’t one of my takeaways, but I’m finding myself doing that a lot. Again, in different projects, and what I’m going to be doing the next few months. And I don’t have a fixed idea. But I’m just curious to see. So I think that’s rubbed off on both of us.
Lesley. So your next one?
Cali. My next one, my it’s really my favourite chapter. I mean, the first chapter, Courage, has got lots of anecdotes, and antidotes to fear, and great stories about fear. My next favourite chapter was the Persistence one. And that really hit home for me. The latter half of this chapter, she talks about having a day job and being creative. Because unfortunately, I work part-time in my day job. But I’ve always done that. I test software, I work with accountants and debits and credits from an IT perspective. And I wish I didn’t have to do that. I’m always jealous of people that don’t. I’ve been so jealous over the last year, people have been furloughed, and I know that’s come with its own problems. And I know people have lost their work and everything. I mean, everyone’s had their own time, or their hard time in their own way. But in in this chapter, towards the end of this chapter, she talks about taking responsibility for yourself. You know, she kind of wags a finger and says, Look, I know you just want to sit all cosy in your studio, where someone else takes care of the realities of daily life. But you need to take care of yourself. And you can really tell she’s wagging a finger. And I was like, Okay.
Lesley. She’s telling you off there, isn’t she?
Cali. And she talks about, I think through the ages, creative people have often struggled, you know, it’s quite universal juggling, paid work, paying the bills. And following that creative curiosity. She got an anecdote of Herman Melville who wrote Moby Dick. You know, he wrote a letter to his friend … “Oh, if I only had the time, I’ve got the story to write up. I just haven’t got the time. I’ve got so much other stuff on…” You know, it’s not a problem unique to me. And she also just quotes, lots, lots of other people, and that it’s normal.
And I’m just going to read one, sort of the last bit of this chapter. Because often you think you’re crazy. You think God, I get up an hour before work. But before I need to, I’m often exhausted. But I kind of have to do it. And then she says … People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it: they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.
And so this chapter told me, it’s okay. Yes, I know it’s hard. I know you’re struggling. I know you’re tired. I know you wish it was different. But you’re doing it anyway. So well done. It meant so much to me.
Lesley. I mean Tales of the Countess is a whole lesson in persistence, isn’t it? Twenty years in the making. It’s interesting. I had a different take from that chapter, about perfectionism. And I always thought of myself as not a perfectionist, and I’m not in that things aren’t perfect as any of my readers of my blog will, will know. There’ll be typos sometimes. But it’s … and I know this because I’ve read Brene Brown, that it’s about what other people think. But I hadn’t really, really absorbed that. And one way that I side-step perfectionism is by not trying. That was huge for me. And I have done that in the past, and I do sometimes. In the past I had a tendency, let’s say, I prepared this morning. And then sometimes I could just put it to one side. And then come five minutes, so I wasn’t ready. Therefore, it wasn’t good enough. So you know that that’s okay. because I didn’t really try. Which is, interesting.
And you, you had a really interesting reframe – and you talk about doing things when you do it, and then separate that from what people think, when you’ve… And that’s fine. That is good. That’s really helpful. But there’s also, what do I think about what I’ve done? So I think there’s got some more work to do.
Cali. Oh, yes. There’s always more layers.
Lesley. But there’s that, that that great, big quote, the Big quote about perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified because underneath it’s, it’s not good enough. And I’ll never be good enough. So I think that that for me was it was deeper, it resonated at a deeper level this time than when I read it before..
Cali. Yeah – there’s so much in this isn’t there?
Lesley. Yes there is. I know. So you have another one?
Cali. Well, not a specific one. What comes all the way through this book – and you know, Elizabeth, Gilbert’s has a tremendous work ethic – it’s do the work, get on with it. There aren’t easy free passes. It’s the most amazing ride you will ever take. Whether or not you’ll ever earn money, or success, or whatever that means. It’s about.. yeah, following that curiosity. And there’s a sentence it’s, I think it’s in the third chapter, Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. And she says this so eloquently in so many places in this book, it’s quite irrational to follow your creative heart. You know, she did well with Eat, Pray, Love, and she’s financially secure from that. But that might not have happened. But she would still have written anyway. And I’m the same, you know, I’ve sold some Tales of the Countess. It’s great. But you know, I haven’t even made my cost back yet. That can change in the future. But I’ve done it. It’s this a rational need to do it. And so I think all the way through this, through Big Magic, she dismantles any excuses, barriers, any crap you come out with it. And we’ve seen her do tough love in those workshops as well, haven’t we?
Cali. And, and she also is, yeah, just do it. Just play. Just do it in a way that works for you. Just follow that, that curiosity, whatever that means to you. And that’s just an overriding thing. And there’s so many amazing things. If you haven’t read this book, read it. It is so amazing. Reread it if you’ve got one on your bookshelf,
Lesley. Exactly. Yeah. I mean, I had that and it related to the last one it’s about why do I stop? And she talka about, that we often stop projects, or stop doing things when it becomes hard. And that’s when the transformation is. And I think that stopping it’s, it’s… Creativity is about as a hero’s journey, after hero’s Journey, after hero’s journey. And so you accept the call to do it, and it’s easy to start with, maybe and then it becomes harder. And then do you stop or do you carry on?
I’ve got a quite a complex embroidery project that I started a while ago. I did the easy bits first. I could argue that was a good option or not? But then I stopped and my temptation is – why do I want to go back to it because it’s hard? And the other another temptation I’ve got is to rush through it. To not really give it the care and attention. Courage is one of my values. And I thought I was courageous and carried on, but it’s it seems that I don’t. So that’s another thing that’s, you know, sort of…
Cali. Lesley – you do because I can see that behind you and when you are writing that, how what an emotionally difficult journey that was. Because you’d got through a lot of the grief of childlessness. And then it all came again.
Lesley. It’s sometimes isn’t it? I mean, it’s not all the time . Asking myself, why did I stop doing that? Was it because it became hard? We’re learning more, I’m learning more about myself as I go through this. This subject was linked to perfectionism, I think. And it’s something I’m definitely going to write more about. But it was don’t rush through experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you. And I think I might have that tendency to do that.
Cali. And she talks about it being interesting doesn’t she? Swapping the word ‘interesting’ for ‘awful’. Because, that’s horrible, I can’t do it. I can say this is interesting. It’s like observing that yeah, it’s difficult.
Cali. But it’s bringing that curiosity to I think, isn’t it?
Lesley. It is
Cali. And the courage to just keep going.
Lesley. Yeah. And, maybe sometimes giving yourself permission to give up. It’s about self-knowledge, isn’t it as well and knowing why you want to do that. For me this is the third time I’ve read it and I’ve learned so much more out of it by digging into it, with you. And going through it slowly. …21 minutes actually by the way,
Cali. So. We’d better stop then hadn’t we. I don’t know what more we can say. I mean, there’s so much. I think we’ve said enough.
Lesley. Have you got a final quote or is that is your “desolate boneyard”?
Cali. On my notes I’ve got desiccated Boneyard, page 30. No, I don’t find a quote. It’s just, it’s just doing it. Just finding a way to do what’s in your heart, create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.
Lesley. You know that that, that’s the quote. It says it’s – Do whatever brings you to life then follow your fascinations obsessions and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest of will take care of itself. We’ve both come up with the same thing. So that’s the advice that we’ll give people.
Cali. Thank you, those of you who have watched through all of these. Thank you for being with us. Because we’ve done this just for the sheer hell of it, haven’t we Lesley? We didn’t know what will come of it, we just thought we want to create this. We’re curious. Let’s do it. And so thank you, those of you who’ve come along for the ride for it with us.
Lesley. Yeah, absolutely. Because she says, in the end, creativity is a gift to the Creator, not just to the audience. And, we’ve both had huge gifts out of this, and we’ve got a lot of fun.
Lesley. And yeah, if you’ve been with us, thank you very much. Really, we really appreciate that. And any comments, of course, so …. It’s a wrap, near enough. Yes.
Cali. It’s a wrap. We don’t want to finish now do we?
Lesley. No, no.
Cali. And I’ve already done my, I’ve done my, you know, my little sell.
Lesley. We’ll put the end piece in a minute. You know, you’ll see that with our websites.. All the links. And yeah, thank you. Thank you, Cali for suggesting thi.
Cali. Thank you, Lesley.
Lesley. Great. It’s been fun hasn’t it.
Cali. Thanks for working with me. It’s been really great and doing it together. Thank you.
Lesley. [waving] Thank you. Bye.
Cali. [waving]. See you.