Whose permission do you need?
This week on Unlocking Big Magic we dig into permission. The whole book is about spotlighting & then dismantling the different ways we stop ourselves & in this episode we discuss the thorny issue of giving yourself permission.
We talk about the elaborate excuses we make up to stop ourselves, so if you tell yourself things like:
I need ‘someone else’s’ permission to spend time on my creativity,
Other people have already done it (& of course they did it ‘better’ than I could),
I just have to do one more course/workshop etc, etc & then I’ll be good enough to start
I’m afraid of what other people will think,
Then this week’s video is for you.
So often the issue of permission is tied up in beliefs about what we think we ’should’ be doing & that our creativity isn’t important. And more than that, sometimes we need permission for what we create not to be perfect, to experiment, to learn & to play.
Also, perhaps it’s be okay not to earn a living with our creativity, for it to be a hobby. We discuss these topics & more.
This is something I struggle with generally; even after 10 years of working from home I find it hard to give myself permission not to be sitting at my desk between 9 & 5.
Last week I wrote about being hit by intuition & I’ve given myself permission to follow that & see where it leads and, rather than focusing on what I can’t do, instead embracing the joy of puzzling out the work. Or, as Liz writes so beautifully…
One of my takeaways from his chapter was my agreement that this quote describes how I want to live my life.
I’m willing to do the work to make it happen.
What about you?
Is this how you want to live your life?
If it is, you’ll learn a lot in the video, here’s the audio & the transcription is below.
There’s also a great phrase to say to those who object to you spending time on your creativity – but you’ll have to watch until almost the end to hear it!
Thank you so much for watching.
We’d love to know what you think of our conversation.
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 find the other blogs in the series on the links below:
Unlocking Big Magic; Conversations about creativity with Cali & Lesley.
Transcription, Episode 3, Permission
Lesley. Hello, and welcome to Video three of our Unlocking Big Magic videos. I’m Lesley Pyne, author of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness blogger and all round creative. And I’m gonna hand you over now to Cali so she can introduce herself and set us off.
Cali. Hi, yes, I’m Cali Bird. I love to blog about creativity. I do that a blog called Gentle Creative. I recently published a novel, which today is not behind me having a change of scenery. We like to chop and change around, but you’ll see the book on other episodes if you watch them. It’s called Tales of The Countess.
I think we’ve said this before, we are Liz Gilbert groupies, we love Liz Gilbert. Big Magic is an amazing book about creativity, you may or may not be a fan of Liz Gilbert’s other very, very famous book; people love it or hate it. Even if you’re in the hate camp this is a very good read on creativity in the widest sense, not just art with a capital A but any sort of creative living, arts and crafts, anything that you really want to do that’s a little bit out there. And following curiosity. And really, we’re finding it’s a handbook to sort of blow through any excuses that you might have, as to reasons you can’t do that.
We’re on chapter three, which is about permission. So it’s permission to give yourself, to say, yes, you can create, you can write, you can paint, you can do embroidery, you can bake cakes, whatever it is. and Lesley and I were just discussing this before we started recording, and really, we feel she’s going through piece by piece, any excuse that you tell yourself, right, isn’t she? So? What are those one at a time?
Lesley. It’s like, how do you stop yourself? Isn’t it this is that chapter, what do you do?
Cali. And really, it’s an internal battle. And it is okay for you to do this. So, the chapter starts, she talks about her own family, on one hand, quite conservative parents, but also quietly rebellious. Her dad decided as well as being an engineer he wanted to farm Christmas trees. So, he did, it’s quite an off the wall thing to do. And she also then makes the point that if we go back to, our parents, grandparents, we go back a couple of generations from today, everyone were makers. People made their own clothes, they had vegetables in their garden, they made their chutneys from that. People made cakes, they made their meat puddings, they didn’t go to the supermarket, buy them like we do now. And making things really wasn’t a big deal.
I think we’ve lost touch with that. Because now we, on the whole we buy everything, we’ve lost touch with that creative route. So now when we do create stuff, it’s a big deal. And then we get all this resistance and our inner fears and everything coming up that makes it harder for us to enjoy doing that. So, I think really, that’s the real first thing she says, until recently, people were makers. And what’s interesting is the pandemic, because people are rediscovering that, we’re in the end of 2020, a lot of people have been locked down and people have been gardening and they have been baking cakes, and they have been making things. And that’s been fantastic. You’ve been doing some of that as well.
Lesley And I was just thinking, the other thing she says was things that some of what people made was out of necessity, you know, they had to bake their own pies, because there was nowhere to go and buy them, or they couldn’t afford it. But lots of people make things prettier, and more beautiful than they had to be. If you look at pots from the Roman age, some of them are far more beautiful than they need to be. And I look at my mum, she was very, very creative and she went to evening classes and all sorts of things, even though she was busy and had a full time job and looked after my dad & myself. And she gave herself permission to learn to go off and try new things, which is kind of what I like to do.
And that moves on to permission. I think that some sometimes it’s, we feel that we can’t do it until somebody else gives us permission. But at the end of the day, you have to give yourself permission to do this stuff, don’t you? I love, as you will already know, I love Brené Brown, and she talks about permission slips. I think the first time she wrote one of those for herself she was going to be interviewed by Oprah. And she felt that she wasn’t being her authentic self because she had to be like this with Oprah and then she gave herself permissions on a post it note which I should have got here but I haven’t eg I give myself permission to be goofy to laugh or cry or whatever she felt she needed in order to be authentic. And for me, I give myself permission for my creative stuff not to be perfect. To do it just to do it, to try, to play. And if we have friends for dinner, I often try something new. And I know it won’t look like it looks in the book, but it’ll taste good. So, I’ll give myself permission to play to try, I don’t let that stop me personally. But I know lots of people do.
Cali. Its experimenting isn’t it, that spirit of experimentation. And that’s where discoveries are made. And she talks about that in this chapter as well, doesn’t she? And I guess that’s how human beings made progress over the ages because we had to have a go at something, some stuff didn’t work, some did. And not to be afraid of that. I like the permission slip, because I deal with more of artistic creativity, and I write, and I do it alongside a day job and lots of people who follow my blog do that, too. And sometimes you can think, it’s frivolous, or should I be spending time doing this, so many other family things to do? Or so many problems in the world? I write about talking handbags. Okay. That’s what’s in Tales of Countess, and one could say that, you know, I really ought to be spending my time on more worthy causes. But if I didn’t do that, I would go bonkers and have in the past, and I wouldn’t be any good to anyone else.
I think we have to fulfil this need, you have to be selfish to be unselfish, don’t you? Because we might be a bit selfish to do this. But you need to nurture yourself in order to be a good person for other people around you. It’s a balance between self and others and a lot of people struggle with that. And I loved that permission slip idea because I think people need to write themselves a permission slip, it’s okay to do this. It’s okay to do it badly, screw up, and it’s okay not to earn a living, it’s okay that it’s a hobby. These days we get into you got to give up your job and make cakes for a living. And someone says no, I just like baking. We have that either or, all or nothing fixation in these current times and it never used to be like that.
Lesley. And you have to do something in order to get good at it. I know if I went back through my book, I could edit it and make it different, make it better, maybe. But it’s good enough as it is, you know, I gave myself permission to get it out there. And I was just thinking, because we went to one of her workshops, didn’t we? And part of that was to imagine, the ultimate head teacher or the ultimate, somebody in authority who gives you permission. And our listeners might find that useful to imagine they’re in the head of somebody who, who can give them permission if they can’t give it to themselves.
Cali. And that was good. Because we wrote ourselves a letter from that person didn’t, we? So if there’s someone, someone that you really respect, write yourself a letter from that person, that it’s okay that you whatever your name is that it’s fine to do the activities, which are really yearning to do or you’re doing and you’re not quite sure about, but yeah it’s totally okay to go ahead with it.
Lesley. I think another reason is that somebody else has done something similar or, you know, I can’t do that, because I don’t know enough.
Cali. That’s a big one of resistance
Lesley. It is and the only way to get better is to do it. You can read all the books you like about how to write or how to sew or how to bake cakes, but unless you actually bake a cake, you not going to learn are you?
Cali. No, I see that a lot with people. I know years ago I had a life coaching business and certainly in that world people get stuck on I need to do another course before I can see clients. I need just need to do an NLP course, I just need to do this course Well, I’d better not see people until I’ve done that course. And yes, there is a basic level of responsibility, you don’t want to let yourself loose on someone else’s life knowing nothing. But that becomes resistance, it becomes an excuse not to do and you need to take the bull by the horns and do it, find yourself a client and do it for real. And stop hiding behind I don’t know enough because that’s resistance.
She has an interesting section in the book in this chapter about doing degrees or qualifications in different arts and she doesn’t have a writing qualification. But she has spent a lot of time studying the masters. She talks about studying Dickens and, everything you need is out there. You can do mini courses. And she’s not a proponent of getting into debt to get a big certificate, where at the end of the day, you still have to do it, you still have to face your own fears. I mean, doing a degree or whatever, it’s great, it gives you knowledge, it perhaps helps you get into a routine of doing it. But at the end of the day, you’re still on your own making art or doing whatever it is that you’re studying.
Lesley. And also, there are other people who’ve written books for childless women, and there are others with stories in them. But they’re different to mine, you know. Also, when I do my embroidery, I could look at it and say well, I can’t do it like that. No, but I can do it like this, my own personal style. And you only learn by doing don’t you. We talked about this before. I started blogging in 2013. And they were awful, really, to be honest. But I started, I could have said, I’m not going to do this until I know more… But I just got on and did it. And at the end of the day, you do it for you not for other people.
Cali. She makes that point as well that she writes for the sheer delight of herself and she wrote Eat, Pray, Love to process her own feelings. A lot of people latched on to it as a book that really changed their lives or gave them permission to go off and do stuff. But she didn’t do it for that she did it for her. And in this chapter she talks about not being attached to other people’s opinions of your work. Eat Pray, Love, it’s one of those books, people love it or hate it; people can’t stand it in equal measures to people raving about it. And she must have all of that coming at her. But again, that can stop you creating, or you can worry about what will people think, or what will my mum say or, you know, or my friends, or whatever. And you can use that as an excuse not to do it. And she really urges us not to. That the only really the only person you owe anything to is yourself.
Lesley. Exactly. And I was going to say something & now I’ve forgotten completely what it. I’ve given myself permission to forget what the thread was written about. There’s a quote, create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. (Quote from BM- P 101 Do whatever brings you to life then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest will take care of itself.)
Cali. That’s amazing, isn’t it?
Lesley. And that is that thing, isn’t it? Just do it. Just do it. And she also talks about the joy of puzzling out the work itself. I think for me, that is a big thing as well. I’ve got an embroidery project and it’s a bit advanced but what gives me the greatest joy is working out how to do it, practicing it. At the end of the day it won’t be perfect. And to be honest, I don’t care what other people think if I’m proud of it, I’m pleased with it, then that’s what matters to me. And that’s the thing that that private thing about it’s important to me to do it as well as I can. I think that’s the key isn’t it? Really?
Cali. Yeah. It’s being true to yourself isn’t? What gets you excited? Because sometimes other people think, you’ve written this so you should go off and do this now. I don’t want to. So, permission to say no to other people’s bright ideas.
Lesley. People said to me, after I published my book, are you going to do another one, are you going to do one about men? I said well, I don’t know, I don’t know. And if and when I decide to do anything else, then it will be my decision and not because anyone has suggested it. We do stop ourselves quite a lot, don’t we, our excuses. One of the things she talks about is about talking up your confidence and about saying, I am creative. I am. I wonder how you felt when you said I am a writer.
Cali. I quite liked it to be honest. I remember when I first started writing 20 years ago, and I did Judy Cameron’s The Artist’s Way as self-study creative healing program over 12 weeks. And I really liked it because I was very proud to call myself an artist. I mean, I don’t paint I can’t draw for toffee so I’m not art in the fine art way. But I realized Yes, I’m creative. Okay I’m writing but it’s making art so I to be honest, I’ve never had a problem with that, and yeah, I’m a writer, and it is nice now to have published books.
It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does it’s more tangible to say, ‘here’s my book’. But actually, if you write you’re a writer, if you paint you’re a painter, if you bake, you’re a baker, if you sew then you do sewing, you’re a seamstress or tailor, so yeah, I quite like that. But I think people do get stuck on that. And again, it’s that worthiness thing, isn’t it? Or you feel you need to reach a certain level before you can call yourself that? And throughout her book, it’s about doing. At the end of the day, you have to do the work and you have to practice the craft, and you have to establish a disciplined pattern that works for you. And then that’s actually all we have to do. It’s no more complicated than that, but we make it complicated.
Lesley. And maybe a challenge to those watching is to start saying I am creative. I am a writer, I am *** and see how it feels. Calling myself a writer, that was, ‘ooh, am I?’ for a bit. A friend of mine said you’re a yogi. Am I? Yes, I am. And now I you know; it doesn’t bother me. But at first it was because those identity shifts can be quite big. So, I would say to those watching, start saying I am and see how it feels. And I think you have to keep saying it. Just keep saying it every day, several times a day, if necessary, to actually believe it. Maybe give yourself permission to believe it.
Cali. I think you need to do that anyway because resistance is always there. You know, there’s our own special brand of fear our own little fear monster. It doesn’t go away. My resistance is getting out of bed in the morning every morning it’s a struggle with the snooze button. But I do eventually a bit later than intended and then I get up and write. So, I have to go around that every day. And that’s just the way it is. So, accepting that and that it’s okay. Yes, is also part of tit.
Lesley. I have that, I do a few exercises and a bit of yoga & meditation and I resist it every day. And partly what gets me there is remembering how I feel when I’ve done it. That same thing when you’re creating something, when you eat the cake, that’s where the joy comes in, when you give something you’ve made to somebody else or you finish your piece of writing and you post it. And that’s where the joy comes. And I think the key is to remember that and feel it.
Cali. For me, I get very grounded when I write. Sometimes things get in the way of writing or I think I’m tired or whatever but sometimes I just straight down and do it. But other times I’m going around the houses and then I finally get there. And I’m like, Oh, this is fine, why didn’t I do this earlier? I just think that is the nature of resistance and stuff. You have to do it in spite of yourself.
Lesley. Exactly. I started writing a blog the other day and it was like pulling teeth, but I did what I could, and I finished it this morning and I think it’s good enough. So okay, so takeaways from the permission, chapter.
Cali. For me, it comes back to getting on and doing the work. Can I read the line we just talked about? So, she talks about other people’s reactions and not being put off by that and there’s quite a few pages and she ends that section. She and she says:
If they don’t like it and give you grief, just (p125) smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly keep making yours.
Cali. And I really liked that. Because most people who do criticize aren’t doing and you’re doing exactly that. Just keep doing.
Lesley. Because we gave ourselves permission to swear didn’t, we right at the beginning? I was going to string three of her quotes together: P128) Our creativity is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe which I love because, you know, it is. And I’m going to (p88) let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you. And that again, I just follow that. And (p91) I am going to spend as much time as I can creating delightful things out of my existence, because that’s what brings me awake and that’s what brings me alive. And again, isn’t it great because it is it does, and in fact I was a bit slow getting on to the reading the chapter because I was too busy being creative. this weekend. Do it. Just do it. Do it. Enjoy. Give yourself permission to just do it.
Cali. Okay, fantastic. And we’ll give ourselves permission to be back next week.