Unlocking Big Magic; Conversations about creativity, Trust

I’ve been waiting for this chapter since we started because one concept in it changed my life when I first read the book 5 years ago. I had that in mind when I was getting ready to record, but what I didn’t expect was there to be another huge revelation which has changed me, yet again.

More about that in a minute, but first let’s discuss passion/purpose, and how those who have one, make those of us who don’t, feel inferior & lacking. 

If the thought of having to know your passion or purpose brings you out in a sweat, then this video is absolutely for you.

We (well Liz) have the solution for you; in the video we describe a way of living which is more interesting, softer & less permanent than following your passion. For many of us, passion can feel out of reach & when you find it, it wants you to   make grand gestures, whereas what we’re suggesting is easily accessible, gentler & as temporary or permanent as you want it to be.

If you’ve read Finding Joy or some of my previous blogs, you might have an inkling as to what it is, otherwise you can find out more it in the video.

Why do you stop?

Ok so this was the huge revelation I mentioned earlier.

As a creative person I have a number of projects on the go & I asked myself why I’ve stopped working on them. Is it because I got fed up, or did I quit because they became hard?

Am I afraid of what might happen if I face the unknown?

Have I (consciously or unconsciously) settled for the easy solution?

Do either of these resonate with you?

We talk about these issues, & how, by stopping just when it gets painful, boring or scary, we miss the transformation and growth which comes.

This was another HUGE revelation; I mean courage is one of my values so when things get hard, I gather up all I can muster & keep going. Or do I? Well, evidence doesn’t lie &, it appears that sometimes I give up when things get hard. And, you won’t be surprised to read, I discovered that this applies not just to creative projects, but to many other areas of life.

We discuss how important it is to keep going through the challenges & there are a couple of fabulous quotes from the book.

I’ve been thinking about this in more detail since we recorded & I’m still working through the issues it threw up. Once I’ve allowed myself time to process & dig, I’ll write a blog post specifically on this subject.

In the video we also discuss;

  • Why the most important thing is how your creativity transforms you,
  • How to take your creativity lightly/make it easier for yourself,
  • The alternative to treating yourself as a tormented artist or martyr,
  • And we encourage you to answer this question: What would you do? Even if you knew that you might very well fail?

And trust?

As I watched the video again, I realise we didn’t talk about trust specifically but it’s underneath everything. Cali did describe the rather beautiful red lobster story from the book though which is all about trust.

Trust yourself, trust your courage, that inspiration will find you, give yourself permission & trust that you will persist. And above all, trust love. Always. 

This is one of my favourite quotes which I’d ask you to think about if you’re still not sure if a creative life is for you..

Here’s the video, the audio & the transcription is below.

Thank you so much for watching.

We’d love to know what you think of our conversation, especially your thoughts on why you stop & your answers to the question.

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.
And you can order your copy of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness on  Amazon UK  and Amazon USA

You can find the other blogs in the series on the links below:

Episode 1 – Courage /Fear

Episode 2  Enchantment

Episode 3 – Permission

Episode 4 – Persistence

Episode 5 – Trust

Episode 6 – Divinity

And here are more blogs I’ve written about the healing power of creativity

Unlocking Big Magic; Episode 5, Trust  Transcription.

Cali Hello, here we are again. We are now on chapter five of Big Magic. with Lesley and myself. We’re doing a series of conversations called unlocking Big Magic where we are talking about each chapter in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. So brief introduction. My name is Cali Bird. I’m an author. I’ve recently published a novel. I also blog about creativity, encourage people to get over their creative hang ups and do what they can. Lesley, do you want to introduce yourself?

Lesley. I will. Yes, thank you. I’m Lesley Pyne, author of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness, just behind me there. And creativity has really been instrumental in supporting me while I was writing that and in developing me since. And I love it.

Cali. Okay, brilliant. Okay, well, let’s crack on. So this was the fifth trust chapter. And this really resonated with you didn’t it? Do you want to talk about that first?

Lesley. Yes, it did. I write about this in my book, and I’ve written about it in various blogs. And it’s mainly about the, quote, passion versus curiosity. And there’s a whole thing about passion and purpose isn’t there and especially when you get to midlife, if you haven’t got one, you kind of feel like you’re missing something and you should have one. And there’s a story. If you’re in the States, you’d probably be able to find it where Liz talks on an Oprah video about are you a jackhammer or a hummingbird. She’s used to tell everyone follow your passion. And then someone must messaged her and said, You’ve depressed me, I haven’t got a passion haven’t got a purpose. And at that point, she realised there were two kinds of people. Jackhammers who are focused on passion. They just keep going and going to the end of their life, following their passion. And hummingbirds who’ve tried different things. They lead create incredibly rich complex lives, and they cross pollinate their world, which I really like that so. And so I think my message from that is if you’ve got a passion, and you’re following it, you probably will you probably doing it anyway.

Cali. Yeah, you know what it is and you’re really doing it.

Lesley. Exactly. And if you haven’t, then think about what are you interested in? What are you curious about? Because as she says, curiosity, – is anything you’re interested in, and then you just follow that. A little way. And if it continues to capture your interest, you follow it a bit more and a bit more and a bit more. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. Come back and start again for next thing. Because passion and purpose encourage you to make big bold decisions like to sell up your house and go live in a caravan, whatever. But whereas curiosity is light, gentle, mild. And she talks about it as the scavenger hunt of your life.

Cali. See, I never even noticed that and we’ve read it at the same chapter, and you’ve picked out words that I’ve missed.

Lesley. I think, for me, this has changed my life. in lots of ways, because I’ve started doing lots of different things. I started with yoga and that led me to yin yoga and that led me to training and that led me to sort of lots of different things. And the same with embroidery. And the other thing I like about curiosity is it’s not permanent, is it? I love embroidery at the moment, and if I stop loving it, I’ll stop doing it. It’s okay. It’s not, that doesn’t matter. But it’s you know, it’s about saying yes.

Cali. Yeah.

Lesley. Yeah. And maybe it’ll lead you to your passion and maybe it won’t. And either those are okay.

Cali. I like that because years ago when I was doing life coaching and I think this was about like 10 or 15 years ago now. There was this big pressure of what’s my passion and you must follow your passion. And clients would come to me and like, what’s my passion? I know I’m not happy with my work this that or the other I don’t know what my passion is. And there was this pressure around it and if your passion was cooking, then are you gonna make money doing it? Well, No, not necessarily. I mean some people do, good luck to them and well done to those of you for example, opened a bakery and actually made it successful or whatever it might be. But there is a lot of pressure around it and I like that curiosity, she says it reduces the stakes. And I love her example around curiosity, because she got into it. It’s such an innocent story, isn’t it? She was kind of a bit lost, where to go, what shall I right next. She moved to this house in New Jersey, got interested in gardening, got a fascination around the historical sort of botanical history of plants and moss, followed her nose through various libraries and a bit of travelling. And eventually wrote a novel, The Signature Of All Things, which is that thick, which is essentially about moss, isn’t it?

Cali. You know, it’s about a woman’s passionate about moss. And it tracks history or sort of 18th century history and American history and Captain Cook and Darwin, and, you know, but it is amazing that her passion and fascination, she wrote this epic story on it. And yeah, she wouldn’t have known that when they moved into this house. She thought, oh yeah, gardening. You know, I’ll write a book about this. She didn’t know that. So I think yeah, we can take the pressure off.

Lesley.  Yeah.

Cali. Just think and what am i curious about?

Lesley And I think also it demonstrates the impermanence of it because she hasn’t gone on to write another book about moss. She’s read about something else. So I was curious about that. And that’s where it led. And there’s a great quote. P239 it’s your curiosity, it might lead you nowhere. Or you might spend your whole life following your curiosity and absolutely nothing to show for it at the end, except one thing. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble, humble virtue of inquisitiveness. And that should be more than enough for anyone to say that they lived a rich and splendid life.

Cali. I really like that. And that comes back to what we talked about in the very first episode, what’s a creative life? And it isn’t necessarily art or the capital A? It could be. And it is about living fully.

And I like she also around all this thing of passion, curiosity, you know, sometimes especially with creative pursuits, we get hung up on will it work? What if it fails? What if it works, we have fear around success, fear around failure. Sometimes we try and measure it in terms of – if I put X amount of effort in, will it pay me that back in money? And often it doesn’t. And yet, we have that expectation. And even if we don’t, maybe the people around us do. I remember once been like a dinner party. And a friend asked one of my artist friends, well, if you don’t make money at it, why do you do it? You know, and that’s it. You know, a lot of people say that. And she’s like, well, just because, like why not?

And I think we need to free ourselves to do that. She actually poses a very interesting question. And let me find it. It’s towards the end of the chapter, page 259. And she’s talking about sort of, you know, something might work, it might not work. Do it anyway, you don’t know until you do it. And very often, and again, this comes up in coaching, we say, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Because that often frees people up to think, Oh, well, I just have a go anyway. But she twists this question. And she says on page 259, what would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

And I’ve never seen it put like that. And I think how liberating

Lesley.  Exactly

Cali. How liberating to go yep, it might fail. And go and do it anyway. Or so what? That’s what she’s trying to get over, that lightness is good.

Lesley. This whole chapter is about lightness, isn’t it as well? Because she also talks about the fact that what you produce isn’t sacred, but what is sacred is the time that you put into it. That and what that time does to change you, to expand. I think we’ve talked about that before. I can’t remember which chapter.

Cali. Yeah, it must have been the Enchantment chapter wasn’t it?

Lesley. Because it’s that thing, isn’t it? I mean, I know for me, my writing my book, that… that changed me beyond anything.

Cali. I remember I remember seeing a transformation in you.

Lesley. So you know, that was worth it. Also you want to make a difference with it and I’m doing that. But if I didn’t sell any copies, that would have been okay, because of the work that I’ve done, it was expensive therapy. Very expensive!

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? You know, it’s …what would you do? That’s an interesting question to ask our readers.

Cali. What would you do? Even if you knew that you might very well fail? I will say that Gentle Creative people, you will see a blog on this at some point, because I think it’s such an interesting question.

I suppose it’s the same as what would you do if you knew if you knew you couldn’t fail? Because both are freeing you up to follow what’s in your heart. Because sometimes we get an idea. Or it might be about craft stuff. It might be just something we want to do. We want to walk one of those ancient trails or something like that, or, drive across America. It doesn’t have to be art with a capital A. But every now and then we get that … ah..but I really want to do that. And then we find 100 excuses why it’s really not a good idea and perhaps not now and I can’t afford it. What about my work? And it isn’t saying be reckless and give up your job and do it because, in an earlier chapter she’s very clear about taking care of your responsibilities. But it is about freeing up. Well, could you do it anyway? And it doesn’t come off. So what?

Lesley. Yeah. And there’s quite a bit in here about when it becomes awful versus interesting. I think she describes it as and that’s that – be careful not to quit too soon. You know, if you think it is going to fail. Perhaps I’m speaking personally, now, I don’t know. There is that potential to stop when things get hard. And there’s a quote in there from a friend, p 247 Pastor Rob Bell warns: ‘don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you

Cali. You know, we’re often resistant to that, aren’t we? Certainly we have writers, so many writers have started books, but not finished books yet, because they’ve hit something in the middle. And for whatever reason, can’t get through it or don’t get through it and just get blocked. And you know, sometimes you do have to know when to put work on one side and move on. But often it is, it’s a blocking thing that even stops you starting?

Lesley. Yeah. And I think, part of being a creative person is having a number of uncompleted projects. But then it’s also about why did I stop that. I’m doing this embroidery project that is quite complex. And I did all the easy stitches first. Maybe that was a good thing. I don’t know. But I’ve put it to one side, because I’m recording this in November I’m doing some Christmas stuff, but it’s gonna get harder now. And I will finish it because and I’m putting out there I will finish it.

There is the temptation to rush through the difficult bits and they are the bits that transform me, they will teach me because I learn the new stitches, so that’s made me think about it really.

Cali. That is, yeah, it’s a discomfort in not being good at something as well. There’s a discomfort in learning. But it’s only by sitting with that and accepting that.

Lesley. Yes.

Cali. You get to the other side, or you get better.

Lesley. Sit in the boring stuff, isn’t it? That’s that thing..

Cali. And she also talks in this chapter about like martyrism versus being the trickster. When I first read Big Magic, I really struggled with this idea of the trickster. I think I didn’t understand the word or it’s often seen as an archetype in stories or in society, because I think I took it to mean someone who was sort of duping, or a con artist or something, and I didn’t quite get that. And I’ve learned through this read through that it doesn’t mean that. It’s about going about life lightly. It’s about dancing through stuff, rather than getting too turgidly stuck in it.

And she makes the point. And again, we’ve covered this in an earlier chapter that a few 100 years ago, ego got more in the way of art, and she also says, a few 100 years ago, might the martyrs got hold of creativity and made it hard.

Lesley. Yes

Cali. And she’s, trying to reverse that with that sort of trickster. It doesn’t matter how you write the book. I mean, she talks about Brene Brown here, who dictated her book with friends giving her feedback. And they went away for a few days and had had a good time doing it.

Lesley. Exactly.

Cali. And who says you can’t have a good time making stuff? Even when you’re going through the hard bits, you know, and we just have to let ourselves do that, don’t we?

Lesley. Yeah, it’s like tricking creativity asking it to come out and play. It’s about making it easy for yourself. Why would you want to make it hard? You know, since April, every Wednesday afternoon, I do crafting with some friends. And different people turn up every week. And it’s more fun that way. We’ve all achieved a lot more. We’ve made mistakes, because we’re too busy talking. But yes, it’s more fun. That’s what creativity is all about. It’s got to be fun, hasn’t it?

Cali. I’ve had some hesitation in saying it because I know I’ve definitely got some martyr energy in me. I think we all have to some extent, but it’s about getting that balance. Because someone like Liz Gilbert has a tremendous work ethic. And she will sit there and do it.

Lesley. Yes, yes.

Cali. Sometimes any endeavour, whether you’re training for a marathon or writing a book, or building a business, it does demand that you, you stick to the plan and do it

Well  I think we can bring different attitudes that. You can bring a lightness of attitude, can’t you. And I think that’s what you’re trying to get at.

Lesley. Yeah. And I think that depends on what you’re doing, doesn’t it? It you’re writing your PhD project, or you’re writing a book, then maybe that’s slightly different from making a cake, or my crafting afternoon, but it the principles are same. How can I make it easy? How can I make it lighter? Sometimes you might have to be a bit of a martyr, just to get it done to get it finished. It’s all about making it easy for you really. Choose love. She talks about that very often, doesn’t she?

Cali. Yeah. And that tricks fear as well. I think that lightness and making it fun, it tricks fear. I often call fear the inner Gremlin. And I think it puts it to rest, or you do it anyway. And fear hasn’t noticed, because it’s actually had quite a good time.

Lesley. I was just thinking about that in terms of the hard bits, sometimes there’s fear going into that isn’t there? When you think oh, well, what if and this is hard. And she talks about p247 don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding? And maybe, again, that’s another moment to bring out the trickster? The lightness – maybe reframing it into what is it that I can learn out of this? Think about the positives. Think about the endgame, why are you doing it?

Cali. Yeah. How are we for time? You’re time monitor.

Lesley. 17 minutes.

Cali. So what would be your takeaway?

Lesley. I’ve got two actually

Cali. Do you want to talk about that? And I’ve got a couple and then that’ll probably bring us roughly around time.

Lesley. I’ve probably got three actually! And an end quote. The concept of trusting curiosity. That’s been huge for me and, and that has brought me a lightness and an interest in lots of joy to my life. And as she says, started the scavenger hunt of my life. I think I’d forgotten about the hummingbird until I just researched it earlier. But I think I’m become a humming bird.

Cali. Yeah. You definitely are.

Lesley. And the thing about hard – I’m going to change awful to interesting. Hard versus interesting. You know, sometimes I think I do quit too soon, or rush through sometimes things that which have the potential. And there is a quote: P 259 ‘what else are you going to do with your time here on earth  – not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your curiosity? So that’s what I want to do.

Cali. And you are.

Lesley. Yes, definitely.

Cali. I think for me, there’s a couple of things. Here, she talked so much at the beginning of the chapter about, again, this sort of tormented artist, that we don’t have to be in pain to create. And she talks about do we love it? Specifically, she was talking about writing or being in writing class. Do we love our writing? Does our writing love us? And I think I’m quite fortunate, because I think I do have quite a good relationship with my writing, you know. I’ve seen some commentaries where it says, you’ve got to hate it, if you think it’s any good, you’re deluding yourself. And I just think that’s bullshit. I mean, sure, sometimes that is true. But I’m not going to spend all this time hating what I do, because therefore it must be good or better. It’s like, No, I want to have a loving attitude to it. So she talks very much about, yeah, does what you’re doing love you back, or is was it just about pain?

And so I think I’m fairly fortunate there. I’ve sort of got through that. And she also talks about releasing your work, she talks about how very early on in her career, she wrote the short story, and she finally managed to sell it to a magazine. And then they had to cut back the space and they told her to cut it down. And she could have been precious and said no but she said I’ve got my red pencil out, and I cut that sucker down to the bone. And it did work. And then where is it… hang on… bear with me a second.

I can’t find a quote I’ve got written down. But she basically says, I wrote it, I improved it, I had to cut it, I did it again, I gave it to them. And then I released it, and I moved on and did something else. I know when this book came out five years ago, and that was two years before I resurrected Tales of the Countess. But I learned so much from it because I learned to not, again, we’ve talked about in an earlier chapter, not making your work your baby. Not being so emotionally invested in it, that you can’t let it go or you can’t let other people have it, criticise it or have their judgments on it.

So the first time I read in Big Magic what was really influential to me is that, you do it, you put it out there, it’s out of your control, and then you do something else. And I really think I’ve benefited from that. And what I’ve been able to do this year and publishing,  after a couple of years work of working on the book and editing and all kinds of things. It’s been great just to release it and move on to the next one.

And then I’ve got one final thing.

She talks about this anecdote of a guy going to a really fancy, fancy dress, do. And he went in a homemade lobster costume and got there, and everyone’s that the theme of the party was court, and everyone was in really elaborate, sort of, you know, French Chateau type costumes. And this guy could have turned and run or brazened it out. And he brazened it out with humour. And I love this quote:  p 263 I have never created anything in my life that did not make me feel, at some point or another, like I was the guy who just walked into a fancy ball wearing a homemade lobster costume. But you must stubbornly walk into that room, regardless, and you must hold your head high. You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time that you were given. You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.

I just think that’s creativity. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s what I try and live by

Lesley. Yeah, that’s great. that’s what we’re trying to say to everyone through all these different podcasts aren’t we. Do it, do it lightly.

Cali. Just do it.

Lesley. Enjoy it. Have fun.

Cali. Yeah. Have a go. Yeah. Go start. See where it takes you.

Lesley. That’s what we’re doing with this, isn’t it?

Cali. This is our curiosity. Yeah. Both of us are sort of driven to give this a go and see, see what happens.

Lesley. Exactly.

Cali. You know, and we’re just gonna put it out there. And then we’ll, we’ll just see. You guys might like it. It might bomb. We don’t know, but we’ve done it anyway.

Lesley. And we’ve done it with fun and lightness, and a few swear words. Okay, so we will be back next week with Divinity.

Cali. This is the last chapter isn’t it.

Lesley. And probably a reflection of, I don’t know. Well, I don’t know what. We’ll be back with next week. We’ll be back with another chapter. Yeah, we’ll see you next week.

Cali. Thank you. Bye.



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