Flinging myself off a 30-foot rock into the surf was a breeze. Scuba diving with sharks in Southeast Asia was a blast. But sending publishers the novel manuscript I’d started in college and labored over the past five years was simply terrifying.
Fear does not only stop us from doing things we shouldn’t, it can also hinder us from doing the things we actually want to accomplish.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s most recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, she shows us how to persuade fear into the backseat of your life and position yourself as the driver heading towards a more creative destination.
To Gilbert, living creatively is not about quitting your day job to eat cheese and paint plein-air. It’s about designing a life in which you are satisfied financially, physically, and spiritually with a healthy balance between your work and your passions. The biggest threat to creative freedom she argues? Fear, with a capital F.
The Liz Gilbert method of vanquishing fear is not grabbing it by its neck and throttling it to the ground.
The Gilbert method is all about giving credit where credit is due: “thank” fear for its love and dedication to keeping us safe, she suggests, then gently calm it down like a newborn that must be put down for rest.
Gilbert offers several tips on how to quiet fear into submission in Big Magic’s companion podcast, Magic Lessons. The podcast features listeners seeking creative therapy to ameliorate problems of inspiration. Gilbert’s solutions often involve a light bit of homework, advice from an expert in their field, and a bit of hypnosis in which she’ll simply reframe the problem as a positive, often in the form of a reminder on how and why passion projects are so significant.
Whether you are trying to garden, learn to ice skate, or just kick ass in your side hustle, it all starts with your desire to evolve into your greatest self so that you may serve others by exercising the thing that brings you light, joy, and purpose.
Here are some of our favorite Gilbert words of wisdom:
“You have a screaming, not a calling.”
We often ignore our “callings” with the makeshift attitude that our beloved “pastimes” are just self-indulgent hobbies. Gilbert argues that these pastimes are relevant to shaping your best self — the self that will add the most value to the world. Playing apothecarist can lead to homeopathic discoveries, or can develop a sufficient way for your business to become more sustainable in ways which you can serve the world just by following an interest that feels natural to you. When you step into your most profound and meaningful purpose, Gilbert promises, you step into a greater service to everyone around you.
“Show up before you’re ready.”
The old adage says, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” But a plan without commitment will never come to fruition. Whether you’re preparing to scale up your “hobby,” take a challenging new job, or share your project with the world, you will need one fundamental tool: courage.
“Nerves are good. It shows you’ve got skin in the game,” Gilbert says. Without skin in the game, there’s no reward. And one thing Gilbert hates? Entrepreneurs who are great at practicing but never enter the arena, certain that they’re never good enough.
“Somehow in this culture we have this misconception that you’re not allowed to create or produce anything until you’re already good at it.” Gilbert points out that this notion is extremely contradictory — experimentation and risk are inherently part of the process of growth and improvement. People want what you can bring forth, but they cannot get until you bring it forth.
“The action is right here.”
Stuck in purgatory at a desk job from hell? Not to worry. Gilbert believes temporary strife can be an ally to a surge in creative energy. The discomfort of a chapter, or several, in life can easily lead to more fortuitous life changes. Pain, whether we like it or not, is a form of energy that has the ability to transform your hunger for soul, and inspiration into fantastic action. We are most likely to take risks and make the necessary changes to redirect the course of our life when we are in discomfort.
Adversity and suffering should never be fetishized as Gilbert believes this is destructive to artists — and isn’t more suffering the last thing this world needs? Adversity does not need to be a detriment however, for it is in the face of adversity that great stories are born. Have the discipline to see things with wide-open wonder and opportunities will surely appear.
“The thing you are seeking is also seeking you.”
Perhaps Gilbert’s most enlightening and controversial point in Big Magic is her belief that all ideas have a consciousness or, at the very least, a desire to be made. “The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you,” Gilbert insists.
This is not to say that your ideas cannot be unique or belong to you, but Gilbert would argue that ideas are like cloud children, drifting around from person to person, hungry for attention and nurture. They’ll pester you until they finally realize you’ll never make them, and then they’ll move on to someone else that will bring them to life. Heed your inner voice’s search for experimentation and growth, not just because it’s your your own idea or will, but also because it’s the desire of the universe.
Not long after reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, I began sending my manuscript chapters out to publishers, remembering not only Gilbert’s words, but Martha Beck’s, one of the experts on Magic Lessons on the importance of taking risks: “Every time you leap into the fire you come out with a new life, and it’s better than the last one.”
Courtney Prather is a writer, blogger, and ocean lover. When she’s not working as a marketing professional you can find her in the surf in Orange County, California. Keep up to date on new writing at courtprather.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @courtpanther.