The book was everything I had hoped it to be. Liz (we’re on nickname basis now, don’tcha know?) has such a powerful message of creativity and what it means for the world and for those creatives among us. (Though, as mentioned in the book, we all have creativity in us. We just harness it in different ways.) I’ve long been an admirer of her work (I’m on the side of loving Eat, Pray, Love so take that as you will), and this book pushed me further into fangirl territory.
Today, I wanted to take the time to list out the five biggest lessons this book taught me. Let’s get started!
1. We need to believe we are entitled
“Creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here and that – merely by being here – you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.” (pg. 92)
I am in love with this idea of creative entitlement. Entitlement can have such a negative connotation, and for good reason, but there’s a difference between thinking you deserve it all and knowing that just by being here, you are deserving of your desires. Many people think those who are entitled are self-absorbed, but it is this very thing – self-absorption – that scares us away from creativity. It is “your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self protection” that keeps us from fully engaging in creativity.
2. Insecurity breeds quitting
“Look around you, the evidence is everywhere: People don’t finish. They begin ambitious projects with the best of intentions, but then they get stuck in a mire of insecurity and doubt and hairsplitting… and they stop.” (pg. 177)
Oh heavens, this speaks to me so much. At the end of November, I was well on pace to finish my novel by the end of the year. But then I realized I needed to restructure my story so the ending felt more natural and true, and as I began thinking about that, I began to become embroiled in insecurity. These feelings of not being good enough and just fooling myself with this idea to write my novel seeped into my soul. So, I stopped. I let other things take precedence over writing my novel because I felt stuck and embarrassed and insecure. Done is better than perfect, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good… those quotes are popular for a reason – because they are true. I have to stop letting my insecurity take a front-row seat. I have to stop letting it win. I have to stop stopping and keep going.
3. Your work is not your baby
“If you honestly believe that your work is your baby, then you…won’t be able to handle it if somebody critizes or corrects your baby, or suggests that you might consider completely modifying your baby, or even tries to buy or sell your baby on the open market. You might not be able to release your work or share it at all-because how will that poor defenseless baby survive without you hovering over it and tending to it?” (p. 233)
Oof. Liz hit me hard with this one. It’s very hard for me to separate who I am from my writing, because I often feel that I am my writing. But that’s not true – I am so much more than my writing. My novel is not my baby. I do not need to place my work on this pedestal, believing it is the best thing that could possibly be written. Because what happens if someone suggests a change? Or it gets rejected? Without understanding that this novel is just a novel – it is my novel, yes, but really, it’s just a novel – I won’t be able to handle that. I’ll be knocked down. I’ll take every single critique and rejection to heart, and there will come a point where it hurts too much to continue putting my baby out in the world. I do not want that to happen. My work is not my baby.
4. Start thinking about failures as interesting happenstance, not awful circumstances.
“Interesting outcomes, after all, are just awful outcomes with the volume of drama turned way down.” (pg. 247)
I love this idea, to stop looking at our failures as awful outcomes. Instead, they are interesting experiments that allow us to learn more about ourselves. Rather than looking at them in a shameful way, let’s look at them from the scope of an interested party. Let’s take the time to be curious about why these failures didn’t work and make a plan for how we’ll approach these different scenarios in the future.
5. The outcome cannot matter
“Fierce trust demands that you put forth the work anyhow, because fierce trust knows that the outcome does not matter.” (pg. 258)
I wrote about this in my post on writing from a few weeks ago, but I really love what Gilbert had to say in Big Magic about this topic. I have spent so much time putting off writing my novel because I only wanted to write it if it was going to be the perfect novel that earned me a large publishing deal. But that’s not how passion or creativity works. We are creative because that’s who we are, not because it’s going to earn us a huge paycheck. We can work tirelessly and we still may not see our deepest desires come to fruition. And we have to be okay with that.