This post is the second part of my reflections after reading Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Persistence: Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it
We persist most when we are serious about something. Gilbert encourages us to take vows with our creative lives. It’s a kind of commitment. While we’re at it, we cannot be sure that it will be a breeze. This is where Gilbert talks about the Shit Sandwich. We’ve all had to deal with the shit Sandwich now and then, the so called grunt and the so called rejections. It’s part of the process.
She urges creative practitioners to take up day jobs in order to support themselves financially to be ale to continue their creative line of work. It’s going to take us time to be able to make a living out of our creative lives. Gilbert herself admits she did not quit her job until she had written and published four books, many of which even won national awards.
Here’s where I tend to think about it differently. I’d say, yes get a day job, but try and get it in an allied field of your work. This I believe can stimulate your creative life far more than a completely unrelated job that could physically drain you out.
Time is a very significant contributor in this whole process of creative living. People generally tell me that the work will change with time, for the better. Gilbert also illustrates that the audience will change over time for the better. The same person, who did not connect with your work four years ago, might suddenly find a new way to look at your work and like it very much. So keeping at it is the only way to stay in the game.
Trust: You’re not in it alone
Do you love what you do?
Do you believe that what you do loves you back?
This mutual love and trust is what is going to keep one’s creative spirit alive. Sometimes when we’re stuck somewhere, when we feel like an idea is just not moving forward, we get this feeling that creativity is pissed off with us. We end up blaming our creative paths for how bad our lives are turning out.
Two years ago, I was devising a play as a collaboration with a Lithuanian artist. One week before the show, we had no idea where the show was headed. We had created all these bits and pieces of work, but we had no idea how it was all going to come together. We were nervous and also blamed the devising process for letting us down. However, we just kept at it and rehearsed the bits that we had put together. And as we were doing that, slowly a narrative emerged and before we knew, we were able to see patterns between the various sketches that we had put together. Though we blamed the process, we just kept at it till the end and that’s what finally helped us. We trusted it and it decided to reciprocate.
Gilbert then questions how seriously one should take themselves and their work. Like most creative practitioners, I’ve also been told that real art comes from a space of suffering. Gilbert urges us to embrace what she calls the Trickster energy vs. the Martyr energy. This is captured beautifully in these two lines
Martyr says: “the world can never be solved”
Trickster says: “Perhaps not… but it can be gamed”
Sometimes, I am also left with this feeling that I take my work too seriously. But here’s where I am going to try and embrace the trickster energy a bit to see how it shapes my work going forward. This also comes down to style, I guess. If my style is not funny, then can it be playful?
I also feel that creative practitioners tend to be a bit too possessive about their work so much so that a full stop being removed can change the very nature and intent of the piece. Gilbert asks us to think about this in the light of change vs. opportunity. And what you would pick!
I’ve had a lot of trouble changing, editing my theatre pieces. When you look at it with a delete button in hand, everything feels important. A performance of mine called Re:play was part of the Kala Ghoda Festival a few years ago. Owing to time restrictions, we had to keep the performance to under 60 minutes, when it was actually 75 minutes long. 15 minutes of edit seemed like a lot of getting rid of. But I had to let go. And I felt that at the end of it, it was not as bad as I imagined it to be. The audience response was very supportive and I also felt a great level of engagement with the performance that evening.
Divinity: It will go around and come around
When the work travels, it morphs, adapts, changes and when it comes back, you look at it and smile. For the core has remained unchanged, unshaken. It’s still yours in some way and every way.
Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert for sharing your life story and inspirations. Thank you for Big Magic.