The significance of delight. Our right to make things simply because we are alive. The creativity that lurks, no, waits to explode, within us if we will just let it out.
These are a few of my takeaways from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I often listen to her podcast by the same name and continue to chew on many of the things she dishes out in both. I’ve copied down several quotes that have inspired or challenged me, and I’ve wanted to share them all. But in order to keep my post from being as long as her book I’ve narrowed it down to three heavy hitters.
So here are some of the best bits, in no particular order…
Actually, I lied. This is kind of the very best bit, and it’s a quote from someone else. I’ve adopted it as a personal belief statement. Of how I view the world and the base from which I intend to jump my whole life long:
“We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”
Hallelujah that someone said it and said it so well. To claim gladness as a worthwhile, even essential, point of view. Something to hold on to amidst the mess of the world around us. To find the light in the darkness, the glimmer of a gem within the muck, the cool breeze inside the ruthless furnace. If you’ve read my writing before, you might have noticed this jives with just about everything that comes out of my brain and onto the computer screen. I look for the good in the bad innately, because my DNA and experience says I should, but also because I’ve decided I should. Because, as my kindred spirit Jack says, giving all our attention to the injustice and pain and ick is to praise it. No thank you. (Pay attention, nightly news.) I can’t stress enough how much this is a YES to me.
“The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying. We are all the chosen few. We are all makers by design. Even if you grew up watching cartoons in a sugar stupor from dawn to dusk, creativity still lurks within you. Your creativity is way older than you are, way older than any of us. Your very body and your very being are perfectly designed to live in collaboration with inspiration, and inspiration is still trying to find you – the same way it hunted down your ancestors.”
My great grandma made quilts, painted, wrote stories, made clothes, planted a garden the size of a football field, and her kitchen counter was covered in jars of spices – easy access for cooking and baking edible works of art. She wasn’t paid to do it; creativity was bursting inside her and had to come out.
My grandmother made quilts and crocheted baby hats for my babies, and baby doll hats for their babies. She entertained with joy and flair, creating experiences for others with her gift of hospitality.
My grandfather crafted sermons, wrote and edited for a magazine, and could fix anything with his able hands.
My mother has writing in her bones and she makes homemade cards for everyone (these little works of art are so special my children keep them in their treasure boxes).
My dad – oh my – he draws, he paints, he makes wood-strip canoes and tree-ship tree houses and 3-D pirate ship puzzles. He has written a fantasy novel about squirrels. Inspiration has found it’s ultimate host in my father.
And this is just one side of my lineage.
I can attest to Elizabeth Gilbert’s claim that all people ever have had creativity welling up in them. If you look back at your forebears I suspect you will find this, too. From the mathematician to the bricklayer to the only-on-weekends pianist. We are all makers. There is no boss deciding who’s allowed to make stuff. We’re alive, so we can.
“…you have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”
So get on it! This was my pep talk to get the show on the road of writing for real. Pursuing it as more than a three-hour-a-week endeavor. I’m excited and scared and back to excited about saying with my life that I believe this quote is true. And you should too, in whatever way brings you joy. Pick a curiosity (that’s another main point of Gilbert’s book) and follow it. See what happens. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. But it won’t be a waste of time. You’ll be using your inborn creative juices for fun, and possibly the benefit of those around you.
And you should probably read Big Magic. It’s for every one of us. If you have a pulse, you can make things. Congratulations and get to work.