What? What does that mean? That means, my friends, that for the next few weeks, you are my guinea pigs. Aren’t you excited? I thought so.
First, however, if you haven’t had a chance to read the awesome post by KIM HARRISON that ran yesterday, please do. It’s really pretty cool and, for me, really summed up how authors come up with ideas for novels and why the question–where’d you get the idea for that book?–is so very hard to answer. Because the answer is, invariably, a muddle of a dozen different things our subconscious finally formed into a big “what if….”
As for me, I’ll be reviewing Kim’s new novella, WAYLAID, next week, but today I want to talk about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I’ve just begun to read it after listening to her Udemy lecture on Living a Creative Life. I’ll talk about the guinea pig part later, because I’m trying to keep my posts shorter…after today.
I believe that we’re all creative in our own ways. Some of us write or draw or play music. Some of us have green thumbs and grow beautiful things. Some of us have the art of making others feel better, or building machines, or creating computer programs, or healing. We all have creative gifts. At some point–maybe when we were small–we used them and they made us happy. But the creativity gets beaten out of many of us as we go through the school systems and their insistence that we focus on whatever will earn us a living and make us a “productive member of society.”
Do you know where your creativity lies? What makes you truly happy? What makes you think, “I’ll do X for ten or fifteen minutes,” and next thing you know, an hour has passed? Chances are, that thing has to do with your creative passion.
Why aren’t we doing it more often? Elizabeth Gilbert says it comes down to one thing: fear. I had an interesting talk with my mom recently about the piano. One of my nephews is turning into quite a wonderful pianist, and I’m just waiting for his parents to come over from South Carolina to get the beautiful piano my parents bought me when I was five years old so he can take it and love it as I have. I took piano lessons for ten years, and love music passionately.
But I haven’t played since 2004, which was the last time I lived alone. That fact became significant after my conversation with my mom.
“I think the piano was my dream, not yours,” she told me, and I had to think about that. It wasn’t true. I was so excited about music lessons that I used to practice the scales and fingering on the steps before I got my piano. Once the piano arrived, I would play and play and play, mostly when I was alone after school, before my parents got home from work.
So I had to think about why I didn’t play anymore. “I don’t like playing in front of anyone,” I finally told her. “It scares me. When I was taking lessons, I’d get physically ill and throw up before recitals because I was so scared.” Of what? Of making a mistake where people would hear. Of being judged. Of being bad. Of making a fool of myself. Fear.
That probably sounds strange from someone who’s made a career of writing things that get sent out into the world for everyone to read and critique. Words fall into my comfort zone of creative passion (at least most of the time), but until a couple of years ago I had abandoned my first great love of drawing. I’m not a great artist but I have fun. I lose time in it in the same way I lose time when I write.
Maybe what made you lose track of time as a kid doesn’t do it for you anymore, as I don’t think the piano would fill my hours as it once did. In that case, how do you live a creative life (which, in turn, makes you live a happier life, a more fulfilled life)? For a writer, who already has a creative life in a sense, there’s a lot of pressure to keep producing creatively in different ways. Different stories. Different characters. Where do those come from? When I’m between projects I become almost paralyzed and don’t know what to do next. What will get the creativity flowing again?
Gilbert’s answer surprised me: By following your curiosity. She talks about herself, her creativity, and her fear as an inseparable threesome–always together, always with the fear challenging the creative spark.
Her challenge: find something every day that sparks some degree of curiosity and see where it takes you. Write it down in a creativity notebook. It might inspire a story. It might inspire a hobby. It might simply engage your brain in a daydream or a thought that brings a spark of light to your day.
So, my guinea pigs, I’ll be devoting some blog days to following the spark of curiosity. I don’t know what it will be. It might be a new author or book. It might be an old map, or a piece of trivia or a memory or..who knows? Don’t worry–we’ll still talk books, but we’ll also find out what makes us curious.
So….where does your creativity lie? Throw aside your fear and share with us where you think it might be. What you’d do if you weren’t afraid. Or, alternately, what was the last thing that sparked your curiosity enough to do a Google search? Mine, sadly, was research on melanoma because I have a strange little thing going on with my arm and will spend part of my birthday soon having a dermatologist I only half-jokingly called Doogie dig a hole in my arm. I hope your most recent spark of curiosity was more interesting!
Share with us. Commenters will be entered for a $5 Amazon GC or Book Depo equivalent! Because curiosity should be rewarded (and not just by a Doogie with a scalpel).