The Audacity To Create: On ‘Big Magic’ & Likeability

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear was on my reading list since its release in September, and after finally getting my hands on a borrowed copy, I finished it today. It took months for me to get through. I admit I had some expectations about it, and hoped it would be inspiring. I really don’t like starting books and not finishing them, and kept reading it even though it bored me because I wanted to believe that I would get something from it. And today I finally did.

My take-away from the arduous task of reading the book was the fact that the author wrote it. As uninteresting as it was to me, she had something to say about creativity and wrote about it. For a whole two hundred and seventy-two pages. It reminded me to keep having the audacity to create.

So much of what I do, of what I have done, is planned. While I had periods of foolish recklessness in my twenties (okay, thirties too), for the most part all of the decisions I’ve made in my adult life were very thought-out and considered, and that included wondering what people would think and how I would be perceived. And while I have accomplished many things that I’m proud of in spite of what I imagined people would think, it’s still been a large part of my process in deciding to do them.

Even further, I’ve very much considered whether people like what I do, and that has had an impact not only on my professional and life decisions, but on what I create. Did that stop me from doing certain things? No. But it stopped me from doing others. There are so many writing and performing ideas I’ve had that excited me, but I haven’t finished them because I worried they aren’t likeable. Or, worse, that putting the work out there would make me unlikeable.

Reading Big Magic, a book that I did not like (but still finished), reminded me to keep pushing myself beyond the boundaries of what I think people will like and just do the damn thing. When I read the last page and closed the book, I didn’t think about whether or not it was good, I just knew I didn’t like it. And then I thought, “So what?

Some of the things I’m most proud of – doing a one-woman show, being naked in a film I co-created about body image, performing a sacred ritual on stage – I did even though I was terrified of what people would think. And yet, they are what allow me to say with confidence that I am an artist living a creative life. Even though I didn’t enjoy reading Big Magic, I thank Elizabeth Gilbert for reminding me that I still have a lot of work to create, and will continue to do so. Whether it’s likeable or not.

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