Creativity Quotes from Big Magic


Some say that the drive for creating something involves many stages. I saw a presentation about these stages from the internet. It’s called The Life of a Project. First, the creative drive peaks at the “This is the best idea ever!” part, then after a while the artist realizes it’s not. But, artists are stubborn people, so they pursue it, even though they know it’s going downhill and nothing good will come out of it. Soon enough they get bored and after that, it’s Ice Age. The presentation described it as the “Dark Night of the Soul” point.

That’s an intensely sad part. But, sure enough, that’s the worst it can get.

After that comes the interesting part. It starts to slope upward. The artist will think it will be good to finish it given the time he has already invested. There will be valuable learnings anyway. Then, finally, the project gets finished with less enthusiasm and excitement. “It sucks, but not as bad as I thought.”

Now, it’s an undeniably accurate presentation, and it applies to most people. However, I think that it’s not universal – at the very least, it doesn’t happen entirely all the time. Because you see, I’ve experienced creating something before that I’m still very proud of until this day. Many people have! Sometimes, some artists even think their work turned out to be way better than they expected!

What I’ve observed from “Big” creative people is that they choose not to end up having a lesser magical feeling in them than when they started. They finish their work with a celebration in their spirit that screams “I’m going to share this to the whole world and I don’t give a crap about what’s gonna happen!”

A famous writer actually described this sensation accurately. In one of her books, bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert detailed her creative drive’s peaks and troughs, and almost always ended up feeling a huge success for every work despite what others think. What’s even more magnetic is an unconventionally mystical yet convincingly interesting concept: ideas and creative drives are living entities having a consciousness of their own. This realization changed her whole life.

Here are some valuable parts from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book called “Big Magic” that might just change your perspective on creativity and on life:

Part One: Courage

“Without bravery, he instructed, they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small –far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.”

“He smiled at the girl with infinite compassion and asked, ‘Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.’”

Part Two: Enchantment

“I should explain at this point that I’ve spent my entire life in devotion to creativity, and along the way I’ve developed a set of beliefs about how it works –and how to work with it–that is entirely and unapologetically based upon magical thinking. And when I refer to magic here, I mean it literally. Like, in the Hogwarts sense. I am referring to the supernatural, the mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment –not entirely human in its origins.”

“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us –albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will.”

"Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners. (I’m talking about all ideas here –artistic, scientific, industrial, commercial, ethical, religious, political.) When an idea thinks it has found somebody –say, you–who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention. Mostly, you will not notice.”

“The idea will try to wave you down (perhaps for a few moments; perhaps for a few months; perhaps even for a few years), but when it finally realizes that you’re oblivious to its message, it will move on to someone else."

“But sometimes –rarely, but magnificently –there comes a day when you’re open and relaxed enough to actually receive something. Your defenses might slacken and your anxieties might ease, and then magic can slip through. The idea, sensing your openness, will start to do its work on you.”

“The idea will organize coincidences and portents to tumble across your path, to keep your interest keen. You will start to notice all sorts of signs pointing you toward the idea. Everything you see and touch and do will remind you of the idea. The idea will wake you up in the middle of the night and distract you from your everyday routine. The idea will not leave you alone until it has your fullest attention.”

“Something is carrying me all along –something powerful and generous –and that something is decidedly not me. You may know this feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve made something wonderful, and when you look back at it later, all you can say is: ‘I don’t even know where that came from.’ You can’t repeat it. You can’t explain it. But it felt as if you were being guided.”

“It all called to mind the British physicist Sir Arthur Eddington’s memorable explanation of how the universe works: ‘Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.’ But the best part is: I don’t need to know what. I don’t demand a translation of the unknown. I don’t need to understand what it all means, or where ideas are originally conceived, or why creativity plays out as unpredictably as it does.”

Part Three: Permission

“Aspiring writers will often tell me, ‘I have an idea, but I’m afraid it’s already been done.’ Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done –but they have not yet been done by you."

"By the time Shakespeare was finished with his run on life, he’d pretty much covered every story line there is, but that hasn’t stopped nearly five centuries of writers from exploring the same story lines all over again.”

“No way was I going to give up on my work simply because it wasn’t ‘working.’ That wasn’t the point of it. The rewards could not come from the external results –I knew that.”

“Anyhow, Herzog wrote my friend a long reply of ferocious challenge, in which he said, more or less, this: ‘Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you must, but stop whining and get back to work.’”

“I cannot even be bothered to think about the difference between high art and low art. I will fall asleep with my face in my dinner plate if someone starts discoursing to me about the academic distinction between true mastery and mere craft.”

“Let people have their opinions. More than that –let people be in love with their opinions, just as you and I are in love with ours. But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work.”

Part Four: Persistence

“I kept working. I kept writing. I kept not getting published, but that was okay, because I was getting educated.”

“Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.”

“Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.”

"The great American novelist Robert Stone once joked that he possessed the two worst qualities imaginable in a writer: He was lazy, and he was a perfectionist. Indeed, those are the essential ingredients for torpor and misery, right there. If you want to live a contented creative life, you do not want to cultivate either one of those traits, trust me. What you want is to cultivate quite the opposite: You must learn how to become a deeply disciplined half-ass.”

“I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified.”

“Because the truth of the matter is, most people don’t finish things! 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. So if you can just complete something –merely complete it! –you’re already miles ahead of the pack, right there.”

Part Five: Trust

"Far too many creative people have been taught to distrust pleasure and to put their faith in struggle alone. Too many artists still believe that anguish is the only truly authentic emotional experience.”

“Trusting in nothing but suffering is a dangerous path, though. Suffering has a reputation for killing of artists, for one thing. But even when it doesn’t kill them, and addiction to pain can sometimes throw artists into such severe mental disorder that they stop working at all. (My favorite refrigerator magnet: ‘I’ve suffered enough. When does my artwork improve?) Perhaps you, too, were taught to trust in darkness.”

“Is it possible, then, that creativity is not fucking with us at all, but that we have been fucking with it?”

“Martyr says: ‘I will sacrifice everything to fight this unwinnable war, even if it means being crushed to death under a wheel of torment.’ Trickster says: ‘Okay, you enjoy that! As for me, I’ll be over here in this corner, running a successful little black market operation on the side of your unwinnable war.’ Martyr says: ‘Life is pain.’ Trickster says: ‘Life is interesting.’”

“I believe that the original human impulse for creativity was born out of pure trickster energy. Of course, it was! Creativity wants to flip the mundane world upside down and turn it inside out, and that’s exactly what a trickster does best.”

“But somewhere in the last few centuries, creativity got kidnapped by the martyrs, and it’s been held hostage in their camp of suffering ever since. I believe this turn of events has left art feeling very sad. It has definitely left a lot of artists feeling very sad.”

“But mostly, the trickster trusts in the universe. He trusts in its chaotic, lawless, ever-fascinating ways –and for this reason, he does not suffer from undue anxiety. He trusts that the universe is in constant play and, specifically, that it wants to play with him.”

“He realized that ‘failure has a function. It asks you whether you really want to go on making things.’”

Finally, Liz Gilbert concluded in her book that creativity –along with all its beauty and potency – is always some sort of a path between two opposing polarities. It is something sacred –yet it’s not sacred. “Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.”