Big Magic

This is the title of the book I'm currently reading by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. If you are a struggling artist, or a repressed artist, or too afraid to call yourself any type of artist, then this book is for you.

Maybe you've read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron? If you loved that book, you will also enjoy Big Magic. Both books offer would-be artists a sort of permission slip for creativity.

Why? Because creating anything is pretty scary.

Not everyone feels this way, of course. In fact, I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the population is WAY braver than I am when it comes to putting stuff out there.

Once upon a time, I was brave. I used to dance on stage. I used to choreograph and perform my own work on a regular basis. I used to improvise in front of a paying audience! (There is nothing scarier than this. No net. You don't come up with anything interesting, you basically die a horrible death. In public.) I was successful as a dancer and a choreographer. Then I decided to try my hand at writing.

I'll bet you think dancing on stage sounds a lot scarier than publishing a novel. Right? Wrong. For me, words are so much scarier. When you're on stage, you are literally in front of your audience. You can see their faces, hearing them coughing or laughing, smell their perfume. You receive instant feedback, in the form of smiles and applause and maybe even a standing ovation. You and the audience are almost a unit; you can feel their support. And every step you take on that stage is a gift you offer to them. But putting words down on paper removes your audience. Who knows who they are? You can't see them anymore. And now your creation is permanent. What if you make a mistake? Well, there it is, in black and white, big and ugly as a giant zit on your face, forever. Yikes.

Big Magic is all about getting past that fear. (You can see I'm not quite there yet.)

One aspect of fear which she addresses very eloquently is perfectionism. You would think someone who used to improvise on stage might have let go of perfectionism. Well, I did, but only in terms of dancing. When I write, not so much. Sure, this blog is a different story. I feel free to mess around here, to blurt out my ludicrous feelings, to make an idiot of myself. But I don't feel that same freedom when it comes to a published novel. A piece of ART which people will PAY FOR. With my name scrawled across the cover.

According to Ms. Gilbert, perfectionism is simply fear dressed up to look fancy. And I agree with her. I'm sure my perfectionism boils down to pure terror. I haven't finished reading Big Magic yet, but I'm hoping I'll pick up more pointers and perhaps a deeper understanding of my fear. Maybe even some ways to get around it in order to put more of my work out into the world. In the meantime, I'll continue to practice right here, on all of y'all!