In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes the strange mixture of hard work and wonder that is the foundation of the creative process:
“Most of my writing life consists of nothing more than unglamorous disciplined labor. I sit at my desk and I work like a farmer and that’s how it gets done. Most of the time it’s not fairy dust in the least. But sometimes it is fairy dust. Sometimes when I’m in the midst of writing, I feel like I’m suddenly walking on one of those moving sidewalks that you find in a big airport terminal…I can feel myself being gently propelled by some exterior force. Something is carrying me along; something powerful and generous, and that something is decidedly not me.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
As creatives, I think we all know what this is about.
- An inspirational idea enters the picture
- We can be struck by the mystery of it all
- We may begin to explore how to render it—how to make it come palpably into the physical world.
- We begin. We might be alternatively enlivened, puzzled, exasperated, curious, frustrated, enthralled by our creative efforts.
- Somewhere along the way, we reach a point of 1) knowing we are finished; 2) knowing we will never be finished; 3) knowing it is completely wonderful…or horrible; 4) or maybe even becoming comfortable with the process of uncertainty, and entering into a state where we willingly link hands and hearts with the ultimately elusive and wondrous state of Deep Knowing.
Are you familiar with these stages?
If you are, then you certainly recognize that the creative dance involves a mixture of hard work and fairy dust. Strange partners indeed!
For instance…I had been working and working on a final painting for an upcoming show at SYNC Gallery. It was, to say the least, quite disappointing. True to form, the chorus of critical voices inside of me reached a crescendo of negative voices about my capacity as an artist, including “heartening” messages like “You might as well give up because you will never amount to anything as an artist anyway.”
So, in a fit of desperation, I took the painting upstairs to photograph it and set it down in a patch of sunlight by some plants while I got my camera. When I returned to the painting, my heart started beating fast. The shadows of the plants on the painting cast a lovely, intricate pattern over the canvas. Hey, I thought, here’s an idea. What if I painted those shadows on top of the pools of color that were so “disappointing”?
So I did…and it worked—I think. Behold. Fairy dust.
I bet you have experienced something similar—that mixture of fairy dust and hard work that is so much part of the creative process. If so, I’d would love to hear about what happened—your experience, your wisdom. If you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with this information, I will include your anecdote in my next blog.
So here’s to the work that creates magic in our creative lives! May we use both these tools with trust, wonder and wisdom!
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