I have just read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. (You may know her as the author of Eat, Pray, Love.) While there are many reasons I am recommending Big Magic to various people, the reason that I am writing about it here is the incredible “aha” that I had as I journeyed through its pages.
If you have read my posts for any length of time, you know that one of my messages is that it doesn’t matter whether your change is at the individual, organizational, or societal level…the patterns for successfully navigating it are the same; they are based on an understanding of the psychology of the human response to change.
Big Magic broadened my perspective in a big way. What Elizabeth Gilbert helped me to see is that the patterns of change that I have worked with over the decades are the very same patterns that she, as an author, works with each time she creates a new piece of writing, whether it be a magazine article, a short story, or a full-length book. They are the same patterns that every creative works with, regardless of medium. They are patterns that can defeat us if we are unaware of their existence, or of their flow. And, they are patterns that can sustain and guide us if we learn and apply them.
I guess this shouldn’t be surprising… After all, change is about creation, “to cause something to come into being,” (www.dictionary.com). So why would it matter whether that something was a new relationship, a business start-up, a shift in society’s response to gender identity, or a new photo project?
For example, if it is “significant” and we perceive it as positive, we begin with naïve anticipation. We don’t know what we don’t know. As we move through the process, reality sinks in. It is tough work; it takes courage and discipline to keep moving. Not everyone is willing–or able–to complete the journey. (Elizabeth talks about the different jobs she held while writing and attempting to get published, and about the friends who stopped writing when success didn’t come quickly and easily enough.) And, sometimes in creation, no matter the subject or the medium, the best we can do is not good enough.
I once threw away an entire completed book because it didn’t work. I diligently finished the thing, but it really didn’t work, so I ended up throwing it away, (Big Magic, p. 248).
Along with this “aha” came a reaffirmation for me. All too often people say to me, “I’m not creative.” For years after I switched my undergraduate major from architecture to cultural anthropology, I told myself the same thing. But the truth is, each of us has the potential to be creative. We may not be Michelangelo, Mozart, or Hemmingway. But in our own mediums, in our own lives, we create. And whether we are creating music, a career change, or a new marketing strategy, the principles of the human response to change apply.
What are you creating? Have the principles of change played out in any artistic creative efforts you have undertaken? In what ways?