I started reading Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, yesterday. Many friends and bloggers and writers have raved about the book, but I’ve held off so far because Eat, Pray, Love left a bad taste in my mouth (even though I know it’s been an important book to many people!). Whoa. This book punched me in the stomach right from the get go with a lot of truths I’ve known for a long time, but have been unable to articulate. I know I’ve been brave and chosen the creative life before, but with graduation little more than two months away I feel like I’m coming to another crossroads. It feels like I have to make the decision all over again, and figuring out what that looks like post school, well, it’s definitely been interrupting my sleep.
So this book found me right when I needed it. I’m only a few chapters in, but the part that’s resonated with me most is very early in the book in a section titled Scary, Scary, Scary. The author lists many reasons to be afraid of living a more creative life. I started the list reading item after item thinking no, no, no. And then – stomach punch – yes.
The first yes moment was: You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.
The second yes moment came on the next page: You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money.
Naming a fear doesn’t make it go entirely away. I feel both of these worries acutely at times both emotionally and logically. I wonder if I could do more good in the world doing something else. I think about the importance of diversity in publishing and all the amazing, important books I’m reading, and wonder how I can have the hubris to think that something I write will matter. I wonder if this is all going to come to nothing and I will look back on this time with regret for other lost opportunities.
But these fears, they aren’t always there. They haven’t stopped me from meeting my daily page count goals. And they obviously haven’t been the driving force behind my decisions. I never would have moved to Big Sur if that were the case. I’d never have come to New York to get my MFA in writing for children.
And while naming the fear doesn’t make it go away, for me yesterday reading this in the bath it took some of the fear’s power away. I’m looking forward to finding more bits of wisdom and internalizing them as best I can as I keep reading.