Creativity is often considered the exclusive playground for artists, musicians and designers. We are either creative or we are not. We use the right side of our brain or align with the left. Yet every single one of us has a burning desire to bring forward something of our own into the universe. For many of us, it’s a flame dimmed by years of regret, but it’s a flame all the same.
Creative entitlement serves a noble purpose — to bring more of your best self into the world.
Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “The Signature of All Things,” claims in her new book “Big Magic” that all humans have “creative entitlement.” She began to articulate this concept when she wrote, “Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and believing that — merely by being here, merely by existing — you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”
THE RIGHT TO CURIOSITY AND TIME
Gilbert makes an important distinction between self-absorption (our conventional definition of entitlement) and creative entitlement, which quite simply serves as a lifeline out of “the depths of self-hatred.”
Gilbert doesn’t advocate or support the martyrdom of the struggling artist. She does advocate finding reward in our relationship with our creative work. Inspiration doesn’t owe us any measure of success: any recognition in the world is an added — never guaranteed — bonus.
Living the promise of creative entitlement is hard work. She challenges: “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” and explains, “The hunt to uncover those jewels — that’s creative living.”
She continues that it is a matter of choice — devotion, really — to “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” Regardless of the nature of our curiosity or creative bent — whether it compels us to research genomes or microbiomes, birth the latest pop song or share the magnificence of biodynamic farming on YouTube — Gilbert encourages us to give ourselves permission and space, and muster whatever it takes to bring “it” forth, no matter how long it takes or how much we might struggle along the way.
WHEN “BIG MAGIC” SHOWS UP
“Big Magic” is divided into six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. Gilbert demonstrates through creative war stories and empathetic coaching that “Big Magic” will show up and deliver for us all, but only as a result of ongoing interaction with inspiration, commitment to consistency, and most important, accountability: not only showing up and doing the work regardless of how we feel, but also finishing what we’ve started.
Gilbert shares a number of strategies to court inspiration and develop a relationship with your creative side. These highlights will get you started — grab a copy of “Big Magic” to find the power of your own muse.
- Create Space for Magic
Gilbert says it’s imperative to create space in your mind to proclaim that your creative expression in the world is the most important thing to you, while at the same time, releasing expectations so that it can take shape however it may unfold into the world. When you’re passionately unattached to the outcome, she explains, “Big Magic” flows in.
- Court Your Curious Side
Gilbert believes our creativity needs us to stay curious and mysterious, and needs us to take time to show up in our best form. In fact, from Gilbert’s perspective, this is a requirement, and to underscore the importance, she characterizes creativity as analogous to a lover. Unless you prepare to court that creativity, from making the time to choosing the place and getting ready to summon and even seduce that inner muse, it will elude you. Take the time to prepare for your best work to reveal itself, whatever ritual or form of self-care that means for you.
- Disrupt Doubt
At times, we’ll get stumped or blocked and think we’ll just quit. Gilbert says that’s when it’s time to just step away and play, citing Albert Einstein’s observation that “Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.” Einstein explained to mathematician Jacques S. Hadamard that the best ideas come from the conscious and unconscious combination of all the bits of knowledge, information and inspiration that we accumulate. Einstein found his most productive state came from visual and motor activity — for example, during his violin breaks. Building on that notion, Gilbert says, “Trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again.” Step away from the desk and do something totally different. Choosing a change of mental and even physical scene like listening to a musician you’ve never heard, cooking something you’ve never prepared, blowing bubbles with the kids outside, walking through a museum gallery, going to the gym — you can probably think of any number of things to do that will unlock that mental block.