I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear at the moment. I was wondering if it fall into the Gilbert that I love (The Signature of All Things) of the Gilbert that I loathe (Eat, Pray, Love), but given my current state of mind and academic pursuits I felt I needed to try something to jolt myself out of the mental rut I was in last post.
The book is actually a bit of a cross between Brené Brown and Joan Didion. Leaning toward the Brown side, which makes it a little too self-helpy in some respects. But it’s done a couple of things to my thinking that I thought worth noting.
Firstly, it has me questioning what I hated Eat, Pray, Love so much. And I really, really did. I felt it smacked of entitlement. Of course you could write a great memoir if you have a six figure sum to travel the world. But Gilbert tells a story in Big Magic about how a woman came up to her and said the book changed her life, it gave her strength to leave an abusive relationship, just like Gilbert herself did. Which Gilbert did not. Nor did she say she did in the book. It got me thinking about how we read into texts our own personal experience, whether they are written in there or not. My dislike of Eat, Pray, Love stems not from the fact that Gilbert received lots of money to travel the world for a year and write about how it changed her, it stems from the fact I never travelled around the world for a year and wrote about how it change me (publishable or otherwise.) It’s still self-indulgent, and smacks of white privilege, but I’m self-indulgent and ooze white privilege too – but I haven’t spent a year travelling (which is my biggest regret in life.) So I have to hand it to Big Magic, not only have I got something out of it as a text, it made me reevaluate Gilbert’s other books – pretty good job for a book really.
Secondly, there a lot of discussion about why and for who you create and dealing with rejection. Clearly this is an area I grapple with constantly. I’ve embraced a three to four year intellectual pursuit, one that has me pretty isolated from people. I’ve also re-embraced a lot of creative activity as I’ve got older – singing, dancing, photography, yoga (I’m including yoga in here as I do find it’s closely linked to creativity for me.) I plan to start learning guitar soon. Gilbert writes that most creative people lead creative lives, but choosing a creative career can be dangerous. Requiring yourself to be successful in a creative endeavour, with success defined as money, fame, public recognition, is putting a lot of pressure on yourself to succeed. And circumstances of this success may be beyond your control anyhow. She says creative success about dedication, luck and talent. Only one of those things is really in your control, so work your ass off.
I sing, occasionally dance, take photos daily and hopefully soon play the guitar not for any material gain. I just like it and I think it makes me a better person to do this. I meet people, I laugh, and I enjoy it. I started doing the PhD because I wanted something. I wanted that new career, I wanted public recognition that I was an expert in the field. And not getting it makes every day harder.
What I’m going to do? Just get this fucking thing done. If that means getting nothing published and being rejected from every academic journal I contact – so be it. Because, and this has been echoed by some of Nick Hopwood’s seminars, often the rejection has nothing to do with you anyhow.
The image above is from Beautiful Pages, and I’m currently looking at a framed version that is sitting on my printer. Even though I really shouldn’t be buying house stuff, because I technically do not have a house to live in after Dec 5th, I needed this. I need to stare at this every day (even though it’s really hard to see being black on black.)
Time get back on the horse.