Is it Worth It? Creativity and Fear in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

Full confession: I’m the only woman in America who hasn’t yet elizabethgilbert-bigmagicread Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. Nor have I seen the movie, because I wanted to read the book first. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to read it, I just haven’t found myself yet in circumstances that would lead to sitting down and reading/seeing it.

I have, however, found myself in circumstances that led me to read Gilbert’s most recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. (Those circumstances included the book being a Kindle Daily Deal a couple of weeks ago and my having recently finished Honoring the Self.) 

Fear and Creativity

At first, I had trouble buying into the concept–are people really afraid of living creative lives? Or is the average person just too tired to live a creative life? Between work, housework, family responsibilities, etc., is the problem that people are filled with fear at the thought of pursuing their dreams, or is the problem that Netflix is less than ten dollars a month for endless entertainment and variety when you’re exhausted from real life?

“Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.”

Gilbert seemed pretty sure the problem was fear, so I ruminated on this for a couple of days. Am I afraid to live a creative life?

Tired =/= Afraid… Or Does It?

I don’t feel afraid, I just feel tired and overwhelmed. How can anyone have time for a creative life when they’re working 9-10 hour days, enduring a commute, trying to get in daily exercise and healthy cooking, and other adult activities (by which I mean paying bills and grocery shopping and cleaning house, you pervert… but those adult activities you’re thinking about need to fit in there too)?

Heck, I have to get up at 5am Monday through Friday to have the time and mental energy to actually get any writing done, and I get up around 6am on Saturday and Sunday to write as well. I spend a lot of mental energy on it–my best mental energy, really. And the scary thing is, I’ve been working on my current WIP since around February, and I’m only about 25% of the way through the first draft. At this rate, it’s going to take me over a year just to write one book. Yikes!

And then it occurred to me–my fear when it comes to my writing is entirely around time. Am I wasting my time by trying to write? How should I prioritize time spent on creative pursuits (which are good for the soul) with time spent on yoga and exercise (which is good for the body and mind)? How little sleep is too little?

Is it worth it to pursue a creative life?

In the end, is it worth it to pursue a creative life? Twelve months of my best mental energy for one book that might not even ever get published sounds like an awfully steep price–what if I never finish it? What if it never gets published? Or what if I do finish it but I gain twenty pounds because I didn’t get enough sleep and exercise? In the end, is writing a single book worth that?

The answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll look back and regret the early mornings and the solitary weekend afternoons. I don’t know if I’ll regret the notebooks filled with scribbled-out paragraphs of particularly thorny passages, or the days I went to work with a wet ponytail because I didn’t have time to blow-dry my hair.

All I can tell you is it’s worth it today. The potential of it being worth it in the end is worth it today.

… man, that Elizabeth Gilbert is good.

worth it

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