Elizabeth Gilbert — author of my favorite book of 2015, Big Magic, a complete treasure of a writer, and soulful creative through and through — used my #BetterLetteringCourse art journal piece from yesterday to accompany one of her beautiful, thoughtful Facebook letters this morning. (If you’re not following her page, I highly recommend it. She regularly shares article-length posts with gorgeous insights on life and creativity.)
Anyway, aside from geeking out over a personal idol of mine sharing my work, I was even more grateful to have my work accompanying a sentiment so near and dear to my heart: the idea that CREATIVITY IS FOR EVERYONE.
Art is not about the product, but about the process. It is about what you learn, what you become, what you awaken to throughout the magical endeavor of creating. I believe that with all my heart and it is beautifully expressed in Liz’s words which I’ve copied for you here, highlighting my favorite passages (warning: it’s long but so worth reading!):
BIG MAGIC MONDAY
Dear Ones –
So grateful to the artist Caroline Kelso for making me this beautiful imagine, of a quote from Big Magic. (If you want to learn more about Caroline’s lovely work, click here for further awesomeness: http://www.madevibrant.com/)
Caroline’s design here is a a good illustration for something I’ve been wanting to talk about since I got home from book tour a few days ago.
I keep trying to think of the takeaway of these last few months on the road with BIG MAGIC, and what keeps coming to mind is this one challenging question that I faced back in September, from a reporter who asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that your book is only going to encourage a lot of talentless people to fill the world with even more shitty art?”
I was staggered by his question. (To be very honest, I was torn between wanting to give him the finger, and just wanting to give him a big hug, and say: “Who hurt you, son? Who did this to you?”)
Because the gulf between his world view on creativity and my world view on creativity felt like the Grand Freakin’ Canyon — and I wasn’t sure how to even begin bridging it.
I was struck by the anxiety and fear (and, frankly, insecurity) that lingered behind behind this man’s query. I’m accustomed to people saying that they are afraid to explore their own creativity because they’re afraid their work might not be good enough…but this was the first time I’d heard someone say that he was afraid OTHER people might explore their own creativity — because THEIR work might not be good enough.
That’s a whole lot of fear about other people’s lives, baby.
And because of his fear, this man wanted to make sure that the realm of creativity remain CLOSED — restricted only to the special, the talented, the precious, and the deserving.
But here’s the problem: Who gets to decide who is deserving? Who gets to decide who is special? Who are the “wrong people” for creative living, and who are the right people? Who gets to play gatekeeper here?
After taking a few deep breaths, my answer to the reporter went something like this: “My concern is not that the world is filled with bad art — and I’m not even sure that the world IS filled with bad art, by the way. My concern is that the world is filled with millions of people who don’t create ANYTHING AT ALL, because they have been told that creativity does not belong to them. My concern is that those people are being denied an essential ingredient of their humanity, and that they are therefore reduced to being mere producers and consumers, rather than being makers — and this cannot be good for anyone.”
Because here is what I believe with all my heart (and after meeting so many of you over the past three months, and after hearing your own stories of creative discovery, I believe it more than ever)…I believe that:
Creativity is our shared human inheritance. Which means that everyone is invited, at all times. Absolutely everyone.
Creativity offers us ever new ways to unfold ourselves, to renew ourselves, to calm ourselves, to challenge ourselves, to explain ourselves to the world, to escape the world, and to alter our environment (both internal and external.)
The act of creativity is good for us — even if the final product is not “good” at all (whatever “good” even means in this context.)
Creativity is about the process, not the product. As my dad says about his Christmas tree farm, whenever anyone asks him how holiday sales are going: “The more important part for me is what happens the other eleven months of the year.” And what DOES happen the other eleven months of the year? My dad gets to cultivate and create beautiful trees, which he loves doing so much that it always causes a revolution in his heart. My dad gets such rich personal satisfaction from the process of cultivating and creating trees that it keeps him happy all year long. What occurs in December (selling or not selling the trees) is totally secondary.
Creativity is worth exploring, then, even if you never make a fancy living from it, even if you never win big prizes for it, even if you never show your work to anyone. It’s worth doing for what it does to YOU — not for how it lands on the world.
The most interesting part of creativity to me the stubbornness and love involved, not the level of talent (whatever “talent” even means, in this context.)
Creativity is about having the courage to try something new, even if you’re not sure it will work.
Creativity is about becoming a scientist of your own experience, and returning to the laboratory of life again and again, to tinker around with different ideas.
Creativity is about becoming an active participant in your life — even if it’s only in a small and modest way — rather than just being a passive witness, as life happens to you.
Creativity is about choosing curiosity over fear — not just once or twice, but again and again and again and again…
Creativity is a way that we can leave a tiny handprint on the walls of our lives, proving: “I was here. I made a thing. I did this.” It doesn’t have to be Mozart. It doesn’t have to be Van Gogh. It doesn’t have to be monumental to be monumental. Creativity is one of the best ways we can prove to ourselves that we did not just come to earth to pay bills and die, but that we also came here explore the mysteries of expression — and to be unreasonable, whimsical, searching, curious, gorgeous, and sometimes just plain odd.
Creativity is one of the most effective ways to cause a revolution in your own heart.
Creativity is for everyone. Your ancestors did it; my ancestors did it; and I hope to God that you and your descendants will all do it, too.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t belong in the realm of creativity, or that you aren’t invited. And don’t ever let anyone ever project their fears and insecurities about their OWN creative existence on to YOU.
Just keep making your own thing, and watch what happens to your own beautiful life as a result.
So that is what I believe.
CREATIVITY BELONGS TO YOU.
You are all wonderful, and I love you, and thank you for everything that you bring to me and teach me…
But seriously, can I get an amen?! As I read that this morning, I wanted to climb through my computer screen and give Liz a big hug for putting words to something I so fundamentally agree with in my bones.
While I’m not sure I could ever communicate this idea as beautifully as Liz does here, it is a topic that I want to echo for you all today because it is that important.
It reminded me of an article I stumbled across months and month ago called “The Mediocre Movement” about the saturation of hand-lettering and typography inspiration in art and design. In this Medium post, the author pretty much posits that our collective taste level for design — especially hand-lettered typography — is on a rapid decline. That we should be more discerning in who we support and what we deem to be inspiring or great.
I remember reading this article, my heart level increasing with every word, and thinking, “Okay, but WHY? Why must there be an objective standard for what art is deemed good and what good does it do to discourage people from expressing themselves through art?”
It’s this very thinking that prevents SO many people from even embarking on the creative journey in the first place. It is this “not enough” mentality that feeds our pre-existing fears and prevents us from experiencing the transcendent joy of creating and stretching and growing and expressing.
Listen, I understand where the sentiment comes from. The author of that piece is clearly passionate about design and art and beautiful things and he wants to protect his idea of what that is in our society. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to protect what they love.
However, do you know what is more important than beautiful things?
Beautiful people. Beautiful lives. Beautiful experiences.
A world filled with people who love themselves and share their stories and are generous with their experiences. A world full of wonder and discovery and possibilities, not standards and rules and exclusion.
I know from experience that creativity, expression, exploration, delight, self-love… these are the building blocks of beautiful things — things that aren’t things at all.
So, the sentiment I want to leave you with this week is precisely what Liz shared:
Creativity belongs to you. (And don’t you EVER forget it.)
It is your human right to create. And whatever comes of it — whether deemed “good” or “not so good” — is irrelevant.
Please, for ALL of our sakes, “create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” 🙂