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Creative Wisdom: Big Magic

If you are called to creative work, this book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, may be the best you will ever read. I always reference this book since I initially read it in 2015; I sometimes just flip to a random page, which always provides sage and timely advice. Below are some of my favorite quotes to ponder.

“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates an uncertain outcome.”

“This, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

“When I refer to “creative living,” I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner — continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you — is a fine art, in and of itself.”

“Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction.”

“If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.”

“You have treasures hidden within you — extraordinary treasures — and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

“Most of all, be ready. Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvelous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day. Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly passing through us, constantly trying to get our attention.”

“In the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience.”

“So I don’t sit around waiting to write until my genius decides to pay me a visit. If anything, I have come to believe that my genius spends a lot of time waiting around for me — waiting to see if I’m truly serious about this line of work.”

“Often what keeps you from creative living is your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection).”

“You must be willing to take risks if you want to live a creative existence. But if you’re going to gamble, know that you are gambling. Never roll the dice without being aware that you are holding a pair of dice in your hands. And make certain that you can actually cover your bets (both emotionally and financially).”

“Of course it’s difficult to create things; if it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be special or interesting.”

“I promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it — meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary.”

“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”

“Learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person.”

“Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instances are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.”

“People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.”

“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust — and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.”

“Perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified.”

“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble.”

“Completion is a rather honorable achievement in its own right. What’s more, it’s a rare one. Because the truth of the matter is, most people don’t finish things! Look around you, the evidence is everywhere: People don’t finish. They begin ambitious projects with the best of intentions, but then they get stuck in a mire of insecurity and doubt and hairsplitting . . . and they stop.”

“The effort is worth it, because when at last you do connect, it is an otherworldly delight of the highest order. Because this is how it feels to lead the faithful creative life: You try and try and try, and nothing works. But you keep trying, and you keep seeking, and then sometimes, in the least expected place and time, it finally happens. You make the connection. Out of nowhere, it all comes together.”

“The final — and sometimes most difficult — act of creative trust is to put your work out there into the world once you have completed it.”

“Fierce trust asks you to stand strong within this truth: You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.”

What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

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