The Creative Kick in the Pants You Need (You’re Welcome)

On a recent drive to Michigan, I passed the time by listening to author Elizabeth Gilbert being interviewed on the podcast “On Being.” She was talking about the creative process and said the same words that I’ve read on the back cover of her new book, Big Magic:

“The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”

I admit, I teared up.

I’ve heard this quote from her before, but it had never hit me so squarely in the heart. Maybe this time, because it was coming straight from her, in her voice, it landed like a stone tablet from the mountaintop, or a clanging gong, or a kick in the pants.

There’s something about shifting the focus from I WANT to be creative, to the creativity WANTS ME. It’s chosen ME. Positioning it this way makes me feel humbled and grateful and eager to serve. It reminds me to get over myself and accept ideas and inspiration with the respect and commitment they deserve.

When I view my work as a living breathing entity that has been entrusted to me, I behave better. I think of the lengthy process– I’m talking more than a decade– of writing my first novel. Oh, I had plenty of excuses for not being more disciplined about writing; namely, my three children, who I was busy feeding, driving, and disciplining.

It was only when I started to think of the characters in my book as my children that I was able to finish. The more I wrote, the more they came alive to me as real people, people I was, in effect, keeping locked in a closet every time I shut my computer. People who were waiting eagerly to be allowed to join the world. Imagining myself as the jailkeeper of these fragile souls that I had created was my kick in the pants.

How about you? Do you need something or someone to knock you out of your fear, your procrastination, your self-criticism?

Ok. Here goes:

What are you waiting for? Seriously?

Are you still telling that tired old story about not being “ready”?

Who are you trying to impress anyway?

Why not assume no one will like what you do but that you will LOVE it, and get on with it?

How will you feel when someone else takes your idea?

Go sit your butt in that chair and don’t get up until something, messy, masterful, whatever, has come out. I mean it.

By the way, this ass-kicking is brought to you courtesy of my “inner motivator” and these words are actually directed at me. They are printed and pasted to my desk. But I wanted to share them with you in this blog; it’s not the same as a podcast, and I’m not Elizabeth Gilbert, but hopefully something here will hit you where it hurts and, as a result, you will share a piece of yourself with the world.

Then we will be thanking you.