How To Start Living Creatively, Now
We’ve been super inspired recently by Elizabeth Gilbert — of Eat Pray Love fame’s — new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. We love how beautifully Elizabeth articulates what we feel like we’ve been passionately advocating for some time now, just via social media posts and our various #HigherSelfie events, rather than in one amazing in depth tome which absolutely has the “thud factor”! (In case you haven’t noticed, we highly recommend Big Magic!)
In her new book Gilbert talks about doing what you love, regardless. Regardless of if it’s “good”, regardless of if it’s sensible, normal, original, great or useful. Regardless of whether you’re being paid for it, or if you ever even want to be paid for it.
She shares the story of her friend who’s a totally “normal” kind of person. The friend is in her 40’s and works 9–5 in a steady job. And several times a week she gets up extra early to head down to the ice rink to skate for a couple of hours before work. Despite the fact that she doesn’t want to be an Olympic champion figure skater. Despite the fact that most of the other girls on the rink are pre-teen. Despite the fact that ice-skating is not a “normal” regular kind of hobby for a woman in her mid forties. She’s living creatively and doing what she loves regardless of what the world tells her is acceptable, simply because it lights her up.
She tells of her parents who bucked the free spirit trend of the swinging 60’s and became stable responsible adults, her mum a nurse and her dad an engineer. They also happened to be confidently capable people who totally believed in their own, and everyone else’s, ability to make, mend, learn and do whatever the hell they wanted, as long as the bills were paid and no one was harmed in the process. Her dad decided that on the side of being an engineer he wanted to be a Christmas tree farmer. So he damn well did it. The whole family upped sticks to a farm and dad farmed Christmas trees as a hobby. He also quite fancied being a beekeeper, again on the side of his regular work. So he got some hives and learned how to keep bees. He still has those hives now, 30 years later. He did that other stuff because he loved it. He also liked being an engineer. It was an enjoyable and reliable way to bring in an income that supported his more creative pursuits, without putting any pressure on those pursuits to have to support him and his family, which by nature, allowed them to stay creative.
And she tells her own story. How she made a commitment to herself and the Universe as a young woman that she would be a writer. Not a good writer, not a bestselling writer, simply a writer. She vowed to write all her life because she simply didn’t know what to do or who she was without writing.
She wrote and wrote and worked all kinds of hotch potch jobs to pay the bills and save up to go travelling on research trips. She was still working as a bartender by the time her third book, Eat Pray Love was published. That book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for three years and was adapted for the silver screen. And in case you’re not familiar with Gilbert’s work, Eat Pray Love is a travelogue come memoir and in the film version the author was played by Julia Roberts. Not bad for bartender who collected rejection letters with, in her own words, “stubborn gladness” for much of her young writing career.
Marianne Williamson once said that we have this problem now where we’re afraid to take up hobbies because we think we have to be good at something, or achieve in that field, to do it. Think about it — how many people do you know that have a hobby just for the sheer joy of it? Discounting yoga because they want to become a teacher, or running because they want to get fit or do a marathon. Literally, just for the joy of it, no specific goal or pressure to reach a goal in mind. (Of course if you really commit to something with passion for many years you’re bound to get good at it, but there’s a difference between steadily honing a craft over time, out of joy, and setting out with the aim of achieving a set goal, conquering a skill or dominating a field, under a self induced pressure to achieve.)
How many people do you know who sing simply because they love it, not because they want to get a record deal or a paid gig? Who dance because it makes them happy, not because they want to do exams or join a troupe or get a “dancer’s body”? Who write because they enjoy it, not because they want a book deal or a lucrative blog? We’ll bet not many. Not nearly enough.
If you happen to get paid or recognised for your hobby, passion, side hustle or art that’s an awesome bonus. But we’re talking about starting where you are and using what you’ve got. No burning of bridges required and all expectations left at the door, in exchange for a big bag of “Don’t give a fuck” and and a side of “Doing it anyway”.
The publication of Gilbert’s Big Magic is divinely timed (of course!) as it seems that the collective tide is slowly turning…
There is far less stigma now, even than 5 years ago, around being “multi passionate”. In economic boom time it was much easier, and almost expected that you’d be a master of one trade. There was no need to have your fingers in multiple pies. You could much more easily get everything you wanted and needed from one situation. People, companies and governments were spending money like it was going out of fashion so there was a good chance you’d get a job or be able to make some money in your chosen field, however over saturated.
Then shit got real, markets crashed, people lost their homes (including our Lucy and her now husband), unsustainable businesses folded and surplus jobs ceased to exist, along with some necessary ones that got migrated to cheaper economies. All of a sudden doing what you loved as your hobby or side hustle became reality, and stopped being seen as weird, or flaky, or an embarrassing lack of success that you should probably keep a secret until you could make it your full time deal. Plus economic recessions tend to send people running for home, searching for ways to get thrifty and crafty, making do and mending and searching out cheaper more “low key” hobbies, instead of spending their money on Kate Spade handbags and casual weekend jaunts to Paris and Reykjavik.
Combine this collective psychological shift with the rise of accessible technology that makes it possible for anyone to become an armchair record producer, a commute blogger or a downtime entrepreneur, and you’ve got a miraculous recipe for more career / hobby / passion crossover and acceptance. Not to mention that same technology allows you to connect with others who are also keen hobbyists and moonlighters. Community instantly makes you feel more secure and let’s face it, breaking new ground is hard slog, so knowing that you’re simply following in the footsteps of many thousands of other folks serves to sooth a nervous soul, that is sometimes unsure if all this extra effort is worth the dark circles and missing Game of Thrones.
So how does all this sweet sounding theory translate into real life? Well, we make no bones about #HigherSelfie being a business. We sell coaching and event tickets, our speaking and consultancy services and soon we’ll add a book to our list of merch. But that first event, where the whole concept was born, where all the other stuff developed from, was created from the same philosophy that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in Big Magic. Creative living beyond fear.
Whilst still working several bridge jobs between us, we decided that we wanted to put on a game changing event. We wanted to create the event we wanted to attend. In our spare time, for no payment, with no guarantees that it would ever work, with no idea what would happen afterwards we committed six months of our lives and chunks of our hard earned cash to putting on this event, with no expectations.
We rocked up to a multi national corporation’s HQ with powerpoint in hand and shared our vision. Would we get sponsorship? We didn’t know. What we did know is that this event was happening whether we got sponsorship or not. We’d find a way. And all the time we said that if nothing else ever came of #HigherSelfie, if it was only ever a single event that happened once upon a time, we could be proud of it and tell our grandkids about it. We showed up and lived creatively, with joy and commitment and no expectations.
So our advice to you is start living creatively, now. You needn’t be defined by your day job. If there is a writer inside of you, write. If there is a chef inside of you, cook. If there is an artist inside of you, paint. If there is a jeweller inside of you get some beads and start making necklaces to sell on eBay. There were catalysts and coaches and party planners and punks inside of us, so we made #HigherSelfie.
When you begin to live creatively, when you start to just go around being one of those lit up souls who’s totally cool with where they’re at and has no time for what the media, their friends and family and wider society say is possible and worthwhile, you open the door wide to untold miracles and opportunities.
Maybe something will come of your creative living. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will become your full time gig. Maybe it won’t. But there are two things to consider if you’re holding yourself back from living creatively: Firstly, when you begin, at the very least you’ll be a happier, more fulfilled, more wonderful and inspiring person to be around. Secondly, if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Are you really okay with leaving all that joy and all those miracles on the table?
Are you already living creatively? Did it give you just the reminder you needed? Or is it a completely new concept to you?