“Perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
I am reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic. Gilbert is passionate about making creativity light, fun, and exciting. (I can feel myself squirming in my seat a bit at the mere thought of “just plain fun” creativity.) She sets out to dissuade you from being a tortured genius, or a tortured unpublished author, or a tortured could-have-been author if only I had the right time/enough money/certain kind of childhood, etc. (I’m kind of on board with it all. But I’m also kind of freaked out by the idea of being so darn happy about creativity.) I’ve got to say though she’s really got me hooked. Here’s why:
Gilbert says the thing that keeps most people from being creative is not self-discipline but self-love. Not to get too Oprah-y on you but this was my “aha” moment. I’d like to think I am pretty friendly with some of the other ideas she presents - like you make work from stolen time - but that bit of advice hit me like a ton of bricks. I trained as a classical violinist; I pride myself on my self-discipline. I’ma writer mother. To wit: I can make work with babies pulling on my legs. I can make work while breastfeeding. I can make work while pushing a stroller. But hidden in that self-discipline is a small devilish creature that is relentless, critical, pushy, and a generally all-around baddie. And Mr. Baddie’s agenda is to keep you from being kind to yourself because otherwise you will make sloppy work. Clearly, I’ve got to work on that whole self-kindness thing. What’s your Enemy-To-Creativity Number 1?