The Dog Child's Tale
Music for a Monday Morning

Big Magic

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Even illness has its gifts -- and the most precious of them (as I've noted in a previous post) is the time to read, which brings me treasures I might have missed in the busy-ness of ordinary life. Of the books I've devoured during this recent round of illness, there's one I now find myself recommending to just about everyone I know: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, a guide to creative writing and creative living.

Big Magic is written in a breezy, conversational style, but there is true wisdom underlying Gilbert's deliberately populist approach to the subject of creativity, presented in a generous and open-hearted manner, but also with no punches pulled. Her ideas about inspiration are colored by myth and mysticism, drawing on the Greco-Roman concept of creative genius as a force outside ourselves with whom we collaborate (as we've explored here in posts on the work of Lewis Hyde, among others), so it's not a book I'd recommend to hardcore cynics. I'm assuming, however, that Myth & Moor readers are likely to be open to a bit of myth, magic, and enchantment. If you struggle with your creative work at all (and perhaps even if you don't), please consider giving Gilbert's delightful and insightful book at try. (I should warn you that the book's cover is garishly off-putting, but that's the publisher's doing, not the author's.)

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Here's a taste of Big Magic, from a chapter on the concept of "creative permission" (another subject we've talked about here before):

"You do not need anybody's permission to live a creative life," Gilbert states emphatically. "Maybe you didn't receive this kind of message growing up. Maybe your parents were terrified of risk in any form. Maybe your parents were obsessive-compulsive rule-followers, or maybe they were too busy being melancholic depressives, or addicts, or abusers to ever use their imaginations towards creativity. Maybe they were afraid of what the neighbors would say. Maybe your parents weren't makers in the least. Maybe you grew up in an environment where people just sat around watching TV and waiting for stuff to happen to them. Forget about it. It doesn't matter.

"Look a little further back in your family's history. Look at your grandparents: Odds are pretty good they were makers. No? Not yet? Keep looking back, then. Go back further still. Look at your great-grandparents. Look at your ancestors. Look at the ones who were immigrants, or slaves, or soldiers, or farmers, or sailors, or the original people who watched the ships arrive with strangers on board. Go back far enough and you will find people who were not consumers, people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things. This is where you come from. This is where we all come from.

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"Human beings have been creative beings for a really long time -- long enough and consistently enough that it appears to be a totally natural impulse...[and] the diversity in our creative expression is fantastic. Some of the most enduring and beloved artwork on earth is unmistakably majestic. Some of it makes you want to drop to your knees and weep. Some of it doesn't, though. Some acts of artistic expression might stir and excite you, but bore me to death. Some of the art that people have created across the centuries is absolutely sublime, and probably did emerge from a grand sense of seriousness and sacredness, but a lot of it didn't. A lot of it is just folks messing around for their own diversion -- making their pottery a little prettier, or building a nicer chair, or drawing penises on the walls to pass the time. And that's fine too.

"You want to write a book? Make a song? Direct a movie? Decorate pottery? Learn to dance? Explore a new land? You want to draw a penise on your wall? Do it. Who cares? It's your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart. (I mean, take it seriously, sure -- but don't take it seriously.) Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you. Keep in mind that for most of history people just made things, and they didn't make such a freaking deal out of it.

"We make things because we like making things."

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"If you're alive, you're a creative person," Gilbert continues. "You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers, and embellishers -- these are our common ancestors.

"The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong and they are also annoying. We are all the chosen few.  We are all makers by design. Even if you grew up watching cartoons in a sugar stupor from dawn to dusk, creativity still lurks within you. Your creativity is older than you are, older than any of us. Your very body and your very being are perfectly designed to live in collaboration with inspiration, and inspiration is still trying to find you -- the same way it hunted down your ancestors.

"All of which is to say: You do not need permission from the principal's office to live a creative life."

Indeed.

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Tilly snoozing

Comments

I'm slowly making my way through Big Magic, and this is my favorite quote so far:

"The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

"The hunt to uncover those jewels--that's creative living."

"The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong..." Hear, hear!

*

There are no truly closed systems in the Universe, I think. We are continuous with the world. Everything washes through and around everything else. Without moving, you can trace a line of connection, atom by atom, from you to the other and beyond. There is no boundary. You are always on the hill, in the forest, in the past, in the present, under the stone, behind the Sun, and all those things are always in you.

That's the observable fabric of the Reality.

Be well.

Love,

A. x

Hope you are growing stronger and recovering well. That wonderful flaming golden russet of the bracken in your pictures. The richness and vibrancy of the color! WANT!

How nice to have you back among us here in this electronic world. And what a truly remarkable ambassador you have in Tilly, an adventuress who knows how to spin a story.
Glad you are recovering. May you too, feel the mud and smell the tales the wind carries.

BRILLIANT!!! Brilliant post! brilliant Tilly! Brilliant book! (Will order for Christmas)How refreshing, not to say Brilliant, that there's someone out there telling us they we don't need the permission of anyone to make what we want, how we want! We don't need an art degree to be an artist! We don't need a Creative Writing degree to be a writer! We don't need anyone's piece of paper to endorse us as anything we want to be in the creative fields! I suppose I've always known this, most of us probably have, but to actually have it stated loud and clear in a book somehow gives it a 'tangibility' and an undeniability!

And as for the idea of an external Creative Genius that works through us...I suppose I've always instinctively known that too, most of us probably have.

BRILLIANT, Terri! Just, Brilliant.

I love this! I was raised by a family of vaudevillian comics, clowns, and song-and-dance folks, jazz musicians and writers. People who encouraged me to not only be artistic, but to live artistically. It has always perplexed me to meet people who sit through life with their feet up, more involved in the lives of TV characters than in their own lives. I'd love to buy a thousand copies of Big Magic and hand it out on the streets! First, though, I must buy it for myself. Thank you!

the photos of your wintry wild ponies and Tilly's tales of wander are beautiful Terri!
but hmmm... guess I'm turning into a cranky old woman... enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk
https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius/transcript?language=en
but Big Magic just annoyed me, I threw it against the wall in despair of the dumbing down of all the values I hold dear in the world...

The ponies, I love them! The post was a good twist and turn sort of thing. Of the Big Magic I found the descent into the generations a precisely accurate one. For me it was that journey into old pirate blood, rice farmer who married royal blood, and the Poly-hybrid (the mixed races of Polynesia and Asia) tidal waves that brought me to my senses. Stories! Tell the stories, mix the metaphors. Steal the thunder if you have to.

Happy Birthday, Terri. A day late, but still a true wish. I know you missed participating in the season change - it's always such a gift - and I hope you are or will soon be well enough to get out again and walk your beautiful hills with Tilly. It's wonderful to see you back here!

Very nice............

Could you share what annoyed you? I'm always interested in all kinds of insights.
You might like Steven Pressfield's "War of Art" I've given it to many artist friends.

OK, here goes, everything in this book could have easily been summed up in a one page precis of her TED talk, the life of an artist is not and has never been an easy option, every day is a fresh challenge, we either make good art or don't... oh and I don't think I would want to read a book called War of Art!!!!
"Make Art Not War"
https://obeygiant.com/prints/make-art-not-war-offset

Hmmmm. Not my reaction to the book at all, which I found thoroughly delightful, useful, and positive. But it's very good to have a contrary opinion here, Mo. Others may feel as you do, so folks might want to investigate further (via reviews and such) before making up their minds on whether to buy it.

Thank you for welcome back, everyone! It's good to be here, and I hope I'll be able to stay awhile this time!

vive la différence! I also get annoyed by bathroom tile shops, hairdressing salons, restaurants etc. etc. calling themselves galleries... everyone in the world may well consider themselves artists these days but by gosh that doesn't mean the work is good... well researched critical discourse hones our edges and that is one of the great things about visiting Myth & Moor!

I'm reading Big Magic and liking it alot. Your right that her style is "breezy" but I like that about the book and her earnestness is levened by her great sense of humor. I have at least two friends stuck in the mode of "you must suffer to be an artist" that I think I may give the book to for Christmas....

This is a little off the subject, but is Tilly wearing a leg warmer??? Pepper sends a wag of the tail to her canine cousin across the sea.

Hi Terri

I love these passages on creativity, the outer genius, and our right to be creative and free to express ourselves through whatever medium suits us. This is indeed a breathtaking and refreshing post. One I can really relate to; and those pictures of the ponies, the woodland and Tilly are also exquisite. I love this idea of "Big Magic" and the landscape you show underscoring that idea.

I think it's important to accept creativity as it comes randomly into our
mind and grasp. And also, it's crucial to wait for it; and maybe trust the fact that it will somehow make its way in despite the boredom, the stalemate in time and ideas, the malaise that seems to grip the entire body with restlessness. I often think the first draft of cold air coming in with the last days of Autumn is invigorating. It crawls under the door or window ledge as an entity of breath, of awakening. Almost a creature wild and spontaneous as the process of creating, itself. So having said that, I share that experience, which I have recently had in a poem.

Ennui

Morning strikes a gray hour
and I fidget like a house finch
on this hollow branch of time.
Minutes fall off in a slow spin.
Colorless. The corner ones blighted
with dust or lint.

The chill crawls under our door --
sleek and sure-footed,
a ghost from the mountain.
Her lungs just learning to howl.
She shivers and I shiver.
We become the same creature
shifting from restless to pre-written.
A poem pervades the wind.
______________________________
Happy Birthday and many wishes of wellness, inspirational creativity and happiness to you and your family!

My Best
Wendy

I've reached the tipping point from your post - I will read this book! Joyfully. :) e

Thank you for responding. I enjoyed Elizabeth's book, any day reading about art is a good day for me, especially if I can absorb inspiration of any kind.
As for "The War of Art", yeah, I guess the title could be a bit off-putting, but in essence, it describes the need to follow through with creating our authentic individual dreams and what often stops us. I had a lot of "ah-hah" moments reading it. He talked about 'resistence' as a force in and of itself that occurs simultaneously with creative desire. How the resistence can in fact cause ill health if we don't allow ourselves to bring forth our art and deepest dreams. All I can say is that it brought me back to the canvas with renewed energy and less fear and procrastination. Have always struggled with facing a blank canvas, etc. It's very positive in a different way than Elizabeth's book and they were both worth the read to me.

it's all a part of the process, some of the work is good and some needs to go in the recycle bin, it's a life...
the best artist's statement about process that I have ever read is by Christian Boltanski-
"I come to my studio every day at 10.30, and I stay and do nothing. I go to Paris sometimes. I have a few ideas. To be very pretentious, sometimes I believe it is mystical. Sometimes you find nothing, and then you find some-thing you love to do. Sometimes you make mistakes, but some-times it's true. In two minutes, you understand what you must do for the next two years. Sometimes it's in the studio, but other times it's walking in the street or reading a magazine. It's a good life, being an artist, because you do what you want".

it's the process that makes a life worth living, Christian Boltanski summed it up beautifully in his artist's statement from a few years ago-
"I come to my studio every day at 10.30, and I stay and do nothing. I go to Paris sometimes. I have a few ideas. To be very pretentious, sometimes I believe it is mystical. Sometimes you find nothing, and then you find some-thing you love to do. Sometimes you make mistakes, but some-times it's true. In two minutes, you understand what you must do for the next two years. Sometimes it's in the studio, but other times it's walking in the street or reading a magazine. It's a good life, being an artist, because you do what you want"

"Right Hemisphere. The right brain is the creative brain and is responsible for rhythm, spatial awareness, colour, imagination, daydreaming, holistic awareness and dimension. It controls the left side of your body."

The child who was never told 'No, not that color', or 'That makes no sense'----that child lives in the folds of the right brain and connects via a bridge to the the left brain, "also referred to as the digital brain, it controls reading and writing, calculation, and logical thinking."..the Corpus Callosum "contains a bundle of neuronal fibers found in humans and other higher order mammals that allow the two hemispheres to talk to one another."

Neither side is exclusively so specialized that some of the other side doesn't seep through, and take note that "A study released on October 4, 2013 found Albert Einstein's brilliance may be linked to the fact that his brain hemispheres were extremely well-connected. The ability to use right brain creativity and left brain logic simultaneously may have been what made Einstein a genius." LINK https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/einsteins-genius-linked-well-connected-brain-hemispheres

My point is that nothing separate is quite so useful in being a whole person, a whole anything at all, as the integration and utilization of all the capacities at one's disposal.

Sometimes it's fairy dust, some times potato soup.
One day the sky is blue, another day red as blood.
Negative space is what positive space is cut from.
You can't have one without the other. Try softer.

Dear Tillie, your exuberance, innocence, sensitivity is a supreme gift to all your human companions, and to all of the virtual one's who share in them here at Terri's blog. We love you and her.


The right brain is referred to as the analog brain. It controls three-dimensional sense, creativity, and artistic senses. These two work together, to allow us to function as humans.

I like this,,,,thanks!

Thank you so much for this. And thank you for sharing dear Tilly and her adventures with us...she is fine Storyteller.

Much love and light to you...you are such a gift, and you give so much.

Thank you.

I love this. Still looking for mine. =)

Wendy, I enjoyed this poem, for sure. I must say, though, that I'm going to cut and paste your comment above into my notebook of inspirations: "I think it's important to accept creativity as it comes randomly into our mind and grasp. And also, it's crucial to wait for it; and maybe trust the fact that it will somehow make its way in despite the boredom, the stalemate in time and ideas, the malaise that seems to grip the entire body with restlessness. I often think the first draft of cold air coming in with the last days of Autumn is invigorating. It crawls under the door or window ledge as an entity of breath, of awakening. Almost a creature wild and spontaneous as the process of creating, itself." - SO WELL SAID. Love this. Thank you.

Another beautiful and helpful post. Welcome back, Terri and Tilly!

Hi Edith

So glad you liked the poem but I am very humbled/honored you could relate so well to my quote about creativity. Thank you so much for your gracious and enthusiastic comments!!!They are deeply appreciated!!

Please take care,
My Best
Wendy

It must be a nice thing...to be loved.

It's knitted wrist cuff, over a bandage. She has a little wound on the upper side of her paw -- probably orginally just a bramble scratch or insect bite, but she licked and worried at it so much that it got infected. The bandage and cuff are to keep her from licking in again until it heals.

PS: Give Pepper a scratch of the belly for me!

I agree, it is very well said. And I love the poem. I know that ennui well; I know that ghost well.

I couldn't agree more, Michaelle. And Tilly sends her love!

Thank you, all, for these kind words!

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