“You must be allowed to try things, creatively, that don’t work.”
I adore podcasts. They wake me up when I’m feeling lethargic. They keep me company on long drives to work. They motivate me when all else feels mundane.
On Tuesday I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons. If you’re not yet in awe of Elizabeth Gilbert, you soon will be. She’s incredible, and I don’t use that word lightly.
The idea behind Magic Lessons is simple yet brilliant. In short, Gilbert talks to a batch of aspiring artists with the aim of helping them overcome their fears.
The latest episode (207) is full of amazing tips for writers, makers and creators. But one extract in particular changed the way I view both my creative and personal life, and I just had to share it with you:
“This idea that your next creative pursuit has to be BETTER is a real trap of our industrialised, mass-manufacturing, capitalistic society. We are all somehow stuck in this model, where we’re supposed to be on a chart that looks like a chart of a Fortune 500 company, where that red line every year goes up. We’re supposed to follow this model where you must be improving, you must be doing 5-8% better, every single year, than you did the year before. This is a very efficient model for industry and for business. It makes sense in mass-manufacturing. It does not make sense in a human life, and it *certainly* does not make sense in a creative life. You must be allowed to have years where you go and try something that “doesn’t work”. You must also be allowed to have periods where you don’t manufacture anything at all. I haven’t written a word in seven months, as I have other things happening that are really important emotionally for me to be attending to right now. I’m an old enough creator at this point to know that that’s perfect. If you’re looking at my chart of productivity this year, it’s a flat line. But I know what’s going to come out of it. If I tend to my soul, and I tend to my emotional life, and I keep my eyes open and I feel everything that I’m feeling rather than feeling everything I think I’m *supposed* to be feeling, then when it’s all over there’s going to be something to be made out of this. But only when I pass through this process as a human being, and not as a manufacturing line.”
There’s a lesson for us all here. We need to stop judging ourselves on our bank balances, website stats or number of followers. Sometimes those numeric measures of 〜success〜 are up, and other times they’re down. It’s part of the process. It’s irrelevant. Instead, we need to look at ourselves as whole, fully-formed humans regardless of our “output”. Only then can we start creating our best work and, most importantly, living our best lives.