I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic last month, and it has changed the way I think about many things.
Before I start talking about this book, a word about her earlier books, just so you know I am fairly objective. I read Eat, Pray, Love – or more properly, I should say I tried to read it. I just could not connect with it. So, I’m not a huge fan of all her work.
One of the most intriguing things she talks about is that fear we all feel from time to time when we try something new, or meet someone new, or think in a new way. She points out that fear actually does serve a very important evolutionary purpose. Our ancestors who paid good attention to their fears survived to reproduce. Life was chancy and danger was everywhere – people who were cautious lived longer lives than careless risk takers. The ones who put every unknown berry in their mouths lived a shorter life. Since evolution weeded out risk takers, we’ve inherited that fear mindset.
Life is much safer now in general, when was the last time you met a tiger in your back yard, after all? But fear doesn’t understand that. And when you try something new or undertake a project with an uncertain outcome it can easily take over the show.
Ms. Gilbert explains all this in much more detail and more elegantly than I can, but additionally, she gives a great tool for overcoming fear.
She says we cannot and should not eliminate fear entirely, it’s purpose is still important at times. It keeps you safe when something really is about to go south. But undertaking a new art project is not terribly dangerous. So, she gives you one way to put fear in the back seat where it belongs.
She advises talking to fear as if it were a person, and telling it that it’s not going to get to drive on this road trip.
Now, that may sound silly, but I’ve been doing this and it’s made a big difference in the amount of anxiety I feel at various times, especially when beginning a creative project in an area in which I don’t consider myself very expert.
Acknowledging the fear and putting it in the back seat helps me feel safe enough to move forward with things that seemed overwhelming in the past. I don’t worry so much about what people will think about my work or even about me. Fear seems to cooperate and sit quietly watching the scenery.
I liked this book so much I copied a section into my journal and read over it several times a week.
I recommend every artist and creator (and that’s all of us, isn’t it?) read this book.
If you are reading my blog hoping for juicy pictures of fiber, this picture of a new handspun yarn is for you.