Written by Alison Murphy
As many of you know, I have a personal studio practice, as well as my administrative day job working as Craft NB’s Executive Director. My time and focus in the studio ebbs and flows with available space and energy, but is always an important part of my life. Creating keeps me sane, de-stresses my mind, and allows me to connect with this world and my existence in a way that I can’t do through any other means. Recently, a friend and fellow craftsperson, Jennifer Houghtaling of Earth & Vine Studio, suggested I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. After expressing to Jenn that I was having difficulty understanding the logic behind setting aside my commercial work in order to indulge in more curiosity-based, inquisitive “weird” art. In reality, I’m tired of creating felted landscapes. Although I may return to these landscapes one day, all I currently want to do is experiment and play with processes and found objects. Growing crystals on bones, adding gold-leaf to rusty old cogs, and curating mini-collages from odd objects has my creative child-like inner self tingling and excited. Being a sucker for process and play, I love discovering new creative ways of making, and I light up at the idea of combining these processes in new ways. This way of creating is not only play-based, but also a way of asking questions of myself, exploring personal curiosities and meditating on a range of ideas. But where’s the logic and pragmatism in using studio time to do that? I should be making stuff to sell, right?
Big Magic helped me immensely with this personal conflict and allowed me to frame my creative practice in a new way. It is joyfully written by Elizabeth Gilbert and is reassuring, encouraging, and a fantastic shove for anyone feeling hesitant, lost, excited or questioning their next steps along their creative path. Gilbert nudges, “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.” Big Magic looks at the elusive creative impulse and the mysterious nature of inspiration. Gilbert speaks to how the idea of a muse has changed throughout time, and I think this is one of the parts that most strongly affected me. By asking questions about my own personal views of inspiration, I gained insight and a new, more generous and accepting way of approaching my studio time. Big Magic helps to take some of the ‘scary’ and ‘vulnerable’ out of the way and allows the reader to approach creativity with a genuine sense of play, dedication and bravery. She encourages the reader to “be the weirdo who dares to enjoy” and verbalizes what I (and probably most of you) believe to be true: “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life”.
The video below is a TED talk by the author on the subject of creativity. Have a listen to get a taste of the book and a feel for the content. The full audiobook of Big Magic is available on CDs through the New Brunswick public library system (it’s a great companion for commuting or creating), or you can purchase Big Magic from any bookstore.