We’re all reading the same book: Big Magic

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My project from the Skillshare Class Modern Watercolor Techniques

I’ve always enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s talks. She is a great public speaker and storyteller. Unfortunately I’m one of those people who didn’t like Eat, Pray, Love. I couldn’t finish it and I couldn’t finish the movie either.

Why? It just wasn’t my taste. In fact, I’m not a big fan of memoirs. I love reading diaries though. Right after finishing Big Magic and just a few hours after I read the chapter about the tormented artist I began reading the Spanish version of Kafka’s diaries.

Before Big Magic, I read the graphic novel by Ellen Forney Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir

She addresses one of my biggest fears: “does taking medication come in detriment of my creativity? “

I’ve always wondered. And I’ve stopped medication many times for my anxiety disorder because, as my old shrink once asked me: what do you get out of your panic? I couldn’t answer her then. But I suspect it’s a lot and at the same time nothing.

I started my medication again two weeks ago and reading Elizabeth’s Gilbert lighthearted rejection of the myth of the suffering artist, fed my trust in my taking those little pills.

And you know what? No tummy ache for two weeks. It’s beautiful. I’ve always known that my anxiety lodges either in my gut or in my throat and every time I stop I get months of insane, unmetionable, tummy revolution.

So we are all looking for creativity. The highest-valued skill right now. To call yourself an artist, a creative, a maker, an etrepreneur it seems, at least on social media, the best way to present yourself.

And if we all are creatives why do we suffer so much for it? When I read her list of fears in the first chapter I could only nod and nod…
I’ve written a lot on this blog about my fear and worries about originality, I know I’ve written somewhere about impostor syndrome, about finding my style etc.

This book was perfectly timed for many of us… and I’m pretty sure, since I’ve been reading so much about finding your niche and your target market, that the target market is definitely women between 35 and 65…

I’m nowhere in the orbit of Elizabeth Gilbert’s circle of influence. If I’ve listened to her TED talks it’s through someone sharing the link directly but I don’t usually seek self-help materials myself. I found out about her new book because I reunited, after 8 years, with a very special woman a few weeks back.

This woman is a career counsellor who I met when I moved to Canada. She had a program for ex-patriate spouses who arrived to Montreal.
Quebec is a difficult province to work in. If you have any of the following professions: doctor, lawyer, nurse, dentist, architect, psychologist, radiologist, teacher, engineer and a long etc. you will most likely NOT work in your field. There are too many gatekeepers. Some of these professions would require the person to go back to school and spend huge sums of money to get equivalencies. So many spouses, professionals themseves, are met with no job and without the possibility of ever working in their chosen field. It’s basically starting from zero.

My friend, the career counsellor, aware of this, put together the program. Shortly after I met her, she put me in touch with the woman who is now my best friend and helped us navigate the insanely difficult sea of job possibilities while trying to keep our sense of self-worth intact.

Believe me, if you are stripped from your professional self when you switch countries, your self-esteem plummets. And if you don’t speak the language and you don’t have any friends, it’s a very slippery road.

We stopped meeting in 2008. Then I lost touch with her.

My friend, ran into her a month ago and the three of us agreed to meet.

The first thing I noticed, after not seeing her for nearly 8 years, was how beautiful she is. She must be in her sixties. She looks like Blythe Danner, the actress. The second thing I noticed was the book in front of her and after saying hello, she said “you have to read this.”

She is currently doing her PhD, something she longed to do for many years. She is researching inspiration, or as I understand it, how artists in ancient Venice obtained and used it and how we can learn from those artists today.

She is in her sixties, I’m 42 and my best friend is 37.

When I was younger I didn’t struggle so much with creativity, I wrote short stories, I kept a blog, I had a music podcast, I made collages, wrote long letters, made recycled paper, learned to knit, learned to play the piano and the guitar. I even wrote some songs. But something happened in 2006 when I came to Canada:

  1. I had freedom to choose what to do
  2. The Internet exploded

…only then I started to suffer for my creativity.

Part II of this article coming soon!