We’ve reached the penultimate episode of our Unlocking Big Magic conversations. This episode is based on the Trust chapter but I would like to rename it as the “lighten the load chapter” – or “the liberation episode”
Why do I say that? Because it covers topics such as:
- Why you don’t need to know why your passion is.
- Why following your passion isn’t always a good thing.
- Curiosity – why it’s a lot easier and more fun to see what you’re curious about and have a play with that instead.
- Being OK with failure.
- How to ditch martyrdom in your creative pursuits and adopt lighter, more playful energies.
If you’re feeling like a tormented artist in any way – this episode is for you.
Tune in now!
Click here if you fancy a fun escapist read and you’re intrigued by my romantic comedy novel, Tales of the Countess.
About Lesley Pyne
Lesley Pyne is a blogger & author of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: Inspiring Stories to Guide You to a Fulfilling Life.
She used to think she wasn’t creative, however ‘rediscovering’ her creative side was the key to coming to terms with not becoming a mother & of losing both parents. And now she finds that she can’t stop creating.
She lists Big Magic as one of the small number of books which changed her life &, even though she’d read it twice before, discussing it with Cali lead to several ‘a-ha’ moments. She’s excited to share her discoveries with you in these videos.
You can read more about Lesley, her book & blogs on her website www.LesleyPyne.co.uk
Cali Hello, here we are again. We are now on chapter five of Big Magic. With Lesley and myself. We’re doing a series of conversations called unlocking Big Magic where we are talking about each chapter in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. So brief introduction. My name is Cali Bird. I’m an author. I’ve recently published a novel. I also blog about creativity, encourage people to get over their creative hang ups and do what they can. Lesley, do you want to introduce yourself?
Lesley. I will. Yes, thank you. I’m Leslie Pyne, author of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness, just behind me there. And creativity has really been instrumental in supporting me while I was writing that and in developing me since. And yeah, I’m, I love it.
Cali. Okay, brilliant. Okay, well, let’s crack on. So this was the fifth trust chapter. And this really resonated with you didn’t it? Do you want to talk about that first?
Lesley. Yes, I did. I mean, I write about been about this in my book, and I’ve written about it in in various blogs. And it’s mainly about the, quote, passion versus curiosity. And there’s a whole thing about passion and purpose isn’t there and especially when I get when you get to sort of midlife, if you haven’t got one, you kind of feel like you’re missing something and you ought to and you should have one. And I’m there’s a story. If you’re in the States, you’d probably be able to find it with where Liz talks on an Oprah video about a jackhammer, or are you a jack camera or a hummingbird. And it’s the same sort of thing. She’s used to tell everyone follow your passion. And then someone must messaged her and said, You’ve depressed me, I haven’t got a passion haven’t got a purpose. And at that point, she realised there were two kinds of people. Jackhammers who are focused loud on passion. They just keep going and going to the end of their life, following their passion. And hummingbirds who’ve tried different things. They lead create incredibly rich complex lives, and they cross pollinate their world, which I really like that so. And so I think my message from that is if you’ve got a passion, and you’re following it, you probably will you probably doing it anyway.
Cali. Yeah, you know what it is and you’re really doing it.
Lesley. Exactly. And if you haven’t, then think about what are you interested in? What are you curious about? Because as she says, curiosity, – is anything you’re interested in, and then you just follow that. A little way. And if it continues to capture your interest, you follow it a bit more and a bit more and a bit more. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. Come back and start again for next thing. Because passion and purpose, encourage you to make big bold, bold decisions like to sell up your house and go live in a caravan, whatever. But whereas curiosity is light, gentle, mild. So yeah, and actually talks about it as the scavenger hunt of your life.
Cali. See, I never even noticed that and we’ve read it at the same chapter, and you’ve picked out words that I’ve missed.
Lesley. I think, for me, also, this has been he has changed my life. And you know, in lots of ways, because I’ve started doing lots of different things. I mean, I started with yoga and that led me to yin yoga and that led me to training and that led me to sort of lots of different things. And the same with embroidery, you know. And the other thing I like about curiosity is it’s not permanent, is it? You know, I mean, I love embroidery at the moment, and if I stopped loving it, I’ll stop doing it. It’s okay. It’s not, that doesn’t matter. But it’s you know, it’s um, it’s about saying yes, following some movement.
Lesley. Yeah. And maybe it’ll lead you to your passion and maybe it won’t. And either those are okay.
Cali. I like that because years ago when I was doing life coaching and I’m maybe think of the moment or this was about like 10 or 15 years ago now. There was this big sort of pressure of what’s my passion and you must follow your passion. And clients would come to me and like, what’s my passion? I know I’m not happy with my work this that or the other I don’t know what my passion is. And there was this pressure around it and there was this pressure if like your passion was cooking, then are you gonna make money doing it? Well No, not necessarily. I mean some people do, good luck to them and well done to those of you for example, opened a bakery and actually made it successful or whatever it might be. But there is a lot of pressure around it and I like that curiosity, she says it reduces the stakes. And and I love her example occurred curiosity, because she got into it. It’s such an innocent story, isn’t it? She was kind of a bit lost, where to go, what shall I right next. She moved to this house in New Jersey, got interested in gardening, got a fascination around the historical sort of botanical history of plants and moss, followed her nose through various libraries and a bit of travelling. And eventually wrote a novel, The Signature Of All Things, which is that thick, which is essentially about moss, isn’t it?
Cali. You know, it’s about a woman’s passionate about moss. And it tracks history or sort of 18th century history and American history and Captain Cook and Darwin, and, you know, but it is amazing that her her passion and fascination, she wrote this epic story on it. And yeah, she wouldn’t have known that she didn’t know that when they moved into this house. She thought, oh yeah, gardening. You know, I’ll write a book about this. She didn’t know that. So I think yeah, we can take the pressure off.
Cali. Just think and what am i curious about?
Lesley And I think also it demonstrates the impermanence of it because she hasn’t gone on to write another book about moss. She’s read about something else. So yeah, it was curious about that. And that’s where it led. And yeah, there’s a great quote. It’s your curiosity, it might lead you nowhere. Or you might spend your whole life following your curiosity and absolutely nothing to show for it at the end. Except one thing, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you passed your entire existence and devotion to noble, humble virtue, inquisitiveness, and that should be more than enough for anyone to say that they lived a rich and splendid life.
Cali. I really like that. And that comes back to I think, what we talked about in the very first episode, like what’s a creative life? And it isn’t necessarily art or the capital A there? It could be. And it is yeah, about, I don’t know, yeah, living fully.
And I like she also around all this thing of passion, curiosity, you know, sometimes especially with creative pursuits, we get hung up on will it work? What if it fails? What, you know, what if it works, you know, we have fear around success, fear around failure. You know, sometimes we try and measure it in terms of – if I put X amount of effort in, will it pay me that back in money? And often it doesn’t. And yet, we have that expectation. And even if we don’t, maybe the people around us do. I remember once been like a dinner party. And a friend asked one of my artist friends, well, if you don’t make money at it, why do you do it? You know, and that’s it. You know, a lot of people say that. And she’s like, well, just because, like why not?
And so yeah, I think we need to free ourselves to do that. She actually poses a very interesting question. And let me find it. It’s towards the end of the chapter, page 259. And she’s talking about sort of, you know, something might work, it might not work. Do it anyway, you don’t know until you do it. And very often, and again, this comes up in coaching, we say, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Because that often frees people up to think, Oh, well, I just have a go anyway. But she twists this question. And she says on page 259, what would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?
And I’ve never seen that put like that. And I think how liberating
Cali. How liberating to go yep, it might fail. And go and do it anyway. Or so what? That’s what she’s trying to get over, that lightness is good.
Lesley. This whole chapter is about lightness, isn’t it as well? Yeah. Because she also talks about the fact that what you produce isn’t sacred, but what is sacred is the time that you put into it. That and what that time does to change you, to expand. I think we’ve talked about that before. I can’t remember which chunk?
Cali. Yeah, it must have been the Enchantment chapter wasn’t it?
Lesley. Because it’s that thing, isn’t it? I mean, I know God, for me, my writing my book, it was that, that… that changed me beyond anything.
Cali. I remember I remember seeing a transformation in you.
Lesley. So you know, that that was worth it. I mean, it’s also, you know, want to make a difference with it. Obviously, I’m doing that. But if it if I didn’t sell any copies, that would have been okay, because of the work that I’ve done to, you know, it was expensive therapy. Very expensive!
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? You know, it’s … yeah, what would you do? That’s an interesting question to ask our readers.
Cali. What would you do? Even if you knew that you might very well fail? I will say that Gentle Creative people, you will see a blog on this at some point, because I think it’s such an interesting question.
I suppose. I suppose it’s the same as what it is the same as what would you do if you knew if you knew you couldn’t fail? Because both are freeing you up to follow what’s in your heart. Because, you know, sometimes we know, we get an idea. Or it might be about craft stuff. It might be just something we want to do. We want to walk one of those ancient trails or something like that, or, you know, drive across America. It doesn’t have to, again, it doesn’t be art with a capital A. But every now and then we get that … ah..but I really want to do that. And then we find 100 excuses why it’s really not a good idea and perhaps not now and I can’t afford it. What about my work? And and, and it isn’t saying be reckless and give up your job and do it because she, you know, in an earlier chapter she’s very clear about taking care of your responsibilities. But it is about freeing up. Yeah. Well, could you do it anyway? And it doesn’t come off. So what?
Lesley. Yeah, yeah. And there’s quite a bit in here about when it becomes awful versus interesting. I think she described describes it as and that’s that – be careful not to quit too soon. You know, if you think it is going to fail, or whatever, that often? Or there is it? Perhaps I’m speaking personally, now, I don’t know. There is that that potential to stop when things get hard. And they, you know, and she taught that there’s a quote in there for from a friend, Rob Bell, don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.
Cali. You know, we’re often resistant to that, aren’t we? Or, ya know, certainly we have writers, so many writers have got started books, but not finished books yet, because they’ve hit something in the middle. And for whatever reason, can’t get through it and don’t get through it and just get blocked. And you know, sometimes you do have to know when to put work on one side and move on. But often it is, it’s a blocking thing that even stops you starting?
Lesley. Yeah. And I think I think, you know, part of being a creative person is having a number of uncompleted projects. But then it’s also about why did I stop that. I mean, I’m doing this embroidery project that is quite complex. And I did all the easy stitches first. Maybe that was a good thing. I don’t know. But I’ve put it to one side, because I’m recording this in November. I’m doing some Christmas stuff, but it’s gonna get harder now. And I will finish it because she says that I’m putting out there I will finish it.
That is that the temptation is to rush through the difficult bits and quote, they are the bits that not necessarily trance transform me, but they will teach me because I learn the new stitches or whatever, you know, so that that is that. Okay, that’s made me think about it really.
Cali. That is, yeah, it’s a discomfort in not being good at something as well. There’s a discomfort in learning. But it’s only by sitting with that and accepting that.
Cali. You get, yeah, you get to the other side, or you get better.
Lesley. Sit in the bored stuff, isn’t it? That’s that thing. Yeah. Yeah.
Cali. And she also talks in this chapter about like martyrism versus being the trickster. Which I used to really, when I first read Big Magic, I really struggled with this idea of the trickster. Because I, to me, I think I didn’t understand the word or it, it’s, it’s often seen as an archetype in stories or in society, because I think I took it mean, as someone who was sort of duping, or a con artist or something, and I didn’t quite get that. And actually I’ve learned through this read through that, it doesn’t mean that. It’s about going about life lightly. It’s about dancing through stuff, rather than sort of getting too turgidly stuck in it.
And she makes the point. And again, we’ve covered this in an earlier chapter that a few 100 years ago, you know, where ego got more in the way of art, you know, she also says somewhere, you know, a few 100 years ago, might the martyrs got hold of creativity and made it hard.
Cali. And she’s, you know, trying to reverse that with that sort of trickster. You know, it doesn’t matter how you write book. I mean, she talks about Brene Brown here, doesn’t she – who dictated her book with friends giving her feedback. And they went away for a few days and had had a good time doing it.
Cali. And who says you can’t have a good time making stuff? Even when you’re going through the hard bits, you know, and we just have to let ourselves do that, don’t we?
Lesley. Yeah, it’s like tricking, tricking the creativities. It’s come out and play out. Its about making it easy for yourself. I mean, why would you want to make it hard? You know, I’ve been all since from April onwards, I’ve been to every Wednesday afternoon, I do crafting with some friends. And it’s some different people turn up every week. And it’s more fun that way. We’ve all achieved a lot more. We’ve made mistakes, because we’re too busy talking. But yes, it’s more fun. That’s what creativity is all about. It’s got to be fun, isn’t it?
Cali. Because Yeah, I mean, yeah. I know, I’ve had some hesitation in saying it because I know I’ve definitely got sort of martyr, martyr energy in me. I think we all have to some extent, but it’s about getting that balance. Because you know, someone like Liz Gilbert has a tremendous work ethic. And she will sit there and do it.
Lesley. Yes, yes.
Cali. I mean, sometimes any endeavour, whether you’re training for a marathon or writing a book, or building a business, it does demand that you, you stick to the plan and do it
Well, I think.. I think we can bring different attitudes that. You can bring a lightness of attitude, can’t you. And I think that’s what you’re trying to get at.
Lesley. Yeah. And I think that depends what you’re doing, isn’t it? You know, if you’re writing your PhD project, or you’re writing a book, then maybe that’s slightly different from making a cake, or, you know, my crafting afternoon, but it the principles are same, isn’t it? How can I? How can I make it easy? How can I make it lighter? It’s not, you know. Sometimes you might have to be a bit of a martyr, I think just to get it done to get it finished. [15:34] It’s all about making it easy for you really. Choose love. She talks about that very often, doesn’t she?
Cali. Yeah. And that tricks fear as well. I think that lightness and making it fun,, it tricks fear. I often call fear the inner Gremlin. And it, it just, I think it puts it to rest, or you do it anyway. And fear hasn’t noticed, because it’s actually had quite a good time.
Lesley. I was just thinking about that in terms of the bits, the hard bits, if you like that sometimes there’s fear going into that isn’t there? When you think oh, well, what if and this is hard. And she talks about don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding? And that is that maybe, again, that’s another moment to bring out the trickster? The lightness – how can you maybe reframing it into what is it that I can learn out of this rather? Think about the positives. Think about the endgame, why are you doing, isn’t it you know?
Cali. Yeah. How are we for time? You’re time monitor.
Lesley. 17 minutes.
Cali. So what would be your takeaway?
Lesley. I’ve got two actually
Cali. Do you want to talk about that? And I’ve got a couple and then that’ll probably bring us roughly around time.
Lesley. I think the that.. that I’ve probably got three actually! And an end quote. The concept of trusting curiosity. That’s been huge for me and, and that has brought me a lightness and an interest in lots of joy to my life actually. Indeed, start, as she says, started the scavenger hunt of my life. I think I’d forgotten about the hummingbird until I just researched it earlier. But I think I’m become a humming bird.
Cali. Yeah. You definitely are.
Lesley. And the thing about hard – I’m going to change awful to interesting. Hard versus interesting. You know, sometimes I think I do quit too soon, or rush through sometimes things that which have the potential. And there is a quote, sort of: What else are you going to do with your time on here on earth? Not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and curiosity? So that’s what I want to do.
Cali. And you are.
Lesley. Yes, definitely.
Cali. I think for me, there’s a couple of things. Here, she talked so much at the beginning of the chapter about, again, this sort of tormented artist, that we don’t have to be in pain to create. And she talks about how, you know, do we love it? Specifically, she was talking about writing or being in writing class. Do we love our writing? Does our writing love us? And I think I’m quite fortunate, because I think I do have quite a good relationship with my writing, you know. I’ve seen some commentaries where it says, oh, if you know, you’ve got to hate it, if you think it’s any good, you’re deluding yourself. And I just think that’s bullshit. I mean, sure, sometimes that is true. But I’m not going to spend all this time hating what I do, because therefore it must be good or better. It’s like, No, I want to have a loving attitude to it. So she talks very much about, yeah, does what you’re doing love you back, or is was it just about pain?
And so I think I’m fairly fortunate there. I’ve sort of got through that. And she also talks about releasing your work, she talks about how very early on in her career, she wrote the short story, and she finally managed to sell it to a magazine. And then they had to cut back the space and they told her, like, cut it down. And she said, she could either have been precious and said no. Or, and she said in the end, you know, I’ve got my red pencil out, and I cut that sucker down to the bone. And actually, it did work. And then where is it… hang on… bear with me a second.
I can’t find a quote I’ve got written down. But she basically says, how, you know, I wrote it, I improved it, I had to cut it, I did it again, I gave it to them. And then I released it, and I moved on and did something else. I know when this book came out five years ago, and that was two years before I resurrected Tales of the Countess. But I learned so much from it because I learned to not, again, we’ve talked about in an earlier chapter, not making your work your baby. Not being so emotionally invested in it, that you can’t let it go or you can’t let other people have it, criticise it or have their judgments on it. So I think when I, you know, the first time I read in Big Magic that was really influential to me is that, you know, you do it, you put it out there, it’s out of your control, and then you do something else. And I, you know, I really think I’ve benefited from that. And what I’ve been able to do this year and publishing, you know, after a couple of years work of working on the book and editing and all kinds of things. It’s been great just to release it and move on to the next one.
And then I’ve got one final thing.
She talks about this anecdote of a guy going to a really fancy, fancy dress, do. And he went in a homemade lobster costume and got there, and everyone’s that the theme of the party was court, and everyone was in really elaborate, sort of, you know, French Chateau type costumes. And you know, and this guy could have turned and run or brazened it out. And he brazened it out with humour. And I love this quote: I have never created anything in my life that did not make me feel, at some point or another, like I was the guy who just walked into a fancy ball wearing a homemade lobster costume. But you must stubbornly walk into that room, regardless, and you must hold your head high. You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time that you were given. You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.
I just think that’s creativity. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s what I try and live by
Lesley. Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. Well, exactly. I mean, that’s what we’re trying to say to everyone through all these different podcasts aren’t we. Do it, do it lightly.
Cali. Just do it.
Lesley. Enjoy it. Have fun.
Cali. Yeah. Have a go. Yeah. Go start. See where it takes you.
Lesley. So I mean, that’s what we’re doing with this, isn’t it? Actually, you know.
Cali. This is our curiousity. Yeah. Both of us are sort of driven to give this a go and see, see what happens.
Cali. You know, and we’re just gonna put it out there. And then we’ll, we’ll just see. You guys might like it. It might bomb. We don’t know, but we’ve done it anyway.
Lesley. And we’ve done it with fun and lightness, and a few swear words. Okay, so we will be back next week with Divinity.
Cali. This is the last chapter isn’t it.
Lesley. And probably a reflection of, I don’t know. Well, I don’t know what. We’ll be back with next week. We’ll be back with another chapter. Yeah, we’ll see you next week.
Cali. Thank you. Bye.