In this week’s episode of Unlocking Big Magic, Lesley and I talk about the Enchantment chapter of the book, Big Magic. This chapter is about ideas: where they might come from, what happens if you act on them and what happens if you don’t.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the indescribable magic of creativity. Some of the stories and examples are a bit ‘woo’ and having experienced some of what she describes, I totally buy into it.
We cover the following topics:
- How to create a partnership with an idea and not be its slave or master
- How to let go of the tortured artist persona
- Trusting in the abundance of ideas
- Understanding that success or failure doesn’t matter
- Accessing the realm of artistic ideas
- Bringing ideas to fruition
- How the view of genius has changed over the centuries and why the role of the ego has crept in – and what you can do about that.
If you haven’t read Big Magic then I heartily recommend it. If you’ve not read it for a while then it is definitely one of those books where you can learn more from a second read.
You can watch the video or listen to the audio. You can also scroll down for a transcript of the episode.
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, welcome back to the next instalment of our unlocking Big Magic conversations, conversations about creative living. So, we are basing these on Elizabeth book Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear, my name is Cali Bird & with me is Lesley Pyne. So a quick introduction about myself and I’ll pass you to Lesley. So if you didn’t watch the first episode, first of all, they’ll probably be a link to it wherever you’re watching this, you might be watching this on my blog or Lesley’s blog. And we’ll definitely link to the first part and subsequent parts of the conversation. So yeah, my name is Cali and I love to encourage people to get on with their creative projects in and around what they have to do in life like working looking after kids looking after family. I also love to write I recently published this book, my pride and joy. And Lesley & I love to chat about creativity, so I just let you introduce yourself Lesley, a bit more fully.
Lesley. Thank you. I’m Lesley Pyne, author of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness, blogger and supporter of childless women. Creativity has been really, really helpful for me on my journey to wholeness if you’d like to call it that. And it’s becoming more and more important. I mean, living a creative life is who I am actually now. And that’s me.
Cali. Okay. So just to place these conversations, we are looking to be releasing them early in 2021. We are recording in November, Monday, 9th November. Because we do seem to live in a fast-changing world these days with Coronavirus and everything else. So, yeah, we’ve just had the US election. We think we have a victor, but there might be some stuff to go through court. So we’ll know the outcome of that more fully by the time we get to watch this. Coronavirus is out there but there’s vaccine news today so let’s see where that leaves us. So that just places any context of what we’re talking about today in case the world has moved drastically again before you get to see this. That’s what seems to happen at the moment but on the other hand we are also talking about very universal principles here. So last time, we talked about courage, this time, the second chapter in the book is called enchantment. And it’s essentially about ideas and creative ideas and life ideas Lesley shall I hand to you. because you when you first read this you, you sort of a bit weird, didn’t you? So are you elaborate on that?
Lesley. Yeah, first of all, I would say enchantment, for me, it’s like, Okay, what does that mean? Well I looked it up in the dictionary to start with, and it’s quote, ‘feeling of great pleasure, delight, the state of being under a spell or magic’ so I guess what we’re talking about here is the magic of the Big Magic title. And when I read the chapter on Enchantment, I mean, we’ll talk through this in a minute, but I just thought, when I first bought the book, 7th October 2015, it was a bit too woowoo for me, so, but now I’ve read it again. And it isn’t, I absolutely agree with what she’s talking about all the way through, because my experience supports it. So if you’re feeling this is all a bit odd, go with it, listen to it, like everything, you know, go with it, see where it lands and be open to the possibility that it might just happen to be true. So yeah, go with it, I would say.
Cali. So what she says about ideas opens up in the chapter. Elizabeth Gilbert sees ideas as not people but things, invisible things within their own right, don’t they and the idea some people might call that the muse. But the idea sort of visits you that the idea needs a human really to come alive. So, it might be about writing a book or creating a community as you’ve done or just, you know, making chutney or whatever it is, you know, your creativity doesn’t have to be art with a capital A, you know, lots of activities can be creative.
So, so there’s an idea to create, let’s just use a story as an example so there’s a book about something. And that idea is out there. But it can’t come to fruition. It can’t be on a bookshelf until somebody runs with it, and makes it does the work for it. So, it is quite magical. It’s quite woowoo the way Elizabeth Gilbert describes this because it’s like ideas floating around there. And they choose a person. And then manifest. But sometimes, you know, we all have ideas. Sometimes we might have ideas late at night & then the next morning, I think, no, I can’t do that. Or you know, very often we find 100 reasons not to do something, or we’d love to deep in our heart but we think No, I don’t think I can And we come up with all the excuses why we can’t. So, ideas are also quite transient because if you’re not going to do it, you know, the idea is going to move on basically. Or if you don’t sort of get on with it quick enough. So it Yeah, it is woowoo, but I think when you’ve done creative pursuits, or when you’ve done a project, which is really close to your heart and your soul, I think, and you come out the other side of it, I think you can, like instantly, yeah, I sort of bought in to it right away. That’s how my writing works.
Lesley. Yeah, I think for me, also that actually happened to me. The idea to write a book had been sort of there in the background, but I’d kept saying no to it. And then all of a sudden, I was sitting on a yoga mat, in a class and it just landed as to Yes, I’ve got to do it. I HAVE to do it. It’s my mission. Nothing is going to stop me. I’m going to write a book. And so, you know, I had to do it. And I wanted to do as well.
You can say no, of course and the idea goes off and finds somebody else, although it would never be the same book exactly. There’s only you can write your book, or there’s only you can make a particular thing. But if you say yes, then that there’s a whole journey that you have to go on. I mean, she talks about the tormented artist, and maybe we’ve all done a bit of that. But it’s more about cooperating, as she says, about cooperating fully, humbly and joyfully with inspiration, I like that. It’s kind of a well, that’s sort of fun, then, isn’t it?
Cali. She talks about being in partnership, which I quite like. She says, you’re not a slave or master because sometimes again, lots of people know, the tortured artist, lots of people are being the tortured artist, I can’t write until everything’s perfect. I can’t write because the muse hasn’t come today, or circumstances aren’t quite right. I’m a big fan of Steven Pressfield who’s about getting through resistance and excuses. And he says, well actually, the muse is only going to come and visit when she sees you working. So, you know, we need to create the habits around that. And, and so yeah, Liz Gilbert talks about really being in partnership with our creativity. Sometimes she’s mentored a couple of projects, where actually it wasn’t right for her. And she, you know, says, well, thank you very much for this idea but I think you should move on to find someone better for it. So that that graciousness, isn’t that not being beholden, or Oh, my God, I should have done it? Or, you know, all that angst around.
Lesley. And it’s also the knowing that the inspiration can leave as well. As you said earlier, we’ve all had ideas in the middle of the night, and then you’ve probably forgotten them in the morning, because it was the wrong time, it was the wrong place. And, or it was the wrong thing for you, you didn’t feel ready at the time. So, it’s that I think there’s a quote here, I wanted to find which I’ve highlighted and of course, can’t find the right page.
P49. Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity… Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvellous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day.
Lesley. So, it’s also about being open, isn’t it to being, maybe changing your state to just be open to things just coming to you, ideas just coming to you?
Cali. And what went through my head when you said that that being open is also the abundance of ideas. Sometimes you think I’ve done this, she herself had a massive hit book, Eat, Pray, Love. And you could get tortured and think I’ll never be able to top that, or what if I can never write again after that? Or what if things aren’t as good after that? And I think she’s done the inner work to not get bogged down by that as much. And sometimes yeah, people think about stealing ideas. She gives this great example because obviously she wrote Eat, Pray Love. She went off when a year traveling around wrote about it. I mean, it was phenomenal luck that was turned into a massive book. And she talks about how, she’s been at book signings, and people have come up to her angrily and said, you’ve stolen my idea. And I was gonna do that. And, you know, it’s not fair. But, you know, first of all there could be two books on travel, but she got on and did it, because it’s, so easy, isn’t it to be jealous of someone else’s success or thinking, Oh, that’s been done, I’ll never get anything else. So, it’s about not getting bogged down with it really is. And I think also abundance.
Lesley. Yeah. And she talks about measuring your worth, by dedication to your path, not by your success or failures. And I love that because it’s what we’ve both done. When did you start doing your blog?
Cali. I started Gentle Creative under a different name Gentle Warrior. 2016. So it’s kind of coming up 4, 5 years.
Lesley. March 2013 was my first blog and they were crap, actually really awful. But we’ve both been dedicated to our path. And we’ve gone through the tormented artist at points.
Cali. Because you do go up and down through these cycles.
Lesley. Exactly. And also that, I think you said in your blog on the Steven Pressfield book that, he said, sometimes you sit there trying to write and nothing comes and for me it’s like pulling teeth, and then all of a sudden, inspiration comes and you think, why didn’t I write this before? And there you go, you just flow. But it’s also that measuring your worth, or worth or success by dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures. Sometimes you get comments on blogs, sometimes you don’t, but you do it for you. That’s as much as anything.
Cali. And I feel that my publishing, having recently published this year, I mean, I’ve sold some copies, I’d love to sell more. I could get bogged down, just with the numbers, but actually I’m so glad that it’s out there. You know, that’s, that’s such creative fulfilment. And to get through all the barriers that have been there over the years, shall I talk a bit more about Steven Pressfield and the way he works.
I’m a big fan of Steven Pressfield, he wrote a book called The War of Art, which is about getting through procrastination. And a lot of people are quite familiar with that book. This book, he bought this out, I think, a couple of years ago, The Artist Journey. And what he essentially says, it’s very simple. It’s it totally congruent with what Elizabeth was saying. That is essentially there’s two worlds, there’s my everyday world who I am Cali sitting at my laptop at my table. And then there’s this artistic realm, it’s like the unseen, but it’s where our potential is. And again, whether this is a business project or an artistic thing, or you’re just going to start a new piece of needlepoint, whatever it is, whatever your thing is, you have to reach into that unknown.
And there’s a thing called the Hero’s Journey, which is, again, all stories go through that, whether it’s the story of Moses, Luke Skywalker. There’s is that journey, stories go through the ups and downs of our emotions. And so when you get that hunch when this idea comes to visit, you have to reach in to this unknown place and pull back stuff into now which is where you sit at your laptop, typing it out, or whatever you’re doing. And that’s a continual cycle. And, and what stands between you and the idea coming to fruition is your own fear and resistance, which we talked about in the last episode. So yeah, it’s a continual reaching to the unknown. And he calls it this the realm of potentiality.
Lesley. I agree completely, the Hero’s Journey. I based my book on the three acts of that. And I always think every rom com is the Hero’s Journey, because there’s no happy ending, unless you change yourself is there? Every rom com, girl goes off, guy thinks, I’m going to stay as I am & I’m going to keep the girl but then he realizes he has to do something himself. That’s the Hero’s Journey, in a nutshell, isn’t it?
Cali. And something goes wrong you have to fight yourself.
Lesley. Exactly. And we’ve both learned a huge amount through writing. We’ve changed. For me the whole process of grieving was my journey through writing my book. I learned so much through it and I changed so much and it doesn’t have to be a big project, it could be cooking something.
Cali. it could be working out in your garden, like designing a new flower bed or something. But you still go through the ups and downs.
Lesley. Exactly. And there’s always that moment when you say do I want to do it or not? And then you go through that bit in the middle when you say, I’ve had enough of it. I wish I hadn’t started it.
Cali. But there’s something that keeps you going there isn’t there is though it’s tricky.
Lesley. Yeah, I was listening to a podcast of Brené Brown’s the other day, and she was using a couple of metaphors from Caesar where she says, we’ve crossed the Rubicon, you know, because when his armies were venturing on Rome once they got across the Rubicon river there was there was no going back. And I think that’s also with lots of your projects. I mean, you can always stop, can’t you but you miss out on that learning and the change that that’s going to happen if you keep going.
Lesley. She also talks about, again, back to the Romans actually, not being a genius, but having a genius.
Cali. Quite fascinating, wasn’t it? And again, Pressfield refers to that, he mentions the word daimon which is like, genius. Yes. I think way back then Greek & Roman times, was that you had that? Yeah, it’s almost like it was a shared resource, or you were tuning in to a universal thing?
Lesley. Yeah, it is. And it’s also like going with the flow and all of that, isn’t it when you’ve got the genius? And also, I think it’s great to say that if it doesn’t turn out as planned, then it’s not your fault. It’s your genius’ fault. But so how do you nurture that genius? How do you encourage it?
Cali. I think you have to take action. Because throughout this chapter it’s this wonderful view of ideas. And she uses her own experience there’s this great story about how a project she gave up on another writer friend, without them ever conferring, wrote a very similar story. And she could actually see the idea going from me to her. it’s all very woowoo. But I can totally buy into it. I don’t know what it is, I just do. But throughout, she does make the point that you need, certainly speaking as a writer, you need to do the work, you need to take action, you need to learn because we have to learn the craft. And again, whatever activity you’re doing, you don’t know how to do it well to start with. So again, it’s that willingness to learn, seek advice, whatever is appropriate to the goal really,
Lesley. For me it’s also about when I’m writing, it’s also about the environment is right. So, the music is right, essential oils, a separate space. As you say, it’s creating, nurturing, maybe yourself and your genius to encourage it. And knowing that it may or may not come.
Cali. Exactly. Good point well. You just keep working.
Lesley. Exactly that.
Cali. Pressfield talks about that, the Muse is not going to come unless she sees you working already. Strong on that. I think, when we talked about the more ancient ideas of genius that it wasn’t yours, it wasn’t you as more universal thing. And then she talks about probably it was more in the Renaissance where then, we turned to people & say oh Leonardo da Vinci, you’re a genius. That’s where the idea of being a genius, rather than having a genius, and I think that’s also where then the ego comes into it because then you have to live up to that. And that’s where perhaps a lot of this sort of tortured artists sort of an all the grief and strife also comes in,
Lesley. There is that and you can do everything you can but once you put your work out there, you’ve got no control of it. And we’re probably going to talk about that in another episode. But you’ve no idea how people are going to respond so you have to let it go. And I guess in some ways, it’s nice to know then that it’s this my genius that was at fault if it was a crap blog or spelling mistakes or something like that. But then on the on the flip side, is that the genius takes the credit if it was really good, but there you go.
Cali. Yes. I think about distancing yourself. I know we’re definitely going to hit upon that in the next week or two in one of the chapters, so we’ll have more say on that. She gave a couple of stories of Ruth Stone the poet, who owned a farm so, she’d be on the fields just doing her practical work and she’d get an idea for a poem. And she’d have to run and write it down because literally, she can imagine this poem going along on sort of railway tracks or something. And if she missed it, it’s like the train. Oh, it’s gone, and how she would literally sometimes sort of, reel in, pull it back at you write it down back to front. And that was just like, I mean, yeah. Woowoo. But I’m happy to buy into it. Yeah.
Lesley. Yeah. Me too. We’re up to 20 minutes.
Cali. So maybe we’d better stop gassing s& tart rounding up.
Lesley. So, I guess I guess my question then is what are your takeaways?
Cali. I feel I’ve been trained by Elizabeth Gilbert and Steven Pressfield and Julia Cameron in my writing, and artistic life. And especially Pressfield and especially Elizabeth Gilbert is do the work. So, there’s a quote at the end, shall I read that. So yeah, this inexplicable urge. She says, it’s the very end, page 78 in my version,
All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.
Cali. And I totally buy into that, my drive to write my stories. You know, it doesn’t really make sense. But I’m driven to do it. And I just, I just have to, I have to get them out. So, they’re there for other people if they want them.
Lesley. Other people if they want them. That’s key.
Cali. Yeah, about you. What’s your takeaway?
Lesley. I think I’ve got two actually. The first is about being open. Just being open to ideas, not dismissing them, you know, just being open to things coming to you. And second is that as in the Hero’s Journey, there might be a hidden purpose, that you’ll only become aware of at the end. For me, when I was writing my book, I wanted to write it because I want to hold it in my hand. And a couple of friends said to me, that’s not it, that’s not it. And I said, yes, it is. But when I got to the end, I realized that was part of it but it was also the fact that I needed to do the work to get there. So that was important.
And I’m going to have a third thing which is another quote. I love your quote it’s how I want to spend my life but it’s also (p71)… the quiet glory of merely making things and then sharing those with an open heart and no expectation.
Cali. That’s lovely, isn’t it? Can you read that again?
Lesley. I just shut the book then! And the quiet glory of merely making things and then sharing those things with an open heart and no expectation?
Cali. That says it all really doesn’t. Should we stop there?
Lesley. I think we shall. Yeah,
Cali. We’ll see you next episode.
Lesley. We will bye bye.
You can find out more about Lesley at https://LesleyPyne.co.uk