I have slowly been reading Big Magic over the last few months. Written by Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love lore, Big Magic is a treatise on how to live as a creative. I appreciate Gilbert’s downhome advice sprinkled throughout the book’s pages. She cautions budding artists from insisting that their art subsidize their living. Gilbert thinks it puts too much pressure on the art. Instead, she advises creatives to find work that enables them to live—and keep adding more beauty to the world.
In one of the last essays I read, Gilbert encourages artists--creatives—to have affairs with their art. She draws the analogy to two people who will stay up late at night, miss meals and steal 15 minutes alone in a stairwell just to see one another and enjoy a few moments of passion. People who are having affairs know they have limited opportunities to be together, so secret lovers have to make the most of every chance they get.
Gilbert thinks creatives should have that same passion, commitment, excitement and willingness to do whatever it takes to spend time with their art. Few people can afford to spend a whole day—or year—drawing, writing, painting or singing. Those of us who aspire to the creative arts have to go to work to make money to support ourselves. The mortgage has to be paid. Food must be bought. Clothes must be purchased to cover our bodies. But anyone can steal 15 minutes in a day to jot down a few lines or begin a sketch. The next day, that same person can steal another 15 minutes to flesh out the piece. Slowly, gradually, over lots of time, something beautiful can emerge out of all those stolen moments.
Now that I’m back working with schools, I don’t have several hours a day to spend on my writing. I have managed to keep up with my daily Morning Pages, however. I also have set aside time on the weekends when I don’t have to work to put in a little bit of time on my BIG WRITING PROJECT. It isn’t as much time as I would like, but I am grateful for the stolen moments with my writing.
By the way, I think Gilbert’s advice to have an affair applies to noncreatives as well. We all need something in our personal lives about which we are passionate—that gets our hearts beating faster and stirs our emotions to greater heights. Without passion—and a commitment to investing in it—our lives become stale, empty of meaning and devoid of fulfillment. No one wants to keep running around on the hamster wheel. We all need something outside of work to bring meaning to our lives; husbands, children and pets do not count.
Finally, I am grateful for Gilbert’s suggestion to separate my art from my income. I think this axiom especially applies to my work as a yoga instructor. I teach yoga, because I love it—and I am passionate about sharing the practice and its benefits with others. I believe all bodies were made to do yoga, and love showing that to my students. I don’t teach yoga to earn a living. Fortunately, my work in education takes care of my financial needs. I am grateful to be free of the pressure to run around teaching a bunch of classes, trying to scrounge together enough cash to make a living. Just as there are few writers, singers and actors who earn the big bucks—and can afford to live off their art--most creatives cannot rely on their art to survive. And that’s perfectly okay. Find a way to earn a living, and continue to create art that bring peace and satisfaction.
P.S. Gilbert also created the Magic Lessons podcast. I haven’t listened to all the episodes yet, but have thoroughly enjoyed her conversations with budding creatives trying to invest in their art in the midst of life’s normal challenges.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.