will never find it. -Roald Dahl
If quotes could be life verses, this one is in my top three! Magic has always felt woven into my soul somehow. Yes, magic. Like “give this girl a wand” kind of magic. But also, the other kind…like the magic of miracles. The sense of that kind of magic permeates my very being. Throughout my entire life, I’ve struggled to articulate this feeling to others. I mean, honestly, it sounds a bit crazy. Hocus Pocus crazy.
But, nevertheless, there has been an enormous, yet subtle pull towards this “magic.”
So when Elizabeth Gilbert, one of my most beloved writers (not to mention, a totally kick-a@# woman!) published her book, Big Magic, reading it feverishly was a no-brainer for me.
Magic. Big Magic. This was it! Liz Gilbert gave me the words I so desperately searched to find, in order to explain this very strong phenomenon, I have encountered many times before.
Big Magic = Inspiration
Every decade, I have some sort of inspirational, creative breakthrough. It is always completely unexpected and usually unexplainable. And in each of these instances, I’ve been pulled by something either in my gut or in my soul towards this energy. My emotions are intense and focused, as if being soulfully guided by something other than myself. When I was younger, I thought it was just luck. As I aged, however, I began to wonder if there was a higher power at work.
A breakthrough. A creative breakthrough.
Joel Osteen , the Evangelist, calls these moments Baal Perazims, as in “God of the Breakthrough.” He believes that God is literally opening up the light and pulling that seed He planted in your heart to shine. For years, I’ve leaned toward this belief as well.
Liz Gilbert calls this Big Magic. Her theory is that when an idea or moment comes to you, it creates “an intense emotional and physiological reaction” within you. Like the idea actually enters your body, “as a disembodied, energetic life-form.”
” Ideas have no material body, but they do have a consciousness, and they most certainly have will.” -LG
Yes, yes….and YES!!
Let me explain.
When I was 17 years old, My dance teacher brought my dance friends and I to a dance convention in New York City. We participated in master classes of ballet and jazz. We entered our dances to compete as well. Now I wasn’t a shining star dancer. I was average. Just your average dancer. I was closer to the Ugly Duckling than Swan Lake, if you know what I mean. But I loved it with my whole heart and my whole soul.
Furthermore, at this same convention, there were scholarships being awarded. My teacher and other dance friends went into the ballet convention, in hopes of winning one of those scholarships. As we walked past the ballroom where jazz was being instructed, something pulled deep inside me. Like I was supposed to learn that dance, instead of the ballet routines. It was more “me.”
So I told my dancer teacher I would be in the jazz convention instead. I completely separated myself from the rest of my studio, and followed my gut. I learned the routine. Gradually made my way up to the front of the ballroom, through all of the other dancers, without fear. Creativity without fear. No ugly duckling. Just completely free.
And out of hundreds of girls, I won the scholarship to dance at Gus Giordano’s Dance School in Chicago. (I never got the chance to go…but that’s another story. #parents)
In my 20s decade, I registered for a textiles class during my senior year at SUNY Geneseo. I was an education major. Designing and creating clothes?? Not so much. But it sounded like a fun elective, so I gave it a shot. Most of my textile creations were nothing to write home about…except one.
Again, an inspiration flew into me, like that little ball of glowing light from Ron Weasley’s deluminator. Our assignment was to paint a scene from a famous artist on one of our clothing designs. I sewed a vest. On it, I painted the scene from my favorite Monet Water Lilies collection. I’ve never painted in my life! It was as the brush had a mind of its own. I was completely relaxed and focused. No worry. No fear. Just creativity.
Do you know my vest was displayed in the art gallery at Geneseo, with all the other art major students’ work?? Big Magic.
In my late 30s decade, about 5 years ago, I wrote my first (and only) novel. The idea came to me, as a scene from a movie. It was the ending I wrote first, actually. The words and story unfolded from my mind as if it had been in there forever….waiting. Which it hadn’t. The idea was just looking for the right collaborator, the right creator.
I wrote 5 chapters in one night and the remaining 5 chapters over the course of that same weekend. I truly believed I was on the verge of greatness, something so incredibly beautiful that was begging to be unmasked. An incredibly, beautiful, courageous story.
In all three of my decade “Big Magic” moments, that physiological and emotional reaction that Liz Gilbert so perfectly explains, happened to me each time. Chills covered my body. My heart raced with excitement, in conjunction with a sense of calm. Such an odd combination, such opposite feelings. But this is what sincerely happens to me.
I heard the whispers from the idea(s), asking me to work with them. I have said “no” to some of these whispers in the past, knowing I was not the one who could do right by them. But these three?
Yes, I had whispered “yes” back, and worked at each idea diligently, with focus, dedication, and appreciation. The ideas needed my love and creative fearlessness, and I put in the time. I proved to them that I was serious and grateful for being chosen as their creators.
Now here’s where Liz Gilbert’s theory on inspiration really hit home. She says that an idea can exit you, just a quickly as it enters. That it is cosmic energy that won’t wait around forever in you, if you are not serious and willing to devote your time to it.
Because this is the other side of the contract with creativity: If the inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you, it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you. – Liz Gilbert, Big Magic.
Yes, yes….and YES again…
Hard to swallow this.
I’ve experienced this phenomenon as well. Whatever it is called by non-magic believing folks: writer’s block, hitting the wall, running out of steam. Whatever phrase you want to assign it, I am sure more reasonable theories exist out there.
But I agree with Liz. Because I have felt it. Because I have been captivated by it. Because I have lived it.
That dance, the one I won the scholarship with?? I was never able to recreate that moment, that dance the way I had performed it on that magical day in the city. I competed with the song and parts of the combinations, but it was never the same. It never FELT the same to me. And I knew it. I was just dancing a series of steps.
The inspirational magic of that moment...gone.
Same with the painting. You should see what my painted pottery looks like…sad. My children’s painted pottery far exceeds mine! That was my Big Magic painting moment…my Monet vest that hung on the walls of the SUNY Geneseo Art Gallery. I’ve never been able to duplicate anything like that since. Of course that idea left me, it wasn’t going to waste its time on someone who had no intention of feeding it and taking care of it. I wasn’t an artist.
And my novel? This is the most painful one yet. It isn’t finished. Life happened and I could not give it the amount same love and devotion I had, when I fiercely began writing it. I have tried. And tried and tried to add to it. Over the last 3 years, I’ve only written one more chapter and sketched out the ending. That’s it. I wrote half the book in a matter of days.
And then…nothing. That mystical ball of light that grew inside of me, like Elvis, had left the building.
And the most painful part is…I felt it leave. My Big Magic was gone.
It had every right to leave. It needed me to be all in and I did not deliver. I was living in fear at the time, trying so desperately to burst out of those walls of “I’m not good enough.” And Fear hates untrodden, unknown paths. Instead of creating space for fear to live with me, I allowed it to control me. And by fighting fear, I silenced the idea.
And so it left.
I was a dancer. (and still am in my heart) I did love to sew as a child and create and build things. (and still do).
But a writer…I have always been. I have journals and notebooks full of a plethora of genre that I have written since I was a teenager.
Writing is something I’ve always done. In every decade of my life, but nothing quite like that novel. It was creativity without fear. It was me. I pray that the idea is still floating out there, unable to find the right author for the writing. That someday, it will find its way back to me…that little ball of beautiful, cosmic, magical light…and fill me with inspiration once again.
But I also know from experience, that for me, inspiration doesn’t work that way. I cannot wish it to me. There is no rule book for it to follow, no confinement for it to reside in. It always arrives “unexpected and inexplicable”, and with quite a transcending entrance, I might add.
I reread the draft of my novel a few nights ago, for the first time in a year or so. (as a direct result of reading Big Magic). I sensed it, subtle chills, in a quiet, non-intrusive way.
“Is that you?” I barely whispered out loud. No answer.
So in the meantime, I’ll maintain an open heart and an open space where fear continues to coexist, but does not get a say in my journey.
And…this coming May, I am so privileged to be attending Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for an Elizabeth Gilbert weekend of Big Magic and Big Music! It is my birthday and Mother’s Day gift to me from me. She is presenting ALL weekend! Elizabeth Gilbert, in the flesh…speaking about life and fearless creativity?! I.CANNOT.WAIT.
That alone is BIG MAGIC.
Still believing in magic and miracles,