Big Magic and 'Creative Free Jams'


Big Magic Book

Right after Christmas I stumbled upon this video of Marie Forleo interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert:

I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love and Comitted even more so. I had seen the promotions for Big Magic, but I was no particular rush to read it - until I watched the interview. Afterwards, I immediately hoofed it to my local book store and ordered it (they had tons of copies, but in German). 

I think I read it in a day. It had that signature Elizabeth Gilbert down-to-earthness, and earnest humor that I've come to enjoy, but what really struck me was what an excellent, accesible meditation on creativity, craft, discipline and practice this book is. The principle that resonated with me most was her advice to be a 'disciplined half-ass'. From the book:

The great American novelist Robert Stone once joked that he possessed the two worst qualities imaginable in a writer: He was lazy, and he was a perfectionist. Indeed, those are the essential ingredients for torpor and misery, right there. If you want to live a contented creative life, you do not want to cultivate either one of those traits, trust me. What you want is to cultivate quite the opposite: You must learn how to become a deeply disciplined half-ass.

It starts by forgetting about perfect. We don’t have time for perfect. In any event, perfection is unachievable: It’s a myth and a trap and a hamster wheel that will run you to death. The writer Rebecca Solnit puts it well: “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.”

This is me! Whenever I hear people talk about perfectionism, I think 'Phew, good thing I don't have that problem'. I've never been detail oriented, and my motto is often 'Good enough is fine' or 'Done is better than perfect'. This attitude has it's own pitfalls, but it's served me in good stead.

I do find that from time to time it's good for me to collobrate with people that are extremely detail oriented, and push things to be 'as good as they can be', even if it drives me nuts. However when I'm doing my own thing, 'Fuck it' is often (but not always!) the last thought before I throw something out there, especially when I've spent too much time futzing with it and just can't decide if I like it. I don't know if this is exactly what Gilbert was cheerleading for, but I took it as such.

I read the book right as I was putting together my 2016 goals. I realized that I can get too methodical about productivity and producing x number of products, which can really drain the joy out of creating. For business reasons it makes sense to produce regular collections of designs. However to get away from feeling stifled by the pressure to simply produce because of ca$h mon€y, I decided to introduce a regular morning practice to my routine, that I call the 'Creative Free Jam'. 

Retro Chalkboard Printable Wedding Invitation Site

The Creative Free Jam can be anything that's creative. It can be writing a blog post, working on a design, re-arranging things in my shop, experimenting with photo styling arrangements. The main feature is that it is creative, but there isn't always a product end goal in mind. The point is to have fun! It is not a 'have to' but a 'want to' activity, one that nurtures creativity, not stifles it. 

I treat my daily Creative Free Jam as Gold Time. In other words it's 'important but not urgent' so I do it before I do anything else. I give myself at least an hour, but if I have time and get in a groove, I go longer. Another rule of the CFJam is that I can work on whatever I'm in the mood to work on, even if it's not in the service of accomplishing a goal.

Printable Wall Art - Vintage Pear

So far, my CFJs have produced some work I'm surprisingly proud of. Since I'm not taking it too seriously, I'll throw things into the Etsy store or onto Instagram and see what the reaction is, just for shits and giggles. The whole thing is just...Fun!

I'll start tagging the fruits of my CFJs #creativefreejam if you want to follow along on Instagram.

P.S. After chatting about it with a friend and fellow creative, she made me aware to my great delight, that there's a Big Magic podcast!

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