Perusing blogs on creativity and art this morning, I came across a pretty great quote this morning by a writer I don’t know anything about other than I’ve seen her book on tables at Barnes and Noble. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, has this to say about talent, process, and making the work:
“I can’t get behind the ambition to be ‘discovered’ as much as I can get behind the ambition to write beautifully and honorably and steadfastly. Here’s what I believe about creativity. I believe that creativity is a living force that thrums wildly through this world and expresses itself through us. I believe that talent (the force by which ephemeral creativity gets manifested into the physical world through our hands) is a mighty and holy gift. I believe that, if you have a talent (or even if you think you do, or maybe even if you just hope you do), that you should treat that talent with the highest reverence and love.
“Don’t flip out, in other words, and murder your gift through narcissism, insecurity, addiction, competitiveness, ambition or mediocrity. Frankly – don’t be a jerk. Just get busy, get serious, get down to it and write something, for heaven’s sake. Try to get out of your own way. Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the PROCESS. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless. Just love the work.”
Notice the “representative metaphor for diligence.” Can anyone say “Proverbs?”
I also like her phrase “murder your gift through…” and then comes the list of destroyers of what might have been. Perhaps this quote resonates because I’ve spent a fair amount of my life “flipping out” at the wrong moments, thrown off track by navel-gazing and wishing for illusions. There will always be multiple reasons why the work of the day will probably not be Mozart or Shakespeare, or even the best of what is possible for you (which may be the most elusive and damning of goals, after all.) “Work like a monk” she says, and “love the work.” Sounds like a beginning of theology to me. I don’t subscribe to the destiny part, but God will indeed be sovereign regardless of what you create.
And I’m pretty sure that creation is a big hunk of why we’re here.
Getting to it, staying alive…
2 Replies to “On Not Murdering Your Gift”
An excellent reminder. Thanks for the post. Any tips on how to train yourself for diligence? Sometimes I find myself using the excuse that it would be easier if I were a monk–then I’d have no distractions. Of course that’s not true. But that’s what I say.