"We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world." - Jack Gilbert, from the poem 'A Brief For The Defense'
Hello beautiful goddess
I had the privilege of celebrating International Women's Day at the Sydney Opera House yesterday with a special soul sister. We listened to a talk by one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert ('Eat, Pray, Love' & 'The Signature Of All Things'). Her talk was a part of their #AllAboutWomen series, with the juicy subject of 'How To Be Creative'... and let me tell you here and now - ALL of us are creative. Whether it's in the kitchen, sewing, photography, gardening, event planning, writing, enjoying a great piece of art or a movie - we create on almost a daily basis, without realising. The one thing stopping us from creating at a deeper, higher level - is fear...
Anticipation was at peak levels as we waited for the doors to open. A 98% female audience, with copies of 'Eat, Pray, Love' clutched to their chests, were truly eager to hear what this trailblazer had to say. When Liz finally stepped onto the stage, and was being introduced, she proceeded to take her shoes off and place her feet firmly on the ground. Although she excused herself by saying that she had had a "fight with the couch, and the couch won", I was immediately reminded of why I admire this woman so much - her deep sincerity in the face of life. She opened by introducing us to the poet Jack Gilbert, to which she is no relation, but took over a teaching job from once upon a time in the US. The above quote is truly powerful, and Liz delivered it with delicious conviction, I highly recommend reading the full poem here. The poem itself is a call to action, to not only live but thrive in this lifetime, even through the moments of great pain and suffering. If we are successful, then we can calmly lie on our deathbed and think "it was all worth it - my life was not spent knotted up in fear and worry".
Much of the hour was spent discussing that nasty four letter 'f' word... fear. "Do you have the courage to bring forth the jewels that are hidden within you?", Liz asked. From the moment we are being "knitted in our mother's womb", she explains, we start to become afraid to create. Afraid that we have no talent, someone has already done 'it' better, we don't have the right workspace, enough money, enough training, don't want to criticised, ignored, our families reaction or that we're too fat (as if that really affected creativity!).
I really feel that Liz hit a rusty nail on the head - most of our fears, irrational or not, stem from childhood. Either through our own experiences or ingrained in us by our family and peers. She reflected that her own her relationship with her mother was one where Liz wanted to be powerless out of fear and her mother forced her to always step back into a place of power. As she got older, she realised that "if you defend your weakness, you get to keep it".
Her thoughts on fear had me nodding and "aha-ing" constantly. If a thought is simple enough, it can hit you like a thunderbolt with how profound it is. "Fear is boring - because it's always the same". Wow. Yes, yes it is. There is always the voice saying "Stop! Who do you think you are? Are you out of your mind? You don't have enough money/youth/wisdom for this right now!". Those thoughts will always be there whenever you push your ego that little bit too much out of its comfort zone. And creativity by its very nature make us enter realms of uncertain outcomes. So rather than deny or fight it, accommodate it, Liz suggests. Before she starts any new project, she has a conversation with her fear, or writes it a letter that starts with "Dear Fear". That voice in your head will feel a lot calmer if it's acknowledged, and feels like it has a place in the process, rather than being pushed out. That does not mean, however, that it is ever allowed to take the wheel and steer.
I would really like to encourage you, if you have been thinking of starting a passion project, hobby or learning a new skill - do it. Expression is one of the highest forms of self care. You are allowed, dare I say entitled, to express your creativity as a woman. A fascinating fact is that the oldest example of art is 40,000 years old, yet the oldest evidence of agriculture is 'only' 10,000 years old. Expressing our creative desires is an innate and ancient human need.
As women however, our creativity faces an age old foe - perfectionism. We are bombarded with messages that we need to be perfect in order to be loved. This fear then trickles into any creative expression. The fear of it never being good enough. To be perfectly honest, I have that very fear every week, before I hit send on my blog. "Done is better than good", Liz promises, "Creativity is a gift to the creator, before the audience".
My beautiful friend summed up the afternoon perfectly - she mused that Liz has given us all, as women, a permission slip to create from a place of love and curiosity, rather than fear.
So let go of the outcome, beautiful goddess, and create. We help people by shining the light. We shine the light by loving what we do. I always love hearing from you in the comments below. Are you a fan of Liz's work? What are your thoughts on fear and perfectionism? If a woman in your life would benefit from reading this post, please share it with them.
In love and gratitude