I hope you don’t mind me calling you by your first name. It seems too formal to call you Ms. Gilbert, when I’m writing a letter explaining why you and I should be friends.
No, don’t worry . . . this isn’t a stalkery kind of letter. I picture our friendship as the kind where we meet once in a blue moon at a cozy coffee shop somewhere, or perhaps (if we are feeling a little adventurous) at a small lunch restaurant serving exotic and flavorful foods. We will each order something different and a little bit decadent, then compare and contrast our selections. Maybe we will share, but I’m telling you now that if it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious I might have to lick the plate.
Most of all we will talk.
What will we talk about? Anything and everything. Life, spirit, creativity, travel, power, friendship, love, food, troubles, challenges. . . I don’t have a set of specific questions for you, because this isn’t about a mentor/mentee relationship. I am convinced that we would talk together as if we had been friends for life–the “kindred spirits” that Anne of Green Gables seeks.
Our conversation will journey in directions dictated only by our individual curiosity and willingness to share.
Then, sated by warm drinks, decadent treats, and ideas that have brought us to the unknown and back, we will say “goodbye, see you next time.” Perhaps we will hug, perhaps not (I’m an awkward hugger). We will go our separate ways, confident that next time we meet we will pick up where we left off.
In other words, I see us as true friends.
How can that possibly be when I’ve only met you through the words of (some of) your books? What makes me think that you and I would connect in any real way?
Inspiration whispered it in my ear.
I discovered you the way so many others did, through the pages of EAT, PRAY, LOVE. I read it with a book group made up of diverse women, and I remember each of us had varying reactions to the work. Some loved it, some hated it, some responded more favorably to one section and less favorably to others. It all depended on where they were in their own life journey. At the time, I responded most strongly to “Pray” because I was facing, yet again, a change in my circumstances. I was searching for a sense of understanding about what the universe had in store. Then again, I also remember wishing I could travel to Italy and just dive into the flavors of the world.
What that book really told me is that we are all on our own journeys and we need to be open to possibilities. That is how I am trying to live my life.
I met you next by listening to your TED talk where you sparked so many others with your concept of creative genius–something outside ourselves, rather than something we are. I have always believed (inspired, perhaps, by Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way) that we are surrounded by a pool of creative energy, swirling and dancing around us. If we are open to its song, its dance, we can access its energy and uncover its gifts.
That leads me to your new book Big Magic, the reason I’m writing this letter. As I read it, I occasionally read passages out loud to my husband (another creative soul); passages achingly brutal in their honest perspective; passages that tear my heart out, stomp on it, and then put it back so that it beats in a new way. Your words reinforce things I have always believed, while challenging my perspective in other ways.
Do I agree with everything you say? Not completely–but friends don’t have to agree all the time. Those areas where I disagree would simply expand our conversation. For example, while I do agree that my personal art (i.e. the art I produce in various forms) is unimportant–that what we do as artists has no crucial value in an apocalyptic society–I think that ART is valuable to society as a whole. It is what makes us human. It allows us to learn/see/understand the world differently. People who have cut themselves off from creativity–from art–seem to struggle through life in a joyless fashion. While I, like you, believe that everyone is creative, that belief doesn’t matter if people don’t see their own creativity. I’ve seen many people push aside the possibility of them being creative and then wander into my classroom closed off to anything but the path to making them most successful.
I don’t let them wallow in dismissing creativity for long. I try to show them how being open to creativity allows you to be open to other avenues for success–as long as you don’t define success merely in numbers (money made, units sold, etc.) I just wish I could take those messages to heart myself–because sometimes it is difficult not to allow the judgment of others to creep in.
I just read a review of your book where the reviewer mentioned how it is difficult to hear reminders from a SUCCESSFUL author about how most of us will FAIL. I don’t disagree with him, because we do live in a world that judges success mostly on monetary terms. To be able to say that one should focus only on the joy of creating, without worrying about what other people think, comes, in a way, from a place of privilege where you can afford (either mentally, or financially) to do that.
At the same time, I realize how important it is to do that.
I’ve recently been trying to live my new motto “life on my own terms” and that is very much related to Big Magic. It requires trust and faith. It requires the ability to not worry so much about what other people think. It is difficult, and often I fail.
But, as I read your words, I realize that there are other people in the world who think as I do. I’ve met them through their books, their blogs, their plays, their paintings. I’ve met the through their art. I count them all, in some ways, as friends. I’ve only met a few of them in real life–but we’ve always talked as if we were old friends. I think that is because we are connected by that creative pool that surrounds us. Our spirits recognize each other.
Which brings me back to the whole point of this letter. I know that it probably won’t happen, but I look forward to the day we meet and discuss the meaning of life over a cup of hot chai.