Of course, the first place my mind wanders is my writing. I have this idea in my head about writing a Hallmark movie script while I am off work to see if I can possibly make a living as a freelance writer. And I have a notebook full of potential Hallmark movie themes. In fact, there is no shortage of ideas. It is all about the execution. And having the courage to take the first step.
I have been waiting all summer for Elizabeth Gilbert's new book to come out. It is called Big Magic - Creative Living Beyond Fear. And I know a lot about fear. It is something I have been dealing with my whole life. Fear of making a mistake. Fear that I will never get exactly what I want. Fear that I will never figure out exactly what I want. Fear that even if I do get exactly what I want, it may not turn out exactly as I want it to.
As soon as I heard that Elizabeth Gilbert was writing a book on creativity and fear, I couldn't wait to read it. I find a certain degree of comfort in knowing that a hugely successful writer like Liz Gilbert has admittedly been afraid for most of her life. And she is willing to be open about her struggles so the rest of us can learn from them.
She defines a creative life as one that is driven more by curiosity than fear. That sounds like exactly the life I have been trying to build for myself. On some level, I know that it is possible. If I had let fear drive, I would have never taken the risk of leaving my corporate job. Or applied for yoga teacher training at age 43, when most of the other girls were in their 20's.
Both of those choices in my life were definitely driven by curiosity. Yet the the voice of fear can be so powerful. It can make an appearance when I least expect it. And when I least desire it.
In preparation for my new creative life, I wanted to give myself a creative space in the house. I have a room in my house that has been a combination office/guest room for years. When I was working, it was my home office. I spent hours in there toiling away at so many different miserable jobs. I wanted to give the space a new life. I didn't know exactly what to call it, and I wanted to stay away from the term "office" so I started calling it my creative room.
Before I could make the space into what I wanted it to be, I had to find a way to clear out everything that this room once was. And everything that I once was when I inhabited it.
I took a suggestion from one of my girlfriends and I decided to sage the room. Burning sage bundles is a Native American tradition. It is a ceremony of cleansing people, places and objects through smoke. The ceremony imparts protection from unseen negative spirits, thoughts or feelings.
My boyfriend was with me over the phone for the sage burning ceremony. I wrote a small blessing to send away the negative energy from the space and invite creativity to come into it. I waved the sage stick around the room, into all of the corners, and even around the doorway. I let the smoke billow across the top of the desk and underneath it. After it was over, I genuinely felt a different energy in the room. The smell of the sage stick remained for a few days as a reminder.
The next step was to pick a paint color. All along I kept telling myself that I was going to paint my new creative room yellow. I went through all of the paint samples and picked what looked like the perfect yellow. It was called Shortbread. I got a sample and painted it on the wall. The next morning when I came downstairs to check it out in the light, I was shocked to find the paint sample screaming back at me. It was so bright. I started to refer to it as Screaming Yellow.
Next up was another color I thought I would like. It was a green color called Aloe Vera. The guy at the paint store warned me that it had a lot of yellow in it too, but I had my heart set on that color. When I got home and painted it on the wall, it screamed back at me too.
Every color I have on my walls is some variation of beige. I really wanted this room to be different. But all of the colors I tried felt way too strong. I started to explore the more gray shades of green. I finally found a minty green color that reminded me of a mellow version of mint chocolate chip ice cream. As soon as I started painting it on the walls, I wanted to paint more. And more.
My boyfriend and I used the sample quart to paint one wall, just to be sure. And then he went back to Ohio and I was left on my own to paint. I have never painted a room before. When I was working, I would just hire painters to come in and get the job done while I was at the office. But in this case, the painting wasn't just about the end result. It was an essential part of the experience.
As I painted the room, I was listening to Liz Gilbert's podcasts, called Magic Lessons. She interviews real people about their creative lives and she asks about their fears. She also interviews friends of hers who are well known writers or other creative people who have found some level of material success in practicing their craft.
I listened to the stories, some similar to mine, and some different. I listened to the various experiences and interpretations of the creative process. I listened to all of the advice on how to get started and how to continue to feed your creative spirit. And as I listened, I felt a sense of connection to all of these people. To all of their stories. No matter where we come from, we all want the same thing. To feel inspired and to create something. Whatever it is that the universe brings forth in us.
Even now that I am done painting I can hear the voices echoing in these walls. Their creative spirit inhabits this space, almost as much as my own.
My copy of Big Magic arrived in the mail this week. I am convinced that this book has magical powers. Her words are so profound, sometimes I will come across a certain sentence and read it over and over again.
One of the first things she explains in the book is that the universe hides strange jewels within each of us and then sits back to watch and see if we can find them. She asks us whether we have the courage to bring forth the hidden treasures that lie within us.
I am ready and my space is ready. Now I just need to dive in and start making some magic.