Big Magic: The Art of Saying Yes

BIG-MAGIC-cover2015 was the year of letting go; it was the year of saying no.

What I reckoned as my dream job began crushing my soul. I said no to it, and went back to my desk job. When I was stuck in a crevice created by a moral dilemma — should I let my furry-friend go on the vet’s table, or give him his time? — I said no to the latter. When the tenant of my dreams, the great love of my life, was uncertain of my worth, I said no to the relationship. Perhaps, it was the biggest no of the year.

Nononono! I drowned in a sea of noes.

But, in the process of saying no, unknowingly I had been saying yes. Yes to love. Yes to peace. Yes to life. I didn’t pay heed to the sunny side then. Naturally. Now that my yes to life seems loud, and pronounced, I had a silent epiphany — I had been helping myself all this while.

Three books helped me make peace with my past, embrace my present, and nurse no anxiety about my future. Susan Forward’s Men Who Hate Women, and the Women Who Love Them. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. And now, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Since I have raved enough about the first two already, I am going to heap praises about the latest gem that my favourite blogger Delia recommended.

When I was writing for a newspaper, I derived immense satisfaction from seeing my bylines. I felt good to realise that my stories were read by hundreds and hundreds of people. I felt empowered. With a wee bit of arrogance in my tone, I often told myself, “Fuck, I have finally become a writer.” But, I found the job stressful, took several steps back, and went to the banking job. I wallowed in self-pity, and depression. I must underscore the fact that I am not using the words ‘self-pity’, and ‘depression’ in a careless fashion.

After I quit the writing job, for several months I told myself, “Fuck, I am not a writer anymore.” Because I was not writing for a media house or a publishing company. So, I bought the idea that I was not a writer. The mere act of putting one word after another seemed as daunting as penning dialogues that would be mouthed by Morgan Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, or Sir Michael Caine… Sigh! Get a drift?

Although writing a blog too appeared like a Himalayan task, I loafed around here, writing about my ‘writing woes’. A friend, who read the blog, sent me a message on Whatsapp. “Regardless of where you write, or for whom you write, you are a writer. You write. So, you are a writer.” Her message ended with one of those livid scarlet emojis. I could only wear a smile. I still wasn’t ready to reignite my love for writing.

My best friend, and I were at my therapist’s. For reasons that still escape my logic, my psychiatrist always made me write about my fear, and anxieties. During one of those sessions, I poured my heart out, channeled the torrential feelings toward a small piece of paper, and waited for my turn to meet the shrink. The wait made me more anxious, because I was rereading, paraphrasing, and proofreading my writing. My friend smirked. She threw an accusatory glance at me, and quipped, “Even now? Like really? Are you checking if commas, and semi-colons are in place? Don’t you think this proves you are a writer?” I guffawed.

I still wasn’t ready to comfortably put my pen to paper, and most of all, I shuddered to call myself a writer. In spite of feeling inadequate, I continued blogging. After all, this’s the wall that bore this child’s reckless crayoning.

Then, Delia recommended Gilbert’s Big Magic. As though Gilbert was determined to address my insecurities, her answers replenished my morale, and love for creative things. Big Magic was riveting because Gilbert’s remarkable conviction shines through. The book seemed to have unloaded my baggage in a quiet fashion, and in its wake, it’s made me confident, positive, and hopeful.

Big Magic is for everybody. Because Gilbert argued in the book that we all have been creators forever. We all are creative. Some of us create because we do it with sheer love. Many of us do not create because we think we are not good enough, we think we should not be arrogant, we wait for somebody to certify us, and we believe that there are more important things to do in life.

In Big Magic, Gilbert beautifully highlighted the power of human mind.

Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a Border Collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman etc.). It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).
…we all need something that helps us to forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up.

When I finished reading it a couple of hours ago, I marshalled my thoughts, and managed to put my finger on the profound impact that the book has created.

Just like Gilbert, who vowed to write forever, I promised that I would answer my creative calls, practise saying yes. I reminded myself that I would do it seriously, yet lightly (like the paradox that she explained), and regardless of the output, and the kind of attention that my creative pursuits might garner, I would put my heart and soul into it, and make love to it for the mere pleasure of exploring, and experimenting.

I reminded myself that I would not let my heart sink if my creations are loathed, and I would not let it fly too high if they are celebrated. I would do because I want to do. I would do because I love to do.

All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life — collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand. It’s a strange line of work, admittedly. I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.

Above all, Gilbert assured that it’s absolutely okay for me to stop, restart, or keep doing the same thing over and over again, like Murakami’s heroes who keep stirring their spaghetti. Because all is fair in love, and there is no war here.

If I had said yes to life involuntarily last year, I have chosen to say yes with all my heart this year. I am saying yes to reading, writing, doodling, colouring, cycling, journalling, yogaing (I am saying yes to being silly too), quotes-collecting, and if I cannot say yes at times, I will withdraw, watch cat videos on Internet, save money to visit elephant orphanages in Sri Lanka and Thailand, and earnestly try figuring out a way to become a panda. 😉 When those phases pass, I will let the other delightful things unleash its magic.

You want to write a book? Make a song? Direct a movie? Decorate pottery? Learn a dance? Explore a new land? You want to draw a penis on your wall? Do it. Who cares? It’s your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart. (I mean, take it seriously, sure — but don’t take it SERIOUSLY.) Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you…

…human beings are possessed of something special, something extra, something unnecessarily rich, something that the novelist Marilynne Robinson calls ‘an overabundance that is magical.

Because I’m obsessed with zen-doodling. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Big Magic: The Art of Saying Yes

  1. What a great review, Deepika. I’m so glad you loved the book and were able to take away so much from it. Like you, I had the same feeling, that EG had written the book just for me, to address all the insecurities and those little things keeping me back from being more creative. One thing I know, there’s never enough time, you know, when you say, oh I’ll do this at the weekend, when I have more time, or during my holiday, or…the list goes on. We must try and do art when we can, even if it means 20 minutes or an hour every day.
    I find fear to be the biggest enemy, and although I know all the reasons why it should not be so important, I struggle with that every time. Maybe this year will be the year I find my courage. 🙂

    I think you would also like “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”
    by Julia Cameron. That is the kind of book where you take notes, more like a manual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Delia. 🙂 ‘Big Magic’ was a fantastic read.

      And, I concur. We must try and do art when we can… Absolutely. 🙂

      I hope you overcome fear this year. I am sure you will. Sending loads of positive vibes. 🙂

      And, Cameron’s book sounds lovely. I am adding it to my TBR. Thank you again, Delia. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Big Magic. It makes me want to read the book even more. I say that on just about every review I’ve read on the book because the issues readers say the book touches on are ones that I battle with as well. In this case, I also don’t often consider myself a writer though I write for my job and on this blog and even start stories that I get too anxious about to finish. I’m sort of procrastinating on reading the book too. I tend to do that when I know something might affect me greatly.

    Lol and if you do figure out how to become a panda, let me know! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally see you. 🙂 And, I am sure it’s going to affect you greatly. I cannot wait for you to read it. 🙂

      I have been trying for a while to become a panda. The answer seems elusive. If I figure out, I shall share the trick generously. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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