Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity, Why Fear Is Boring, and Living a Satisfying Life

Frustration is not an interruption of the process, frustration IS the process. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert Click To Tweet

Creativity is a tricky word. Consultants peddle it, brands promise it, we all strive for it, often without really knowing quite what “it” really is. Put simply, there’s a lot of snake oil around creativity.

Yet it seems like everyone is buzzing about it these days. A lot. In fact, we appear to be in the midst of a social and economic shift where creativity, innovation and content curation are being caught up in a new (and dare I say) innovative value system. People are openly discussing creativity and what it means to them. Many express feeling unfulfilled in their daily lives, seeking to be more creative and craving a creative outlet; many day dream of parallel lives where they can live as the artists they’d always hoped to be. Others consider themselves outside the realm of creativity and deem it a job for the artists of the world.

But we’re all artists of the world, even if we don’t realize it. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

This is what happened to me the other day. As I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I came across a great article based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk on creativity. 

In it, Gilbert suggests we interchange the word creativity with curiosity in order to grasp what the act of creativity in fact entails. We are all curious beings, so why do we have such a difficult time understanding, grasping and even acknowledging the creative process?

To narrow it down, Gilbert came up with 11 points to help guide us through to an understanding of how to tackle creativity. The title of the article highlights the idea of fear; a feeling that we all know too well yet rarely discuss in earnest. I think the discussion really starts here.

As Gilbert points out, fear is not something to ignore, but rather something to acknowledge and incorporate into our decision making when it comes to our chosen forms of self-expression. Writing poetry and sharing it with someone may terrify you but it’s not a matter of life or death. Abruptly quitting your well-paying job to pursue a career as a performance artist when you have 3 kids in school may be a terrifying prospect and, as Gilbert points out, it should be. Fear is there to help us question decisions in terms of risk and reward. Fear helps us come to decisions that seek to protect us; instead of quitting our job we decide to devote our weekends to our craft and artistic endeavours and when we do, we engage in them fearlessly. 

Once the fear is overcome it is time to do the work. Creativity flows through each of us, we just need to allow it to present itself and the only way for this to happen is to “do”. No matter what. The same way we exercise our bodies at the gym or work on our brains through education we must exercise the soul through acts of creation. The more we do, the more we learn, the more we grow. And then we become. 

Here’s her breakdown, in a nutshell. These are fantastic points, and well worth returning to.

1. If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.

2. You’re not a genius, you have a genius.

3. Make something, do something, do anything.

4. Stop complaining and get to work.

5. Frustration is not an interruption of the process, frustration is the process.

6. Let go of your fantasy of perfection.

7. You can’t get rid of fear, but do remember that fear is boring.

8. If something is authentic enough, it will feel original.

9. If you’re in the arts, you don’t need graduate school.

10. Creative fields make for crap careers.

11. Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living.