Is there a template for being creative?

I’m process orientated. If there isn’t a process for something, I’ll develop one. Elon Musk once wrote, “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. And I agree, but I also believe “Individuals and interactions, then processes and tools”.

Naturally, I’ve searched to find a process for being creative. In developing unique software solutions or marketing. But, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, taught me that creativity comes when (and if) it wants. Like a groundhog coming out of his hole, there’s no way to force it to show.

Crafted with interesting parables, Big Magic is an inspiration for creative people. Or those that want to be creative but are scared to start.

One of my favorite quotes, “…it’s difficult to create things; if it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be special or interesting.”

Buy this book if you need inspiration or motivation in your creative pursuits. For those who want to be creative, buy this book to help get you started.

Don’t buy this book if you’re looking for a process. There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint for being creative or creating success. Thanks for bursting my bubble Elizabeth Gilbert.


Favorite highlights:

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Aspiring writers will often tell me, “I have an idea, but I’m afraid it’s already been done.” Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done—but they have not yet been done by you.

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By the time Shakespeare was finished with his run on life, he’d pretty much covered every story line there is, but that hasn’t stopped nearly five centuries of writers from exploring the same story lines all over again.

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what if we repeat the same themes? So what if we circle around the same ideas, again and again, generation after generation? So what if every new generation feels the same urges and asks the same questions that humans have been feeling and asking for years? We’re all related, after all, so there’s going to be some repetition of creative instinct. Everything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours.

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Just say what you want to say, then, and say it with all your heart. Share whatever you are driven to share. If it’s authentic enough, believe me—it will feel original.

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No way was I going to give up on my work simply because it wasn’t “working.” That wasn’t the point of it. The rewards could not come from the external results—I knew that. The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it.

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it’s difficult to create things; if it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be special or interesting.

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Recognizing this reality—that the reaction doesn’t belong to you—is the only sane way to create.

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If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it.

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your education isn’t over when they say it’s over; your education is over when you say it’s over.

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So when can you start pursuing your most creative and passionate life? You can start whenever you decide to start.

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If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work—perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work.

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The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instants are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.

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the secret to finding your purpose in life is to answer this question in total honesty: “What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?”

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“What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?”

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Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.

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Let yourself fall in love with your creativity like that and see what happens. Stop treating your creativity like it’s a tired, old, unhappy marriage (a grind, a drag) and start regarding it with the fresh eyes of a passionate lover.

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Rebecca Solnit puts it well: “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.”

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Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes—but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work. Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.

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The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue. In job interviews, for instance, people will sometimes advertise their perfectionism as if it’s their greatest selling point—taking pride in the very thing that is holding them back from enjoying their fullest possible engagement with creative living. They wear their perfectionism like a badge of honor, as if it signals high tastes and exquisite standards.

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“We all spend our twenties and thirties trying so hard to be perfect, because we’re so worried about what people will think of us. Then we get into our forties and fifties, and we finally start to be free, because we decide that we don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of us. But you won’t be completely free until you reach your sixties and seventies, when you finally realize this liberating truth—nobody was ever thinking about you, anyhow.” They aren’t. They weren’t. They never were.

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Go be whomever you want to be, then. Do whatever you want to do. Pursue whatever fascinates you and brings you to life. Create whatever you want to create—and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice. And that’s awesome.

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also kept remembering what my mother always used to say: “Done is better than good.”

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General George Patton’s: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

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Lois Rosenthal didn’t want “Elk Talk” when it was submitted to her by an unknown author, but she did want it when it was submitted to her by a famous literary agent. Therefore: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Talent means nothing, and connections mean everything, and the world of creativity—like the greater world itself—is a mean and unfair place.

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I don’t sit around waiting for passion to strike me. I keep working steadily, because I believe it is our privilege as humans to keep making things for as long as we live, and because I enjoy making things. Most of all, I keep working because I trust that creativity is always trying to find me, even when I have lost sight of it.