Three months ago I saw an ad for tickets to spend A Day With Liz Gilbert and Rob Bell and immediately bought one. Liz’s book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, had been on the shelf behind my desk for months. I bought it because learning how to live life less fearfully and more creatively is one of my passions, but I'd been so busy trying to "do" creatively that I hadn’t gotten around to reading it. I figured the next best thing would be to see her in person. I didn’t know much about Rob except that he was Liz’s friend, and any friend of Liz’s, I assumed, would be worth listening to. I was ready to receive wisdom on life, creativity, and writing. They didn’t disappoint.
Monday morning, three hundred of my closest friends and I showed up at Wanderlust in Hollywood. Since I hadn’t read Big Magic or Rob’s book How To Be Here, I didn’t set any expectations, and I’m glad I went in blind. My oblivion fed my experience, which was a lot of fun. I even had a Big Magic epiphany.
Rob and Liz arrived by dancing down the center aisle, mugging it up to our cheers and picture taking. At the front of the room, they struck a couple of Charlie’s Angels poses, and then got down to business. Liz announced that we were going to spend our day talking about six different words. Had I cracked Big Magic’s spine, I would have been familiar with the words ahead of time, but c’est la vie. Instead, I was delighted and surprised when she announced that the first word was courage. (Read my post on courage here.)
Liz and Rob talked about what courage means to them, what it looks and feels like, its necessity in living creatively, and how being nicer to ourselves can bolster our courage. I’m working on it!, I thought. Liz went on to define what creative living–the foundation of Big Magic–means to her, and I loved it. She said that creative living has a broader definition than creativity alone. “Creative living is any life where you make decisions more often from curiosity than fear.” She continued, “If you do it often enough, it becomes your habit, and your life becomes the work of art.” (emphasis mine)
Then she capped her definition off with this gem: “Creative living is a way of being in the world that’s co-created by the universe.” Who doesn’t want a life co-created by the universe? I sure do.
I’ve read about creativity and its power to manifest our uniqueness in the world, but I hadn’t considered the idea on a grander scale. That by harnessing the power of courage, creativity, choice, and curiosity we are tapping directly into the divine. What some might call, “Source.” This connection to Source then helps us become, on the ultimate level, who we are meant to be.
Of course, any conversation that includes courage is naturally going to include fear, and that’s where our first assignment began. Liz told us to write a letter to ourselves from our fear. I hadn’t expected to be writing. I know! What else would a couple of writers ask a room full of people to do? Luckily, I was prepared, and she told us exactly how to start: “Dear fill in your name, I am your fear and this is what I want to tell you.” And off we went writing letters to ourselves from our fear and then discussing what we wrote with our neighbor.
Enchantment came next, and persistence was third. My persistence letter was a real eye opener. For me, another word that can be substituted for persistence is diligence. Diligence has a starring role in my memoir. It’s been my way of facing the world for as long as there’s been a me. Diligence kept me safe. But my diligence, like many virtuous qualities, had a flip side. Or so I thought. I thought it was my diligence that criticized me, that constantly nagged me. I felt sure this was true as Liz described that many of us have shame around persistence/diligence because we think there’s a road behind us that’s littered with the things we didn’t finish or accomplish. “But,” she said, “there’s another road behind you as well, and that’s the one filled with all that you did do.” True, isn’t it? The way our inner critic only focuses on the negative. (Read my post about my inner critic here.) Our persistence letters, Liz added, would likely be defensive. Mine, it turned out, was a love letter.
Here’s what I wrote:
I am your persistence/diligence and this is what I want you to know about me. Regardless of what you think, I have always had your back. I’ve been on this journey with you since there was a you. I may not always have looked the way you thought I should or done the things you wanted, but I have always been here for you. All the way back to when you diligently tried to be a good little girl, the best little girl you could be and felt like that wasn’t enough; that you weren’t enough. You thought it was me telling you those awful things. Not so. In fact, everything you’ve done, what you’ve survived, how you’ve thrived, was possible because I’ve been here rooting you on. I am your biggest fan. I spurred you on and encouraged you to do better because I knew what you were capable of. I was dropping breadcrumbs along the trail that lead not to the witch’s house, but here—to your destiny of becoming your best self.
I stopped writing, shocked. I felt a tug at my heart. My diligence, I realized, was beseeching me to understand its point of view. “I’m one of the good guys,” it said. Who would’ve thought?
I had to leave early and didn't get to write about the last two words, but that's okay because I had my own Big Magic moment. The moment I realized my diligence is on my side and always was.
That's my two cents. What's yours? Is there a part of yourself you once thought one way about and now think differently about? For better or worse? If so, I'd love to hear about it.
P.S. My friend Rosa Kwon Easton wrote a wonderful post about the same event. You can read her post here.