Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert has made a successful career following her creativity, so naturally she gets asked for tips all the time. Even if you don’t have a career that allows you to be creative every day, there are ways you can follow the ideas that fascinate you. Here’s how:
1. Follow your curiosity
If you think only writers, artists and musicians can be creative, think again. Gilbert is a strong believer that anyone can be creative and “creative” shouldn’t be confused with “artistic.” “The definition of creative living is paying attention to your curiosity and following wherever it leads you,” she says. “It’s going to lead to a much more interesting life, no matter what it ends up producing or doesn’t produce.”
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2. Uncover your “strange jewels”
In “Big Magic,” Gilbert encourages readers to uncover their own personal, “strange jewels,” a thought inspired by her favorite poet, Jack Gilbert: “The jewels that are hiding inside you are begging to say yes."
“The jewels can be anything from talents to virtues to purpose in life,” she says. She adds that following what you find interesting is part of the treasure hunt that can lead to a more curious life. “Those things are clues trying to get your attention. Put some energy behind it and follow up on it,” she says.
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3. Stop making excuses
Gilbert says people often write her on social media complaining that they don’t have time to be creative. Gilbert fires back that if you have time to be on social media, watch TV or read magazines, than that isn’t necessarily true. “When I start to pick apart that argument with people, it turns out it isn’t really a question about having time,” she says. “They’re afraid. They’re afraid they don’t have the material, or the right training, or they’ll get rejected or ignored. It doesn’t really have to do with time.” She stresses that once people put aside these fears, they can uncover something great.
4. Cultivate a creative community
Her book says success in creativity is part hard work, part magic and part of the magic is surrounding yourself with people that can help foster your creativity. Search for groups of people who are curious about the same things you are either online or in meet-up groups. “They aren’t hard to find,” she says.
5. Practice self-forgiveness
It’s human nature to start off excited about an idea, but for that interest to fade over time until you end up abandoning the idea all together. Gilbert says the key to seeing a creative project through is self-forgiveness. “You have to look back at what you created and say, I’m still learning and experimenting. Even if I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, this is still worth my time,” she says. “Even if it doesn’t turn out to be what you [thought] it would be, it might turn out to be something else kind of cool.”
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence