WEEK 9 - THE ART OF NOT COMPETING
As we continue our journey through BIG MAGIC Elizabeth Gilbert takes us through stories of her own personal process as a creative as well as highlighting the common missteps all artists are creatives seem to come across.
The gift of her insight is that we learn to see circumstances and phenomena we were normally deem “bad” or “unfair” and see from a clearer filter or new perspective how these mysteries of creativity are something to be worked with, not judging or critiquing.
We learn to see the entire process with new eyes, and that process is magic.
One area I have spoken to artists a lot about over the years (and I will keep talking
about) is the false notion of competition.
We have been told from an early age that we must compete. “Survival of the fittest” as Darwin mused.
I find it interesting that “survival of the fittest” is mentioned only a few times in Darwin’s famous work, yet love, communion and community are referenced over a hundred times.
Perhaps we latched onto the wrong message.
We also do this in life.
We could get 100 solid compliments or reviews and one “bad” one and that “bad” one is the only one that counts.
It ruminates in our minds over and over.
We LOVE to focus on the bad, the flawed, the places we could be “better.”
We hid our mastery and potential magnitude every step of the way.
Liz writes that we don't only compete with one another. Competition is so insidious we even compete with ourselves. We always need to “one up” our last accomplishment.
Many of us fail to even try the next thing for fear of failing after a success.
We would rather protect a “genius” or “good” reputation then grow and be in an ever evolving relationship with creativity. And it keeps us in “good” and never knowing ourselves as “great” as “brave” as “human” as “flawed” as actually “creative.”
How often do we resist doing what we think we can’t do?
How often do we only play games we know we can win?
I have recently been doing a lot of things very badly. I find these things and I devote myself to doing them. I am learning french and on a daily basis I hear words coming out
of my mouth and I feel like the most ridiculous fraudulent, crazy sounding person in the world. I go to ballet class and watch the six year olds plie across the room, moving their tiny bodies with grace and I clunk across, head held high in my probably too tight leotard and I just keep breathing.
When did looking good and being good trump the beauty of the creative process?
I have to remind and challenge myself daily - do what you think you can’t. Do what you know you can’t. So you can know yourself.
Liz brings up the example of the divine Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. After the incredible success in 1962 of her book, she was gripped with not being able to live up to herself. When asked if she would write another book she said, “I’m scared. When you are at the top there’s only one way to go.”
Liz asks, can you imagine the Genius, the mastery, the learning, the process the entire world missed out on? If she had written book after book or screenplay or a stand up routine? Can you image what we could have learned about courage and process from anything else she created whether it was good, bad or ugly? We must be that brave.
“But such thinking assumes there is a top — and that reaching that top (and staying there) is the only motive one has to create. Such thinking assumes that the mysteries of inspiration operate on the same scale that we do — on a limited human scale of success and failure, of winning and losing, of comparison and competition, of commerce and reputation, of units sold and influence wielded. Such thinking assumes that you must be constantly victorious — not only against peers, but also against an earlier version of your own poor self. Most dangerously of all, such thinking assumes that if you cannot win, then you must not continue to play.”
The truth is: you dropped into whatever mastery you have found thus far BY playing and throwing yourself into the great depend of the unknown.
You become who you are today because you let go of who you were yesterday.
Your past is not your ceiling. It is your floor.
Can you write out the limiting or sabotaging beliefs you might be carrying this week that keep you from taking the next step or the next risk? Can you see where you prefer the validation of being “good” over growing and evolving? Make a list and see which areas of your life it shows up most.
THOSE areas are waiting for a breakthrough.... Natalie