Are you afraid to invest time and energy into something that may never pay you back? Here’s how to embrace the divine mother in you to create what’s calling your name.
I’ve known I wanted to write since I was 18. It took me until the cusp of my 36th birthday to take myself seriously and answer that call. What held me back from doing what I really want to do is the same thing that holds us all in check. As one woman so perfectly articulated in a letter to best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert, “I don’t want to waste a whole bunch of months and years on something that might not turn into anything in the end.”
I first heard this honest confession and Gilbert’s sage advice at The Florida Theater on her Big Magic tour. As Mother’s Day approaches I can’t help but think back to the talk Gilbert gave that night.
Why create? Why love? Why push these brain children out into the world?
1. This path will transform you.
“You have to do this thing not because it will be a success or change the world but because it will change you,” says Gilbert.
When you become a mother, your old life dies. You might think you can still camp out in the Starbucks cafe for 2 hours and travel to Hong Kong whenever you feel like it. But you can’t. I mean, you can, but it won’t be the same as when you were your footloose and fancy-free childless self.
Once you get that twinkle of an idea in your eye, you can keep grinding away at the standard 9 to 5. You can hang out with the same old people who look at you like you have two heads when you talk about your dreams. But you probably won’t want to.
When I was still thinking about becoming a mother, I fell in love with a quote from an old mommy blog: “There is a definitive link between being a mother and the risk of losing one’s self. I’d like to flip that around. Being a mother and the risk of finding oneself.”
2. It will give you a reason to get out of bed.
During her Big Magic tour, Gilbert committed to asking this one question of everyone she met: What are you most excited about right now?
“What is it that makes you feel a sense of flame in your life?” Gilbert went on to ask the audience. “What is the reason you continue living and getting out of bed?”
As a mother, my children are the reasons I get out of bed most mornings. Granted, I usually don’t hit the floor with a spring in my step at 7am, but there’s no denying that innate mandate to get the hell up. Through divorce, new loves, breakups, and legal dramas, my kids keep me grounded and moving forward.
Giving rise to your creative life helps you remember, as Gilbert says, “We are not just here to pay bills and die.”
3. Your pain has purpose.
One of the women Gilbert met on her Big Magic tour told a tragic story of how she and another woman connected over their shared experience of miscarriage. After the older woman helped the younger woman through her pain, the two decided to start a book to reach more women struggling with the pain of miscarriage. This book was the thing the woman was most excited about in her life.
“One of the strange side effects of pain is that it allows you to connect with another human and walk them through what they think they cannot face,” she explained.
That’s very much what I’m doing with my writing, and it mirrors my experience of labor and birth. Birthing my babies was one of the few experiences in my life where I could see concrete purpose in my pain in the span of 24 hours. When it comes to your creative life, widen that perspective. What pain has the universe given you that you are now spinning into gold?
4. It will teach you to live beyond fear.
“Choose the path of curiosity over the path of fear,” says Gilbert.
I still remember laying in bed with my firstborn son when he was a newborn baby, gripped by shear panic over the possibility of losing him. This human I loved so intensely could be taken away in an instant. But every mother must learn to live with and not from that fear. We must confidently send our babies out into the world of germs, preschool, bullies, and accidents to face life and grow.
And so it is in the creative life. You can’t give into the daily fears of failure. You have to go do.
5. You’ll discover that balance is a sham.
Whether single or married, most moms feel overwhelmed. At the end of the day there’s just too much to do: self care, child care, work, chores, errands, meals. It’s too much, and no one mama ever gets it perfectly balanced.
Gilbert put it this way: If you knew a perfectly balanced woman, would you even want to be her friend? Probably not.
In reality, we fly by the seat of our pants doing the best we can, diving into what matters most on any given day.
“As in life, so in art,” says Gilbert. “It’s not balance; it’s a free fall.”
6. It’s your chance to show instead of tell.
At the end of the night, an audience member came to the mic and asked Gilbert how to wake her college students up out of their close-minded views.
“You don’t tell them. You show them,” Gilbert replied.
Gilbert went on to explain that she is not a teacher or a mother. “I am not responsible for any human’s development,” she said. “But I used to be a kid, and you couldn’t tell me anything.”
It’s the same with my boys. I’ve read stacks of books on discipline and have tried countless strategies to turn them into more civilized little humans. They’re still monsters, but the one piece of feedback I constantly receive from teachers is how kind and empathetic my boys are. Guess who they learned that from. I’m sensitive, emotional, and kind. So are my boys.
When it comes to your creative life, don’t talk about what you’re going to do when the stars align. Put down all those books on how to become a better writer. You’ve already taken that class on how to become a more skilled painter. It’s time to write. It’s time to paint.
It’s time to create.