Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert at Liberty Hall

Liz&Roisin
Sorry for the blurriness, I’m not very good at taking photos. I was too busy soaking up the creative wisdom!

“Stop pretending that you are not powerful.”

This is one of my favourite lines from the author Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve been thinking about it since I saw her in Liberty Hall last month. It was in response to an a question from the audience about what to do if someone is afraid to show their work to the world. Her response, to the predominately female audience, was that for most of human history, women were not allowed to have a voice. In many parts of the world, women are still silenced in many ways. We are lucky enough to be born in a time and place where we are allowed to express ourselves which means we have a responsibility to all those silenced women. There are enough powerless people in the world, stop pretending that you are not powerful.

Another line (borrowed, I think from Brene Brown) was that courage is contagious; by speaking up, you will encourage others to do the same. I really liked both these sentiments. They made me think about #WakingTheFeminists where the courage to speak up was most definitely contagious, it ran like a virus through the theatre community and made things happen.

The event in Liberty Hall – Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation with Rosin Ingle – was very enjoyable. As a big fan of Gilbert’s new book Big Magic, Roisin Ingle was an enthusiastic interviewer and Elizabeth Gilbert was a generous interviewee. She was happy to talk about the book, happy to tell stories from it and to make fun of herself a little bit. She seems to be a chatty person in general – she talks to her creativity, she talks to her fears, she talks to her ideas and her characters; it seems to works for her.

The main thrust of the book is that creativity is for everybody; everyone has the ability to be creative. Gilbert’s describes creativity as being close to curiosity and makes the point that asking yourself what are you curious about is a less stressful question than trying to “be creative”. Instead, just follow your curiosity. She stresses that creativity is healthy, it’s natural and it shouldn’t be the domain of a chosen few.

I also like her idea of creativity being a little bit magic. Gilbert personifies ideas as living things looking for the right collaborator. If an idea decides that you are that collaborator and you don’t show up and show the idea that you are serious about bringing it into the world, it will go off and find someone else to work with it. This appeals to me because I am a fan of collaboration and because it injects a sense of urgency to any creative work. You have a responsibility to the idea, you owe it a daily word-count or regular work hours because it picked you.

Other creative tips from the evening that resonated with me:

Take the day job.
When she was 16, Gilbert made a solemn vow to live a creative life; but she didn’t expect creativity to provide for her, part of the vow was that she would provide for both of them. She says that this was because it was something that meant too much to her and something that she enjoyed too much to put under that sort of pressure. As someone who recently started a non-creative job, this pragmatic pledge stuck a cord with me. It also reminded me of Sara Benincasa’s essay Real Artists Have Day Jobs.

Do it even when it’s boring, because that’s when things get interesting. 
There’s a feeling that creation should be all about finding your flow and then it’s all magic and easy. The reality of making something from nothing is not like that. It can be difficult and it can be boring, but you have to get through the dull parts to make it to the fun stuff. Gilbert listed other things that contain a lot of boredom before the pay-off; these included meditation, sex and raising children!

Treat your art like someone you’re having an affair with.
Be excited by it, be in love with it, spend every spare minute with it. Instead of waiting until you have enough time and the right environment to work, do it every chance you get! Something happens when you work on an idea everyday. Gilbert said that this was the idea trusting you to show up, so the creativity shows up as well. When you do this, things start getting serious.

My signed copy of Big Magic is currently sitting in a large pile of books beside my bed and I’m looking forward to reading it in the new year.

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Weekly Round Up: 25/11/2015

1. Corn Exchange’s Through A Glass Darkly
I went to see Through A Glass Darkly last night, knowing next to nothing about Ingmar Bergman. It didn’t matter, I still really enjoyed it. Wonderful performances and a dark, creepy story. I wondered how a film adaptation would look onstage, but I found it very theatrical. It still felt like a Corn Exchange show. There was beautiful movement and a precision and clarity to each character and every scene. I also really liked the scene changes, which must be one of the hardest things to adapt from film to stage!
It runs until December 5th and it’s really worth seeing. Tickets available from Project Arts Centre.

2. Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation
Tomorrow (Thursday 26th) I’m going to see Elizabeth Gilbert in conversation with Roisin Ingle in the Liberty Hall, a venue I really like but don’t get the opportunity to visit that often. Gilbert has a new book out called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear with a brilliant, colourful cover! You might have seen her Ted talk about the genie in the house, which I think explores similar territory. It’s a book about how everyone is creative and how we should use that in everyday life. I think, I haven’t read it yet, though I do really like this review in the Irish Times by Anna Carey. I think it will be an interesting evening. There might still be tickets available here.

3. Rough Magic SEEDS Showcase
Rough Magic’s SEEDS is a development programme for writers, composers, directors and designers. The programme lasts two years and at the end, the SEEDS showcase there work. Over the next two weeks, you can see the work of these up-and-coming artists in Project Arts Centre, in three shows and a rehearsed reading.

Anna Bella Eema
24 – 28 November | 8.15pm | Tickets from €11-16
An eerie trailer park epic about a fierce mother-daughter bond spoken and sung by three women.

Enjoy
1 – 5 December | 8.15pm | Tickets from €11 – 16
With an ensemble of ten performers, Enjoy takes you inside the minds of a lost generation of 20-something part-time workers in a comic book café.

Unspoken
3 – 5 December | 6.15pm | Tickets €11/9
An exciting new collaboration between Composer/Sound Designer SEED Danny Forde and choreographer Aisling McCormick. Employing music and dance, Unspoken seeks dialogue amid potential conflict, exploring the body as it divides and unites; provokes and resolves.

Traitor
4 – 5 December | 2.00pm | Admission free, booking advised
What happens when the dream comes true, when a radical, charismatic leader from the left is within reach of government? What compromises does she need to negotiate? Set in 2026 and 2016, Traitor looks at the journey from activism to politics. A rehearsed reading of a new play by Shane Mac an Bhaird.

4. The Women of Hollywood Speak Out
While #WakingTheFeminists has been encouraging Irish theatre makers to speak out about sexism (and new testimonies are being added to the website all the time), this New York Times article was shared all over the place last week – The Women of Hollywood Speak Out. It’s about sexism in Hollywood, as experienced by female executives, writers and directors and lots of people working in tv as well. The stories are similar and shows that it’s not just Ireland and it’s not just theatre. Hopefully speaking out about this ingrained sexism is the first step to dismantling it.

5. Pilates
I’ve been doing pilates in My Wellbeing on Dame Street for the last three months, and really enjoying it. I feels like it’s good for my brain and my body. It makes me feel more connected with my body, more present. It’s a Beginners and Improvers class on Monday evening, which I also like because it’s something to look forward to at the beginning of each week and something to help get me through Mondays. It’s a relaxed, friendly class and it doesn’t feel like you’re working too hard, but I still see myself getting stronger week by week, which I love. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try pilates. Suzanne is running a mini-term between now and Christmas and you can sign up for three classes for €25.