Big Magic in Your Day
I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Suffice it to say, I have a renewed sense of why I make music. Her book gives encouragement and permission to fully delve into all parts of music making and composing in a freeing way that I hadn’t fully embraced.
Gilbert explored the notion of having a love affair with your art. Let it love you and help you dive deep to find whatever needs to be found. She debunks the notion of the "tortured artist" as the quintessential way to make art. It does not need to be a battle with conquerors and sub-missives. It can be an unfolding of layers upon layers.
For me, as a musician, this translates into taking the process of practice and creating seriously. It needs to be a steady part of my day, up there with healthy eating and exercise. I learned long ago than even just five minutes a day of practice could improve my mood and my playing. A regular practice sets the stage of allowing the magic to happen. It gives me a chance to pause and momentarily drop into a creative space.
I am also learning to stay with the music no matter how rough it sounds or how loud is the cacophony of my inner critics. It can be about staying with the rough parts to get to the sweet spots. Warming up my voice can include traversing through some funky sounding tones. I am learning to trust this as an important part of the process. Sometimes I write songs that need to be written but will never leave my studio. I can dance with the process and be curious as I explore the many angles of music making.
Gilbert makes a point that tying your art to your livelihood can put undo pressure on the art and on your life. She advocates for a day job to pay the bills and do your art wherever and whenever you can. Maybe think of the day job as your patron for your art. It allows for greater freedom to create the kind of art that you are really called to do.
Of course, there is always the question of time and fitting it all into to a day. It is helpful to be compassionate, realistic, and curious and creative in figuring out how you can keep your music alive and happening. Sometimes a guitar on a stand in the living room is all that is needed for you to pick it up throughout your day. I believe there is cumulative affect in playing music, all those musical moments add up. My family sings our mealtime blessing when we are together for dinner. This insures at least five minutes of satisfying harmony singing. Of course, this singing also allows us musically connect with one another, and to pause from our fast paced lives… more on that in a future blog.
In Gilbert’s Big Magic, she gives permission to fully and unabashedly give in to whatever art form calls you. She is reassuring that you will be rewarded in ways you may not expect, and that creating is as much about the process as it is the product. So here's to the music/art that starts from within and pulls at us to explore, create, emote, and make magic happen!!
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Dr. Barbara Dunn: