My transition from full-time Educational Diagnostician (with salary and insurance) to a full-time artist (minus security or safety) has not been without its attendant worry and tears. It feels downright irresponsible at times to be pursuing this thing I love at the expense of stability, structure, and safety. That’s when the words of Elizabeth Gilbert help. I bought Big Magic a full year before I was ready to crack its spine, but when the time came, I wanted to read it all in one go. I fashioned a ritual with frequent allusions to it, trying, again and again, to give myself permission to be in this new space. I split up long passages that spoke directly to my heart and had my friends read them aloud to me at that ritual. I recommend this. It was life-giving to me. When I wonder if I’ve been especially selfish in pursuing this approach, here is the passage that comes to mind:

“Ah, and here’s another thing. you are not required to save the world with your creativity. Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words, it also doesn’t have to be important. For example. Whenever anybody tells me they want to write a book in order to help other people, I always think, “Oh, please don’t.” … It reminds me of this wonderful adage from the British columnist Katharine Whitehorn: ” You can recognize the people who live for others by the haunted look on the faces of the others.”… Your own reasons to create are reason enough. Merely by pursuing what you love, you may inadvertently end up helping us plenty. (“There is no love which does not become help,” taught the theologian Paul Tillich.) Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest will take care of itself.”