Writing

Stop whining and get back to work

Big Magic front cover

I had planned to write a post about my next venture. That’s still the plan but I’m taking a quick detour to share something important.

I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. (I wasn’t sure about the book at first but it’s just got better and better and now I am ever so slightly in love with it.)

Anyway, this morning EG shared a trick that’s crucial for all us creatives. It goes like this: stop complaining. 

Why?

First, she says, “It’s annoying. Every artist complains, so it’s a dead and boring topic.”

Second, of course it’s difficult to create things; “If it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be special or interesting.” (Good point.)

Third, nobody ever really listens to anyone else’s complaints cos we’re all too consumed with our own trials and tribulations; “…you’re just talking to a brick wall.”

Fourth, and most importantly, “…you’re scaring away inspiration.”

WHAAAAAT?

“Every time you express a complaint about how difficult and tiresome it is to be creative, inspiration takes another step away from you, offended. It’s almost like inspiration puts up its hands and says, “Hey, sorry, buddy! I didn’t realise my presence was such a drag! I’ll take my business elsewhere.”

Oh shit. Up until this point, I had been nodding me head, telling myself, ‘Well, I’m not a whiner or a moaner, so I’m not sure this really applies to me.’

But actually it does.

Because whilst it’s true that I am fairly stoic on the outside and I don’t walk around moaning to everyone about how tough life is and ‘how hard it is to be creative’, I do have a good old moan to myself. On a pretty regular basis.

The moan may be over in a split second. I might not lie on the sofa all day bemoaning my fate (though that has been known to happen). But on a daily basis I will probably tell myself something along the lines of; “Sheesh, this is so tough! …Why am I doing this? …Why is this so hard? …What’s wrong with me? …Surely this shouldn’t be so damn DIFFICULT!” As if I am the only person in the world to struggle to complete a novel or come up with the right idea for a picture book.

The solution?

EG says it’s simple. Tell yourself, “I enjoy my creativity.”

This is what she did from an early age: “I proclaimed that I enjoyed every single aspect of my creative endeavours – the agony and the ecstasy, the success and the failure, the joy and the embarrassment, the dry spells and the grind and the stumble and the confusion and the stupidity of it all.”

She told herself (and anyone else that would listen) that she was committed to living a creative life – not in order to become famous, or to prove that she was worthy, or to save the world… “but simple because I liked it.”

I love that! I love the idea of falling in love with creativity (or should I say ‘fall back in love’ as we had no problem with loving it when we were kids).

One more thing. Again, it’s from Big Magic. Please read it if you haven’t already.

A young, struggling film maker once wrote a letter to his hero, Werner Herzog (a great German film director), complaining about how difficult it was to make films in the world. This was the reply he received:

“Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you must, but stop whining and get back to work.”

Over the past few weeks I have been tweaking two picture books texts, which I wrote several years ago. In between the joyful moments, when things are coming together, I whinge to myself about how hard it is, as if this is a valid reason to stop, put down my pen, and go no further.

That’s why I wanted to share this and write this post.

For me, genuinely, Big Magic and ‘Stop whining and get back to work’ are the most important words I have read all year. (And I read a lot.)

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11 thoughts on “Stop whining and get back to work

  1. Great post Katherine. That’s me told. I’ve been guilty of the same things. Moaning to myself. I’m glad that you wrote this post. Thank you. Could be one of the most important things that I’ve read too. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooooh I love this book too. Have you listened to her podcasts? She follows up her book by coaching 5 creative people. They’re on her website and are great – a couple will make you shed tears!! :-)

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      1. They’re called Magic Lessons – I listened to them like I scoff sweets lol!!! Enjoy and let me know what you think :-) x

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        1. Hi again Karen, I listened to all the podcasts and really enjoyed them. They’re great to listen to whilst you’re cooking a meal (maybe with a little glass of wine on the go). Some of the ‘famous’ speakers who helped with the advice were really inspirational, especially one man whose name escapes me at the mo! Thanks for recommending them x

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  3. Just read this again, and shared it with a bunch of people and we all love it. It’s so spot-on. I wasn’t sure if I wanted/needed to read the book, but now I think I will! Especially after listening to the series of wonderful podcasts.

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