Ideas are often easy to come by, but trying to execute them introduces a whole new world of challenges and hurdles. I can guarantee that anyone who's ever undertaken a creative project can vouch for this truth. (Anyone who says otherwise is either lying, in denial or some kind of blessed freak that I'm jealous of.) With so many possible roadblocks — from your own doubts to external factors like time and money — finding ways to motivate yourself is not just helpful, it's necessary.
In Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert shares useful advice and wisdom for those trying to inject more creativity into their lives. She is realistic and often self-deprecating, making jokes about some of the negative reviews and rejections she's gotten over the years. It's clear that she understands that success is hard to come by, and her awareness makes her book helpful and inspiring. She's able to debunk doubts and fears because she's intimately familiar with them.
For those with specific creative goals or projects in mind, Big Magic is especially valuable. The book encourages readers to pursue their curiosities and offers a guide for just how to do so. With Gilbert's help, it's easier to find the "Big Magic" we all have within us.
Here are 7 ways to motivate yourself to get started on and — more importantly — finish that painting, short story, experiment, or other creative project you've been wanting to, based on Big Magic:
Create A Mantra
You have to spell your goals out for yourself, not just so you know what you're doing, but to fight your inner doubts. It's not a one-time thing, either. Gilbert recommends that you routinely "declare your intent" to help keep your insecurities at bay. Create a mantra, whether you're taking on a short-term project (e.g. "I'm going to finish my portrait") or a lifestyle (e.g. "I'm a writer").
Take Perfection Out Of The Equation
If you focus on perfection, you may never even manage to begin your creative process. Gilbert uses the example of author Harper Lee, calling it a tragedy that Lee didn't publish anything between her acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird and July 2015's Go Set a Watchman (an earlier draft of Mockingbird). Lee was held back by the crushing fear of trying to top what she'd done, says Gilbert. "Such thinking assumes that if you cannot win, you must not continue to play."
Have An Affair With Your Project
Hilariously, Gilbert recommends treating your project with the passion that you would a paramour. As she points out, people who are caught up in a love affair make sacrifices and find time to spend with the object of their desire — no matter what. You should do the same with your project. "Even if you have only fifteen minutes a day in a stairwell alone with your creativity, take it," advises Gilbert. "Go hide in that stairwell and make out with your art!"
Remember That Your Window Is Limited
Ideas won't wait around for you forever. Gilbert believes that ideas come to us, but sometimes desert us if they get tired of waiting around. You don't have to be sold on this concept, but you should recognize the risk that someone else will come up with the same idea as you and make it a reality before you do. When inspiration strikes, get moving. A sense of urgency can be a great motivator.
Put Your Fear And Anxiety In Perspective
Worries and doubts are unfortunately a common part of the creative process, but you can power through them. There will be points when you're thrilled with what you're creating, but there will be others when you'll hate everything about it. It's part of what Gilbert describes as engaging with inspiration. Focus on the positive aspects and it'll get easier.
Do What You Want To Do
When you take on the project you think you should instead of the one you want to, it's hard to find the same level of passion. Gilbert reminds us that we're "not required to save the world with [our] creativity." Her advice? "Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart."
Be Proud Of What You Accomplish
In very random and awesome anecdote, Gilbert tells the story of an acquaintance's brother who once showed up at an important costume party dressed in a homemade lobster outfit, not realizing that everyone was supposed to wear medieval court attire. When he (and everyone else present) saw his blatant mistake, he didn't run away in shame; he owned it and had a wonderful time. Do the same with your creativity. Complete your project and be proud of what you've done, no matter what.
Images: Michelle Brunner/flickr