I would like to share with you a little bit of magic. It’ll seem at first that there’s nothing magical in what I’m saying but bear with me…
Going out on a school night for a wife and mother (or father and husband should he be the chief child wrangler) is not a simple task, particularly if you live out in the sticks and it’s a fair drive to the going out place. I’m not going to go into too much boring detail but there’s inevitably a lot of hurry-ups, driving to and fro’s, short-cut dinners, scornful* attitudes from small people, rushed homework help and dodgy mascara application. It’s probable that you haven’t had time for a wee, (which doesn’t matter because the drive to town is long enough for you to need the loo as soon as you arrive anyway – people are by now used to you saying hello and heading directly for the water closet) and it’s likely you feel a bit harried and ‘why didn’t I opt to stay home I can’t even drink because I have to drive home again in a few hours what’s the point’ by the time you get in the car.
So when three friends (i.e. Tuesdays in the Schoolhouse trio – Maggie, Kel and I, all of us out-of-towners) decide to buy tickets to something, it’s got to be something pretty tremendous**.
We have, since last year, been avid followers or the writer Elizabeth Gilbert (of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame), mainly because Maggie, who always has her finger on the literary pulse, recommended EG’s novel “The Signature of All Things”, which I read and truly loved. Then we discovered her new non-fiction book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear” and in it we found a voice that spoke to the heart of our muddly, creative lives in a sensible, wise manner. A voice that evoked many things but above all hope. Hope that we might actually make something worthwhile – and finish it. The book is like a permission slip to Get The Fuck On With It.
Kel has later found, listened to and been uplifted by EG’s TED talks and her podcasts. We all agreed that if Elizabeth could only meet us, she would want to be our friend (this goes for Kate Winslet too, surely a kindred spirit given half a chance).
So when the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre brought Elizabeth Gilbert to the Theatre Royal to have a public conversation with local writer Heather Rose, it was a done deal for us. (Thank you to Kel who bought the tickets for us as a Christmas present, then followed it up with a hard copy of The Signature of All Things).
So it happened last night, this conversation, and we got there (on time, if slightly chaotic) from our various corners of the state and it was truly TREMENDOUS.
I won’t paraphrase the Big Magic book, which the promotion of was the main reason she was there (just go out and buy it if you feel a bit jumbly and hesitant about following your creative calling), but I will write down a few points that really struck me (mainly so they won’t get lost forever in my crowded head).
- Creating stuff shouldn’t be about the fame and fortune kind of success; it should be about making things that help us to feel good. If they make us feel good they might make others feel good and that’s a bonus.
- Finished is better than good. Which goes hand in hand with her other point, that perfection doesn’t exist.
- A little crumb of curiosity is enough to fuel creativity, it doesn’t have to be a large ball of red hot passion.
- You are never too old (here she gave a delightful example of a famous Dear Abby column, in which a women wrote in asking if Abby thought forty was too old to start a medical degree, given that she wouldn’t be fully qualified in her chosen field for ten years, at age fifty. Abby replied with, “how old will you be in ten years if you don’t do a medical degree?”).
- If you demonstrate creativity to your children (i.e. go away I’m busy writing), they are more likely to feel comfortable to go on and live the life that they want as opposed to the life they feel obligated to. Because children emulate their parents.
- Get your pre-rational on when it comes to creativity. Look for signs, be superstitious, divine meanings, poignant co-incidence. It’ll feed your work. After all, humankind has been sceptical and boring for only a wee smidge of their existance on Earth. Kel is particularly good at signs and hidden meanings and I’ve always been big on co-incidence highlighting destiny and that sort of shit. EG validated these “quirks” for us.
Reading back what I’ve written, I haven’t done justice to EG’s delivery, which was impassioned and articulate and engaging. And friendly. We knew she’d be our friend.
But the magic didn’t end there. Because we are lucky buggers (perhaps because I was wearing stars in my eyes and a bright yellow dress, perhaps because Kel nodded and gasped and laughed and smiled with such genuine love, perhaps because Maggie is such a wonderful PUBLISHED writer), we got invited BACK STAGE to MEET our NEW BEST FRIEND.
And now she really is our best friend. Well, at least on our end. We were possibly a bit silly (at least I was, I invited her for a sleepover with us and offered to supply her with jarmies – WTF? Kel added that we could drink wine and sit on the edge of her bed chatting all night – Kel is the only person in the world who can say this to a stranger without being creepy). And Elizabeth (by now Liz) laughed with us (at us?) and gave us hugs and kissed our cheeks and introduced us to her family and listened to me bumble on about my book and it was altogether very fucking tremendous. (She wouldn’t mind me swearing, she told the audience that her favourite word is fuck. See – true kindreds).
Afterward, the three of us left the theatre and had to have a group hug, squeal a bit and shed a few tears on Campbell St. We decided that driving home immediately after such an event just wouldn’t do, so we pooled into Kel’s car and went to a snazzy bar for a bit of a calm-the-fuck-down drink. As we sat down, I said, “Imagine if she were to walk in”, at which point Maggie said, “She’s here”. And she was. At a table with the backstage crowd. We did a bit more squealing, had a glass of wine and laughed a lot. When we left I waved at the table and they said, “Oh you all should have joined us, come and have some food!” to which I said politely no, thanked them again for the evening and walked away, even though I hadn’t had dinner and was starving and the potatoes looked delicious and Liz is my best friend.
She was, we decided, surely feeling miffed not to be on the cool table with us.
So then there was another frenetic debrief in the car as Kel delivered us back to our cars for the long drive home, which didn’t bother me because there was Big Magic fizzing all through my old Volvo. Big Magic because we got to meet a hero and very bloody clever woman, and because of her work and her insights into our lives. But also there was Big Magic because there were heaps of women (and a handful of blokes) at the theatre, all doing what we three were doing – sharing experiences and finding motivation and being friends, and that, that bit where we all felt the same without having to spell it out, the bit where together we got to have a little sob in the street a big old laugh in the bar and a kick up the creative jacksie, that was the most magical feeling. The Big Magic.
And now I’m getting too over the top.
I returned home to grubby school uniforms on the floor, a blocked loo and a cow on the lawn. And I thought that maybe I’d left the magic with Liz in the snazzy bar, or with my friends in the car.
But no, this morning I got up (it was hard, late night and all) and the sky had these unusual streaky clouds in it and a huge pale coloured bird like a sea eagle or something flashed past the window and my ideas were still waiting for me and I thought, there it is, the magic, it’s still here. All the signs are here. I hope I can give some to you.
*I use the word ‘scornful’ for my friend Jeff who very rightly pointed out that it’s not used enough anymore.
** Another of Jeff’s lovely dusty words.