Creativity Meets Vulnerability: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown

image copyright: Trisha Harrison
image copyright: Trisha Harrison

I was taking a solo road trip to visit a friend and decided to accompany my journey with a handful of new podcasts. First on my roster was “Magic Lessons”, a podcast by Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, which accompanies her new book on creativity, Big Magic. In the podcast, Gilbert speaks with a variety of artists, writers and progressive thinkers on the concept and practice of creativity. I waited until I was rolling on the highway and launched into episode 12, her conversation with the deeply insightful writer and speaker Brené Brown.

Like many, I was introduced to Brown through her TED talk on the power of vulnerability. A researcher who has extensively profiled the role of vulnerability, shame, courage and worthiness in the human psyche, she had some profound comments to share on the topic of creativity. Needless to say, this half hour of my highway stretch became a pocket of insight and inspiration that has continued to ruminate with me since.

Before you dismiss the topic of creativity as not being relevant to you, I beckon you with Brown’s introductory statement on the topic:

“The only unique contribution that we will make in this world will be born of creativity.”

Boom. Right out of the gates. She then follows this up with something she has discovered for herself in the last few years through her research, “there is no such thing as ‘non-creative people’, there are only those who use it and those who do not.” She describes unused creativity as the being opposite of benign, meaning, it remains active. What that means is if it’s not used it builds up and festers into negative emotions like resentment, grief and ultimately, pain and depression.

As someone who has pursued a creative path most of my adult life, these statements gave me the shivers. I could feel them penetrating the places where I still devalue my creative ideas, where I suppress my creative state out of a fear of it disrupting my life and making me look silly or stupid. And yet, I know how painful it is if I don’t listen to my inspiration or ignore my inner innovator. It’s thanks to all of the spiritual development that I’ve done that I’ve come to know that my creative voice is the voice of my spirit. This is why her first statement about our contribution being directly related to creativity rings so true to me. When we can listen to learn to hear or know that voice, then follow its call, it will inevitably lead us to something connected to our uniqueness, to our mission here as spiritual beings.

It’s important to specify that being a creator isn’t only for those who paint or dance or write poems. Elizabeth Gilbert’s whole thesis in Big Magic explores the idea of ‘creative living’. This means living from a state of inspiration, play and creation. This can be in a business, your home, on a canvas or a garden, whatever resonates with you.

Check this podcast out – Season 1, episode 12 – and let us know what you think in the comments below. You can grab the other episodes here. I hope this podcast brings some creative fortitude to your day as it did to my road trip and the days to follow!