Lately I’ve been reading a book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book was gifted to me by my close friend Allie, who, like me, lives a life that’s quite unscripted; and who, like me, loves exploring new ideas and expressing herself creatively. (You can follow Allie’s blog here!)
My favorite thing about Big Magic so far is the way that Elizabeth Gilbert explains the life of an idea–yes, the life of an idea, as if a single idea is some conscious entity living outside of us.
In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert writes:
I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us–albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts than an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual…
Elizabeth goes on to explain that an idea will search and search until it finds someone to bring it into the physical world. She says that when an idea finds you, it will try to “wave you down.” If the idea finds you inattentive or unresponsive, it will move on and try to work its magic on someone else. But if it finds you inviting, the magical idea can slip through to your consciousness and begin its work.
(Intrigued yet? You can snatch Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear for about $6 on Amazon through this affiliate link. Low cost, great reward!)
I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert talks about ideas. To perceive ideas not as something I am responsible for creating out of thin air, but instead as something that has already exists, has accepted my invitation, and chooses to work with me–that gives ideas a different sort of power than I’ve ever previously imagined. It gives me, and you, a greater power, too–that we have the power to say yes or no to ideas as they fly by is a wonderful thing to consider. It reminds me of “missed connections” between humans in search of relationship; perhaps a chemistry is there between two people, but if each individual is not openly receptive to the other, nothing remarkable transpires. Perhaps it is in fact the same way with ideas. Perhaps when we are uninviting to ideas with which we could spark great passion, those ideas fly on by, searching for someone else.
This talk of openness and the potential for “big magic” reminds me of a profound recognition in my own life journey.
CHOICES + CHANCES
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for both teaching and interior design. As I progressed toward high school graduation, society told me to pick one thing and stick to it. So, I decided to pursue a degree in secondary education, setting my love for design aside.
I started along a path toward a traditional teaching role, seeking the wisdom of those who went before me.
Over many years, I poured my energy into education. But over time, it became clear that my passion for working with students didn’t quite fit the classroom mold. I preferred personalizing learning for students outside of a large class setting, reaching out to those whose needs might be easily overlooked. So, I began to pave my own career path. I took risks and worked hard to hone my craft, establishing a teaching role that was truly life-giving for me and fruitful for my students.
My trajectory eventually led me to become a self-employed teacher and tutor, through which I could uniquely provide for the needs of students and their families. Getting here was overwhelming at times. I navigated my way through unmapped territory, letting my skills and interests guide the exploration. It might have been easier to pass off my flashlight and let someone else lead the way. But I’m glad that I didn’t give up. Following my heart and taking risks paid off, and I’m thankful for the work I get to do today.
As I mentioned before, in high school, I was led to believe that I had to pick just one thing and stick to it. Why? Because society said so.
But in the end, I didn’t follow society’s prescribed path to becoming an educator…
…so why did I have to follow society’s standards and stick to one passion?
The truth is, I didn’t have to.
I was about six years into a reliable teaching career when I fully realized this. I had worked to gain flexibility in determining my own schedule, so why couldn’t I make space for design somewhere in that?
My mind re-invited thoughts about design. And just as soon as I offered it space, design moved in.
The consciousness of design worked its magic almost immediately–as if it had been patiently waiting for me all along. Perhaps it respected what was required of me to establish a reliable career, and it waited for the day I could offer available energy. Perhaps it knew that a true spark could not ignite between us until I recognized my ability to live life in an unscripted manner, accepting both passions with welcome invitation.
Though I don’t fully understand the power of ideas and their conscious potential, I certainly recognize that as soon as design knew I was open to opportunities, it brought them to me.
It’s been about a year since the first big design opportunity approached me.
And that’s a story I’ll save for another post.
Partly I share this to express joy over the wonders of the universe. The cycle of seasons inspires me to reflect, and I’m in awe as I recall how suddenly design answered the invitation to use my energy.
I also share this because I believe it has the following implication for all of us:
There is transcendent power in making space for ideas to find you.
Have you experienced the “magic” of ideas in the way Elizabeth Gilbert describes? Do you have a similar story about making space for ideas to find you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories on the topic!