About a year ago I quit my job as a writer+editor and founded Written Paper Goods. I had a vision for how I wanted them to look, but I didn’t know yet what I wanted them to say. All I knew was that writing is the creative outlet of my life, and that I had to trust that I would find my voice.
But my trust faltered. If I struggled with articulating a sentiment, I started turning more and more to quotes from beloved authors and historical figures. It was so much easier to put my trust in them than in myself, and so I got lazy. I relied more and more on the wise words of others, instead of tapping into my own wisdom and learning how to hone my craft.
So I started reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I needed to tap back into my own magic. Within half an hour of picking up the book, Liz’s unabashedly mystical ruminations on the nature of inspiration had already started to change the way I viewed creativity.
"Creativity is a force of enchantment—not entirely human in its origins."
— Elizabeth Gilbert
I loved Liz’s belief that ideas were entities separate from their creative human partners, because if that were true, it would mean that there was no such thing as a “bad” idea — just bad timing or poor execution. With her words running through my mind, I realized that I had become more closed off than I realized. I hadn’t had an exciting idea in weeks, and furthermore, I had been shit-talking every idea that did come along, and comparing my own rough drafts with the work of masters.
Because of Big Magic, I started making an effort to be more kind and gentle with my ideas when they showed up. After all, reading Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things had recently renewed my confidence in my ability to do hard work, so if the right idea came along, I knew I would be able to see it to fruition. But I was still having trouble quitting the easy way out of making cards with quotes — until I got a copyright law slap on the wrist.
After the initial shock and stress of the moment had faded, and I knew everything was going to be fine, I was surprised to find that I felt immense relief. The way forward was clear; I had to start trusting in my ability to write. It felt like a door in my mind had been flung open — and an idea came walking right in.
That same day, I finally had the clarity and the bravery and the vision to start my ongoing #WrittenNoteToSelf project. The idea had been knocking on my mind’s door for months, but I wasn’t ready yet to dive into something so vulnerable, so I had ignored it. But that day, the vulnerability felt right. I was stripping away my usual design process and writing freehand, instead. I was removing the need to create something marketable, and just writing straight from my heart. I was using simple index cards to keep myself from getting too precious.
It felt so good, and people really responded to it. As the months passed, I fought the urge to turn #WrittenNoteToSelf into a series with a regular schedule, and just wrote when I was struck with inspiration. It’s a practice that feels separate from my usual Written Paper Goods work, and keeps me open to a different, more wild creativity.
About a month ago I got a batch of just-a-little-off cards back from the printer. I was frustrated and disappointed, but I also felt the familiar tingle of magic. It's been nearly a year since I read Big Magic, so now I knew what it meant: an idea was coming. All evening I kept coming back to the cards, turning them over in my hands, feeling that there had to be something I wasn’t seeing. When I woke up in the morning, I sprang out of bed with the idea fully formed, and wrote it out in my journal as fast as I could.
A couple days later I was getting ready to publish my first #empoweredWritten blog post, but I still had no idea how I’d create unique photos for Instagram. Then I saw the stack of index cards on my desk, and felt that same thrill of inspiration.
I have a feeling that this idea still isn’t fully formed. I don’t know what comes after #WrittenNoteToSelf and #empoweredWritten, but me and my note cards are ready whenever inspiration strikes.
Elizabeth, if you’re reading this, thank you. I feel lighter and freer in my creativity than ever before, despite the fact that I’m now trying to make a living through my art. Thank you for sharing your magical thinking, and encouraging me to believe in my own magic.