Creative Business Book Club discussion

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
This topic is about Big Magic
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert - Past Discussion

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Ashley Greer (atelierashley) | 5 comments Mod
Most of you reading this are either in or have heard about the inclusive Creative Book Crew 82 Jacqui DePas and I co-founded earlier this fall. Jacqui choose the first book, and somewhat reluctantly I gave it a read (also by read, you know I mean audible). What followed, I did not expect. It was as if this book had sought me out so I could hear its message.

If you decide to give it a read, you might experience what I am talking about, or at the very least you will be familiar with the concept that an idea had an energy all its own.

Below are the study questions we brought to the group. We started with the frist question, because I am somewhat obsessed with it, and then folded the rest into little squares of paper, and let them pick us.

Because we did not have the time, and not everyone could attend, I followed up with a letter and a tight deadline. When that failed to inspire, I tried something else.

If you are curious to see our questions, and a few of the answers collected, please read below and enjoy. If you feel so inspired please send me your responses and I will be sure to add them to the collective.


My favorite concept from this book was that of Ideas having an energy and agenda of their own. That inspirational ideas are almost their own tangible entity bumping around in the world looking for a human to make them manifest. Do you think this could be true? After having read this, have you asked creativity or inspiration to come to you?

“I absolutely believe in this idea, and have recently been reading several other books that touch on this point. In particular about 9 years ago I had an idea to bring Art in Bloom to DC. I reached out to several museums and then lost interest with no reply. I think the idea linger and then went off to find someone more committed. It turns out that in all that time, there was no one willing to take it on, and so when I opened my studio, it came back to me. Since then I have been diligently trying to find the perfect venue that will agree to host. I often wonder, why don’t they (the museums) recognize how cool this is?! I am going to keep working on it, and of course will let you know as things develops. Also yes! After having read this section I asked allowed for creativity and inspiration to come to me. I am available, open, and ready to work!” - Ashley Greer of Atelier Ashley Flowers

“For me, inspiration always comes first. As my main focus has always been original needlework design, I think of myself as a creative and am open to the inspiration when it strike and then go with the process from there. I feel like I used to have more of an outlet for creativity to flow thus inspiration came more fluidly so now that my time to design isn't as it was before, I see that inspiration doesn't flow or hit me on the head as often because I'm not as open to it - I'm more tired and maybe have hints of it and put it off?! I'm still a creative at my core but the execution of getting that inspiration to fruition isn't as strong as it once was. It certainly is an energy that springs forth as inspiration/muse which beckons me. It's up to me to run with it and then let the creativeness within come forward.” -Tanya Anderson - The Sampler Girl

As we are all in businesses were we rely on our creativity/Art to support us financially, what do you think about her statement that she does not believe we should burden our Art with that? That it is better to do something else to get money and make art just for Arts sake?

“I personally can see her point, but also disagree. I don’t want to spend the majority of my time doing something I don’t really like just to be able to be free from the burden of having my art support me financially. I think there can be a separation however, the events that I take to make money (85%) and the others that I do for personal reasons or a need to create something spectacular.” - Ashley Greer - Atelier Ashley Flowers

“I agree with her here but it is a fine line bc it is so easy to get burned out with making a favorite thing a job. I admire those who can make it work. I designed and self published cross stitch patterns for 20 years. I was constantly designing, making the many models, networking with getting my name known, etc., traveling to vendor my charts and loving it all. I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of it and honestly can't think of a negative. I'd happily stay up till 3AM working on a model because I'd need to take a picture of the finished framed piece in the morning to finalize the pattern and print it and send to distributor the next day! During the first 10 years of designing nonstop, I was also working at a 'normal' day job so I had the means to finance the design part. Any money I made from my design business was supplemental and I wasn't dependent on it. For me, I think that made it less stressful and certainly was my happy place where my inspiration came at all hours of the clock and I ran with it.

Then I stopped working outside the home when I had my first child. I designed more because I wanted more money of my own and the designwork became more stressful. Other factors tired me out and I think we are subject to drains on our creativity flow when we are faced with things that get in the way of our passions. THE SAMPLER GIRL became more successful because I could devote more time and energy to it and I was able to grow a website at that time and designed for magazines which was additional income. My inspiration was overflowing and even today I don't know how I managed on such little sleep being a stay at home mom and busy designer. Fast forward 20 years, and my design business has slowed a large pace. I went back to work full time and have quite less time for designing and less energy to make it all happen. At some point in the past 5 years, I burned out and burned out hard. That has been the hardest part of being a creative. When you want to be and you can't for some reason.” -Tanya Anderson - The Sampler Girl

A playful idea she explored was dressing up to seduce inspiration. Do you think there is anything to that? Have you ever done this in one form or another? Do you dress up to seduce your clients?

”My way of seducing my inspiration is to put on makeup, earrings and hopefully a cute outfit. I once read that you should always try to dress just 1 step nicer then your clients, not to out do them but as a sign of respect. This is not to say to wear Hermes to a baseball game, but maybe Anthropologie.” Ashley Greer - Atelier Ashley Flowers

“I like Gilbert's idea of dressing up to seduce inspiration. I don't think I've donned makeup just to design needlework because it is a solitary study yet I've carved out time just for the process in hopes that a design idea will pop in my head - I've cut the phone to mute and entertained all the venues in my head again in hopes that an idea will pop up and show itself. I feel like I'm ready, I'm focused, I'm posed and on the ready - bring on the muse and yes, trying to be present amid distractions. It doesn't work well for me when I plan it out though. Even though I'm a planner type person, I design spontaniously. I don't think art can be seduced as it seduces us, in my opinion.” -Tanya Anderson - The Sampler Girl

A short but noteworthy segment of the book felt with managing yourself and your time between the bright points. Does anyone have any good techniques they use to stay on track and not feel the downs that come with having completed something awesome but not having another project of that magnitude on the horizon?

”My way of managing this is to try to create bright spots. If I don’t have anything on the horizon, then it is time to send out emails, time to go to networking events, and time to think up styled shoots. I am often amazed at how little I feel after completing a big event, it is like all of this time and energy had been so focused and then when the day is over it leaves me feeling almost nothing for it. I am already onto thinking about what the next will be. I am working on identifying whatever that is, and trying to hold and appreciate it.” - Ashley Greer- Atelier Ashley Flowers

“I can get quite obsessed with a project and devote any and all of me to it. It's exciting but when the project is done, small or big, it's quite draining. I am always wanting something of equal attention to replace it immediately but it isn't like that. That's when I like to brainstorm in my journal or check the calendar and in the past, I would reach out to suppliers of fabrics, threads, etc so I stayed current with all the new items in the needlework industry - reminding them I was out there and would love to promote their product(s). It was a way of staying in the loop even if I wasn't working on a project. So yes, keeping busy with busyness with related venues of self care for the art you're in if that makes sense.” -Tanya Anderson - The Sampler Girl

Talent, Luck and Discipline. Talent is out of our control, and it could be argued either way about luck, but how do you stay disciplined about your work? Any specific tactic you use to keep moving forward when you don’t have any particular goal in sight?

“Again it is for me, always sending out emails. Always seeing new lunch dates. Always following up. Trying to have at least one creative passion project in the works. Asking for a goal to come to me. I keep a running list of idea, and creative to dos. When I am feeling empty, I look at it and see if one jumps out at me.” - Ashley Greer - Atelier Ashley Flowers

“I think I rely way too much on the Talent aspect. I always have. I don't believe in Luck but discpline is a difficult one for me. I regret not planning out my time better from the beginning and feel that somehow over the years, that haphazard run-by-the-seat-of-my-pants schedule was destined to burn out at some point. So when I first starting feeling the burn out a few years back, I wish I had not give in to it but maybe continue journalling ideas and keeping in touch with other designers and companies to stay in the loop. I didn't because I kept waiting on the inspiration and then when it didn't come then I gave up. All the while still full knowing the Talent remained but I guess waiting on it to show itself again!” -Tanya Anderson - The Sampler Girl

Do you believe in her notion, that an idea can spontaneously transfer from one person to another like in her and Ann Pachettes kiss? Has this ever happened to you?

“I want to believe in it.” - Ashley Greer - Atelier Ashley Flowers

”I think we as artists inspire each other. Absolutely. There are so many ways to express art and I believe we can be inspired by one form of art to make another. If that's a passing of energy or ideas as if in a kiss, then perhaps so.” -Tanya Anderson - The Sampler Girl

Have you every heard of the concept of Combinatory Play? (Think of her example of Einstein playing music) Do you have an alternative and different creative outlet? If not, could you think of one to try? I think for many people it might be something like cooking or baking.

“This was such an interesting idea and one that was touched on with one depth during our discussion. For me, I paint or have a craft project, but mostly I paint.”- Ashley Greer - Atelier Ashley Flowers

"Since reading BIG MAGIC, I have been thinking about what would make me happy...what would be fun. I began to bake bread.

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