“Most things have already been done – but they have not yet been done by you.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic (p. 97)
Someone recently called me the Liz Gilbert of the voice world. That’s high praise, ’cause Elizabeth Gilbert has changed my life. Twice. And even though I may never be as influential or well spoken as she is, I get her. She speaks to me, just as I hope to speak to you.
The first time was with Eat, Pray, Love. I know, I know, totally 2007, but I read that book in one sitting because I was deeply desperate for hope and authenticity. Those were things I couldn’t muster for myself at the time, and that book was a guidepost toward my healing.
In that dark time, Eat, Pray, Love was a ray of bright, loving light shining straight into my heart. One sitting, one book, life bettered.
The second time Liz’s words changed me was with her new book Big Magic. A friend asked me if I wanted to borrow el libro recently, and with a title like that, who could refuse? Several ideas from Big Magic have allowed me to do the unthinkable, including start this blog. Hence, the next few posts will be about insights from this gem.
On discussing originality vs. authenticity, Gilbert says, “Everything reminds us of something. But once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours.” (97)
Boom. This concept is a game changer, and I’ll tell you why.
My brain is often better at coming up with reasons why NOT to do something, than why TO DO something. That’s fear parading around as “logical reasoning.” And it gets in the way of creative expression! No gouda.
When I read page 97 (and 98), that one little fear-mongering-thought: “everyone else has a blog, and they are already saying these same things, and why should I bother to repeat the same ideas when they’ve already been said, blah, blah, bleh, bleh, bleh” was DONE FOREVER. Over, gone, caput.
You want to know what I realized? No one is going to weave words or music or intentions together exactly like me. Ever. This is why we constantly improvise in jazz. It is the thrill making music in the moment that drives us! Those notes are never played the same way twice.
And you know how sometimes you need to hear something 100 different ways before you understand it? Well, what if my words are the 100th time for someone? Wouldn’t it be a crime to keep my ideas to myself in that case? Wouldn’t it be a total disservice to humanity to NOT let my creativity flow?
The same is true for you and everyone else. You are a creative person, and you need to say what you need to say. Or paint what you gotta paint. Or SING what you gotta sing.
I’ll leave you with this brilliant idea: ” a song is never done.” My good friend, and utterly brilliant musician, Chris Walters said that out loud – out of his mouth – recently, and I almost fell over. He’s exactly right. The expression of a song will never be over as long as there are people to sing it. As well, the same person will never be done with a song no matter how many times he or she plays/sings it!
Chew on that one for awhile. It might make your brain hurt, but in a very good way.
How many jazz singers does it take to sing My Funny Valentine? Apparently, all of them. And like Chris said, that song will never be done. Ever. Just as these ideas you love are worthy of your expression, and that music you cherish wants you to play it, these ideas and songs are bits of creativity begging to be expressed you.
Many years ago when I first recorded this favorite, there’s a little something that I did with “is your mouth a little weak” that I consider ALL mine because I’d never heard anyone else sing it that way before (or since). Although I realized then that I could add me, myself and I to some of those well-known and beloved “classics,” I still felt that most of them were mighty “untouchable,” especially if Ella, Sarah, Nancy, Carmen, etc., had already put their stamps on them. Till today, that is. Thank you very much Liz. Nothing can hold me back now. I’m talking about “My Funny Valentine,” of course. Please keep ’em coming.
That you feel differently is the best news ever. Thank you for saying something. We can all give ourselves permission to sing the songs we love, and I’m glad you want to give yourself permission to just enjoy, be you, and sing your heart out. We all will celebrate that joyful expression with you!!
Dearest Liz, that was absolutely amazing! I miss you so much. My sister and I have been struggling with that same issue… songs that have been “done” before. You have helped clarifymany things for me with these insightful words.
Hi! See?? This is exactly what I’m talking about! If I had kept my mouth shut, this little idea wouldn’t have gotten to you today. Please, please go out and sing everything you love! You don’t know who you will touch, or where, or how. These songs are living, breathing things that want to be heard through us. I believe that with all my heart.
Love you, miss you, and thank you for YOUR words!