The Central Paradox - Permission

Big magic: creative living beyond fear - Elizabeth Gilbert 2015

The Central Paradox

In conclusion, then, art is absolutely meaningless.

It is, however, also deeply meaningful.

That’s a paradox, of course, but we’re all adults here, and I think we can handle it. I think we can all hold two mutually contradictory ideas at the same time without our heads exploding. So let’s give this one a try. The paradox that you need to comfortably inhabit, if you wish to live a contented creative life, goes something like this: “My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).”

Sometimes you will need to leap from one end of this paradoxical spectrum to the other in a matter of minutes, and then back again. As I write this book, for instance, I approach each sentence as if the future of humanity depends upon my getting that sentence just right. I care, because I want it to be lovely. Therefore, anything less than a full commitment to that sentence is lazy and dishonorable. But as I edit my sentence—sometimes immediately after writing it—I have to be willing to throw it to the dogs and never look back. (Unless, of course, I decide that I need that sentence again after all, in which case I must dig up its bones, bring it back to life, and once again regard it as sacred.)

It matters./It doesn’t matter.

Build space in your head for this paradox. Build as much space for it as you can.

Build even more space.

You will need it.

And then go deep within that space—as far in as you can possibly go—and make absolutely whatever you want to make.

It’s nobody’s business but your own.