This week, we’re taking a nostalgic journey. We’re talking about life before and after the Internet and our experiences as early influencers.
We’re also sharing our book report for Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
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Our career synopsis:
- Started blogging in the early 2000s
- Started A Beautiful Mess in 2007
- Owned two vintage stores for five years
- Got a book deal based on the blog
- Began blogging full time
What we miss from the very early phase of blogging:
- How pure the early blog topics were.
- Not having to have a constant presence on social media.
When did influencer become an official word/job?
- For us, it was in the late 2000s, but it depends on each person.
Favorite websites that stand the test of time:
What are the pros and cons of blogging then vs. now?
Then: Easier to get followers and less competitive.
Now: Easier to make money and more tools.
Then: Having to learn everything the hard way.
Now: Things are always changing.
How will your experiences change how you approach the Internet with your own kids?
Elsie: Delay as long as possible and be honest.
Emma: Delay and let her kids be bored.
What’s the cringiest thing you shared before you knew the Internet was forever?
Emma: Talking about old boyfriends
Do you ever worry about keeping up with technological advances?
No, because we stay open to change and are not afraid to ask dumb questions.
How do your friends and family feel about you being Internet famous?
They don’t care and we really aren’t famous.
Did you have Internet boyfriends?
-We mention Brunch with Babs on Instagram and Masterclass
Miss an Episode? Get Caught Up!
- Episode #168: Design Your Dream Home – Deep Dive
- Episode #167: It’s Complicated – Comfort Rewatch Episode
- Episode #166: 2023 Decor Trends
Episode 169 Transcript:
Elsie: You’re listening to The Beautiful Mess Podcast, your cozy comfort listen. This week we’re taking a nostalgic journey. We’re talking about life before and after the internet, and our experiences as early influencers. We’re also sharing our book report for Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is one of my favorite subjects. I feel like we were born in one of the most interesting times in history because we were the last generation of children who were raised completely off the internet. We didn’t have a home computer until I think I was in high school when we got it ish. I think it was maybe like AOL Internet was the sort of thing that used your home’s phone line. So if you picked up the phone, which there were no cell phones by the way, if you picked up the phone and someone was using the internet, it was like, zzzzzzz, that type of vibe. We had very limited access to the internet. There also wasn’t a lot to do on the internet. I would go on aim and talk to like two people from my church or whatever, two little boys. And that was about it. Do you know what I mean? And it’s like, how’s your day? How’s your day? What are you doing? Okay, bye. It was not a very active space for me and we went from that. I didn’t have a phone until I was an adult, I was out of college. And how old were you when you got your first?
Emma: I think I had one in high school, but it did not have internet. It was just like you could call. I don’t even think it had texting.
Elsie: No. I remember specifically texting was like when I was 23, cuz I remember when it was new. So there are so many things that change. It’s actually very wild to reflect on. Smartphones are a big one. I got the very first version of the iPhone and I was so proud of it. I’ve never been proud of any piece of tech in my life and I swear to God it couldn’t do anything. Like apps weren’t even a thing yet. It was pretty much an iPod that was also a phone and I was just like, this is so cool. I can just listen to the postal service all day, on my phone. And take really, really, really low-quality pictures. Like we had no idea that in just 10 years that we would have eight photo apps. And that also phone photos would become for many purposes, just as good as camera photos, which is mind-blowing. And for me, like the invention of FaceTime, I’m a big FaceTimer. Yeah, I love it. It just makes me feel like we’re living in the future every single time because when we were children, every movie had like some version of FaceTime and that was like the future. And I feel like that’s the one thing that really came through. It was just as it was predicted to be. Also the invention of digital cameras. I’ve talked about before, my first business was trying to be a wedding photographer in my early twenties and I shot almost everything on film, which is so terrifying now and hard to imagine. But it actually took a long time for digital cameras to rise up to the level of a film camera, and at first, it just wasn’t there. So yeah, pretty much all tech that you can think of has changed so much. And it’s just fun. I tried to explain to my kids the other day that we watched the same TV shows every morning because that was what was on at a certain time and you could only watch One Choice. And then we had videotapes of certain cartoons and ours were like recorded from tv and we also had this VHS tape of a carnival cruise ship, like an ad of trying to get you to take a carnival cruise. And to this day I have it like almost memorized because we watched it so many times. I actually wanna know if they still have it, because I would love to watch it one last time. But, obviously like the world has changed so much and all millennial people can relate to this to some degree because to some degree there’s a big span of ages for millennial people, but at least the internet was still developing when you were a child. If you had it in your home, it still probably wasn’t as much of an effect as it is on children now. We’re just gonna reflect on the differences and then also just how breaking crazy it is that we became internet personalities. So I just have to say upfront, I got a lot of messages yesterday saying you shouldn’t use the word influencer. Like people have a thing with the word influencer. And the reason why I say it is because it’s just common terminology right now. And I don’t care. And I just think no one should care. Who cares? So let’s just not let that be a thing. I get it that the word has a little bit of a mocking tone if you think about it in a certain way because it is a little bit silly, but at the same time, it is pretty freaking accurate to what it’s trying to communicate.
Emma: I think of myself as a blogger and I think people on YouTube think of themselves as vloggers or YouTubers. But I feel like saying influencer is one way to include everyone. So for me, it’s, instead of saying if you blog or your vlog, or you’re on Instagram, I could say that each and every time, but I feel like that’s kind of tedious and annoying and I feel like the best word, at least right now, that I could think of is an influencer and it includes everyone who might be doing any of these things.
Elsie: I get it, why it’s not the perfect term, but also who cares? And I stand by that. I don’t care. So we’re just gonna say it and we’re just not gonna care. And I think that it’s like keeping up with the changing terminology and all of the many changes is a part of our job. It’s a huge part of our job. You cannot do what we do and resist change. It is a very important part. I wanted to first before we get into it explain, so we grew up in the pre-internet world and I call it the magazine era where it was like magazines were freaking everything. If you wanted to get inspired if you wanted to read about a famous person if you wanted to know what was cool. I would head to Barnes and Noble and get a Frappuccino and read magazines and that was for a long time. Even in my early twenties, it was like that. I did not start using the internet as a daily tool until I was about 25 years old, which is hard to believe now. Everyone was asking what our aim name was, like AOL Instant Messenger, I think is aim the same thing and I don’t remember mine. Do you remember?
Emma: I don’t think I ever had that. I honestly was not against it, I just did not get into social media until it was really a thing and way past the time to begin. I don’t know why, just chat rooms and things like that never appealed to me. I think cuz I am such a loner. So I mostly use the internet for buying things like shopping or looking things up on Wikipedia or stuff like that, schoolwork stuff. I did have a MySpace, I did have. But I didn’t get a Facebook because I was like, well I already have MySpace and they seem to be the same thing. It didn’t even occur to me that was a big deal. I don’t know.
Elsie: Turns out they’re not the same thing. Okay, so yeah, quick career synopsis. So we started blogging in the early two thousands. I don’t even know what year. I think we started a Beautiful Mess in 2008 or 2007.
Emma: I think you started in 2007. Yeah.
Elsie: Yeah, so this was still in the MySpace era and then after that, we had our vintage store era, which lasted a while, like five years. I had two different stores and I thought of myself as a store owner and my blog is just a way to promote that. I didn’t think of myself as a blogger towards maybe closer to the end of our vintage store era when we started. And this happened naturally, it wasn’t intentional, but our blog started to earn more money than our store, which really wasn’t hard to do. And we got offered a book deal and we got a literary agent based on our blog. So that for me was the point when I knew that there was more of a career future in blogging than there was in owning a local store for us, which I had not known before that. And then after that, we had many different phases of early blogging. I feel like we kind of tried everything and maybe we still kind of do. We had our big team era where we like tried to hire a big team and we were just like new money babies. We had success quickly, but then we just had to figure out what to do with it and that is really hard. And looking back now, I wish I would’ve had a mentor and we did a little bit, but not as much as maybe we needed. Then 10 years later we’re still blogging and we are still doing it every day. A lot of people who we started off with have retired or quit or stopped doing it, and there are still many people who we start off with who are still doing it to this day. So we’re one of the remaining early influencers, I like to say. We haven’t moved on to bigger and better things. We’ve actually tried a hundred different things in the meantime, and I still feel like our blog is one of the more sustainable parts of our business.
Emma: Yeah, and also I think for both of us, we just really enjoy blogging. It gives us a space to create and write and promote things like all those different activities and we can do it as much as we want or as little as we want. And it’s fun to have different spaces and mediums for things.
Elsie: So a lot of people want to know what we miss about the early phase of blogging. I personally don’t miss a lot, but I do miss a couple of things. I think the early phase of blogging is very, I think anything that’s over now tends to get romanticized. Where you only remember the good things about it. But as someone who did it in early blogging, I had a lot of financial hardship and I was not yet at a point where I had any kind of financial security. So, I just kind of remembered that, like balancing, the same needs and wants that a large internet audience has on you, but without the financial security. It’s harder. So for me, I think of it as worse, but I think the things I miss about it are, I miss how pure the early blogging topics and things like that, it could just be so small. We could just post, I guess it’s still the same stuff you post now though, but I don’t know. I think you could take the weekend off, go somewhere you didn’t ever have to explain where you were, what you were doing. You could just sort of disappear still without social media, which I loved.
Emma: Oh yeah, so you miss disappearing cause yeah, that’s probably the number one thing I miss about just not having a cell phone is sometimes, I don’t know, it gives me a little bit of anxiety when people are like texting me and I’m at the gym or at some kind of appointment getting my hair done and I can’t hold my phone at the moment or something. I just feel you’re a little bit expected to always answer the phone or be available, and the truth is sometimes you’re just not.
Elsie: Yeah, I miss the ability to disappear, that was cool. So, When did influencer become an official word or job? I think that question is hard to answer. I would say the word influencer is new from the last few years, but when it became an official job, I think just depends on each person. For us, it was in the late two thousands that we started to have a paycheck that was regular and it was like our main income. It happened rather quickly once it did in our situation. Actually, I think that the big magic book report had so much good advice about like, don’t quit your job and just like there’s a lot I wanted to talk about for that later on. But I think that people focus so much on the quitting your job part of it and I’m not gonna lie, this is the truth, it’s still a job. Maybe it’s easier and maybe you like it better, and maybe it’s a more fulfilling job, but it’s still having a job. It’s not, not having a job.
Emma: Yeah, I think sometimes people think of it like you’re in early retirement or something. And I think you could run it that way. I guess for me, I always view it differently because I’m the type of person who my whole life, even when I was in high school, I’ve always kind of cobbled together my income from different areas.
Elsie: I still think that a lot of people don’t consider influencing an official career. It’s like you can’t go to school for it, and it’s still probably a job that many different parents would discourage, and maybe rightfully so. I don’t know. I don’t even know if it is an official job still to this day, I guess.
Emma: I pay taxes, so I’d say it is.
Elsie: Okay, next question. What were your favorite websites that stood the test of time? I loved this one, like the websites you visited. Okay, so I do remember all the blogs I visited in the early days, and the only ones that still post now to this day are Oh Joy and Young House Love.
Emma: I also read those blogs and have for a long, long time. And I would also add to the list two bloggers that I read forever, like before I was ever even a blogger, Joy The Baker and Smitten Kitchen, we’re still blogging too.
Elsie: Oh my God. Wait, I wanna add also Cupcakes and Cashmere because I do love Emily and she is definitely from the olden days. What are the pros and cons of blogging then versus now? Getting straight to it, I don’t think there’s anything about blogging that was better in the early days than it is now, except for maybe it was easier to establish followers. Maybe it was less competitive, but why does it matter if it’s less competitive if you can’t make any money from it at all? In the early days of blogging, were very, very, very small and slow amounts of money. So I think it’s much better now, there’s much more opportunity. I always say that people starting now have an advantage and they don’t seem to see it. People don’t seem to see it that way because they think that the only way is to be like an early adopter. It’s not the only way people start and have a quick rise with hard work all the time. Every single year people will do that, and it is always possible.
Emma: I would say the only thing better back then was there was less competition. And that’s really the only thing. And to your point, I think there were a lot fewer ways to make money and a lot fewer established ways to make money and a lot fewer tools. So everything was just harder to do. And now it’s way better and easier. I’d rather become a blogger now than back then, but also that’s just what happened. And so here we are. It’s not like I knew what we were missing out on. It’s not like we knew, oh, one day there’ll be way easier ways to accomplish all of these tasks that you’re doing now. So manually, it’s not like we knew that, so it wasn’t a big burden back then. But looking back, I’m like, oh man, I can’t believe we just get to press a button and this makes a recipe card, this is amazing. Back then there was just like nothing. We would’ve had to build that from scratch or something.
Elsie: I agree. I think it’s so much better now, but I do think that there were disadvantages to being an early adopter because we learned a lot of things the hard way and we did a lot of things wrong at first. Then we created habits and we even experienced success for doing things the wrong way, but it wasn’t in like a long-lasting way. So we’ve had to reeducate ourselves a lot of times by now.
Emma: Which I think is peaks to your point of like how you have to stay open to change. Because as an industry changes, you need to be able to learn new tricks or change your habits or know that just because that worked last year, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna work this year and you’re gonna need to be open to doing something different.
Elsie: Yes, absolutely. Ugh, this one’s kind of a personal question. How will your experiences change how you approach the internet with your kids? I would just say that I’m gonna delay it for as long as possible, and this kind of goes with just like my general parenting style, but I believe in absolute honesty, so I want to teach my kids preemptively what to expect in situations like that. I don’t believe that I can shelter them from what the internet is.
Emma: Yeah, and kind of the same thing. I’ll definitely delay a smartphone or social media as long as possible, but in part, we all know there’s like negative effects that can happen because of those things to our self-esteem, to the way that we interact with others. There are also some positive things that can happen. But to me, the main thing that I feel like a gift I was given in my childhood was boredom. And whenever I was bored, I would make things or I would play and I just wanna make sure that I give that gift to my son, boredom. And I think the internet can very easily take that from you cuz there’s so much on there. You don’t ever have to be bored. There’s so much content to consume and things to read, and videos to watch, and so on and so forth, and that’s cool.I love the internet, but also I think being bored is really healthy and good, especially when you’re young because it makes you create, it makes you solve that problem by entertaining yourself and figuring out that you like painting or you wanna learn guitar or whatever it is that you’re into.
Elsie: I love that. Yeah, I think we’re very aligned in that cuz both really appreciate the way we were raised. . Okay, what’s the cringest thing that you shared before you knew the internet was forever? Cringest thing. God, I can’t even say it, so I’m not gonna answer this. What about you?
Emma: I really don’t know. I guess when I shared boyfriends who I’m obviously not with anymore, but I don’t think that’s really that big of a deal. I don’t know, I’m not sure what would be the most cringy. There are lots of photos that I’m like I wish that wasn’t online.
Elsie: I guess I have one. I think I would sort of vent online when I was younger, in my twenties, I would vent about problems from my day because people were always like, relatable. And I thought that was what they meant. And I didn’t understand that being relatable online is not the same thing as being relatable to your friends. I believe in learning things the hard way I accept it. I don’t think I could live my life in this brain any other way.
Emma: Yeah, I just do dumb things sometimes and I probably will do more of them in the future. They’re not even all in my past and I accept that.
Elsie: I actually have a kinda similar attitude toward parenting. It’s like being willing to apologize is a big part of it, being willing to admit when you’re wrong. I think makes you a better person. And I think it’s the same thing being online, we’re gonna make mistakes. Do you ever worry about not being able to keep up with technology advancements? I love this question and I have thought about this. So brunch with Babs and all of the people over, I don’t know, 60, who have made careers for themselves in social media specifically Instagram and TikTok. I think they’re a fascinating, really inspiring group of people because they grew up without the internet for way longer than we did, and they have a way more interesting perspective than we have about the changes and how they learned them. And I actually don’t worry about being able to keep up with advancements because I think that if I am determined to stay open to change and I am not ashamed to ask for help and ask stupid questions. I think that’s a big part of it.
Emma: I’d say that’s one of the best things we’ve done in our whole career, and especially with regard to the internet, is not being afraid to look stupid or to ask for help or say, I don’t know how this works. Could someone teach it to me? And just being open to that because, yeah, things do change all the time. I always tell people too I’m really not a techy person, which is probably weird to people if you know that I work online and that I own an app company. But also when you think about it, I think it makes sense, most of the content we make, we use things like hot glue and guns. I’m not a particularly techy person, so I do get anxious when new things come out and I don’t know how to use them, or I try to use it and I can’t, and I’m like, I don’t know how to interact with this on my phone at all. And I feel like an old person. So I think I have that fear like anyone, but I also don’t think it has to be something that holds you back. I actually think it’s like really normal. And just a part of life and a part of living in a world where technology’s changing so quickly and so much. If Babs can do it, we can too
Elsie: Exactly. I’m not afraid to ask for help. And also I don’t feel pressured to try or do every single thing on social media. I skipped them all the time and anyone can, it’s our choice. It’s like exploring it and being open to it, see if it can be fun. See if you know it can benefit you and if not, then that’s fine. You know, just skip it or whatever. Any stories of people not accepting your career as a quote? “Real job”. Do we have a story or two about this? This is funny because my whole life, like the main thing that people have bullied me for, has changed over time, which is interesting, I would say every five years. But the first thing, the first original thing for my first five years was people saying that I was a OneNote and that I could only do one thing. I blew it out of the water, I would say in my career, don’t you think?
Emma: Yeah. I would say she can’t do one thing, it’s impossible. That’s my criticism.
Elsie: But yeah, no, I would say just general sexism every contractor who’s come into our home, basically my entire life is like, where’s your husband? And what does he do for a living? And it doesn’t seem like anyone ever considers the possibility that I am like a breadwinner, and I think I’m a bread baker and a breadwinner. So yeah, I think that’s for women and women who own businesses, influencers, everyone, it’s a normal thing. It’s like you’re always gonna be diminished for your accomplishments or people are gonna Be like, oh, that’s cute, and you’re like, yeah, actually great.
Emma: I do think when you work in an emerging industry and also I think artists get this like creative people get this. People will often mistake your career for a hobby, and it’s understandable because it probably was your hobby before it became your career, but it can feel a little bit diminishing and frustrating when people seem to just not wanna acknowledge the possibility that you might make a lot of money at this thing that could be a hobby, but it’s not. I think the older I get the more I don’t care. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. I think when I was younger I wanted people to know that I have a job. I’m not just someone whose parents gave them a lot of money or someone whose husband supports them. I make my own money and I always have and I’m really proud of that and I think I used to care a lot about that and now I don’t really care as much. I’m like you can think whatever you want. If you wanna believe that I don’t make any money and I just am a stay-at-home hobby girl, that’s fine. You can believe that I don’t care. It’s like whatever to me now.
Elsie: I think that’s good advice for people who are starting off in our field in a related field is to not expect people to take your job seriously and just can you be okay with accepting that sometimes people won’t because I do think it’s healthier if you can just accept that and not care. How did your friends and family react to you becoming internet famous? I wanted to answer this question because I mean this literally, no one cares. No one cared. No one cares. No one has ever cared. I think that people who follow us on the internet at certain times have treated us like we were more famous than we really are, and that’s true. But no, no one cares, no one.
Emma: There have been moments where I’ve been with family members or a friend and someone will come up to me and be like, Hey, I read your blog. And that does not happen very often, but it has happened. And I think some of those moments all of a sudden my family member I’m with or my friend, they’re like, oh because they know what I do, but it doesn’t occur to them that people read our blog or they know people read our blog, but they don’t think about it being colliding with real life. And so I think those are moments where I do feel kinda famous. I’m like, yeah, I don’t even know that person, they just read my blog. But it’s pretty rare and not really anything that’s big. We’re really not very famous.
Elsie: That’s true. We’re not being modest, we’re being accurate. So could you go back to no internet now? And if so, do you think you could transfer your career into something equivalent, an alternative career type of thing? A lot of people are asking if you didn’t do this, what would you do? I think that we could do other things. I think I could support myself without being on the internet. And I have times when I fantasize about being completely offline in the future, but at this current moment, that’s not something that I feel like I need or want. I feel like my boundaries are good enough that I can live a healthy life and be online indefinitely.
Emma: Yeah, I think so too, I enjoy it. I also could do other things. I think I have always been destined to kinda do my own thing or own a business or be a part of a business with someone like you because it’s hard to imagine myself just working somewhere, corporate. I think I could excel at it somewhat in that I really care, I’m a person who cares. I always tried to get good grades in school, for example, I’m not a partier, straight-A type. I did not get straight A’s, even though I tried. But I did well and I think when I’m trying to do a good job, it’s something I can do pretty well. So I think I could be successful in that, I just can’t imagine myself doing it, and I’ve never really had any kind of traditional job, so it’s hard to really imagine. And I think sometimes I’ve had friends ask me like, what if you had to go apply for jobs today? Do you think you could even do that? And I’m like, not really. I think my skill set is so strange at this point cuz it’s in so many different areas. I don’t think I wouldn’t have the strongest resume in some ways. I just don’t really worry about it cuz I don’t really want to work for someone else. I never have done it, so it’s just kinda a foreign thing to me.
Elsie: Honestly, I’m just gonna say, I do think that you’re wrong and I think that your resume would be outstanding if you chose to.
Emma: It would be weird. They would be like, do you know how to use Excel? I’d be like, barely.
Elsie: I do have the, how hard could it be jean? But I do think that I could apply for a high-level job and get it, I do. I don’t know because we have a lot of skills, but it doesn’t matter. I Don’t have FOMO about alternative careers. I feel like I still have a chance to do everything I want to do in my life and start new things and learn new things. So I don’t have any FOMO at all. This is an easy one to answer. Did you have internet boyfriends? Yes and yes. Done, okay.
Emma: I guess so. I don’t know. Like you met someone online.
Elsie: Yeah, you had an internet boyfriend, didn’t you? Someone who originally met on the internet.
Emma: Yeah, I think so. I kind of met him through your internet boyfriend. I think everyone meets people online now, right? I didn’t have any apps.
Elsie: Some of my bridesmaids were people who I met from commenting on my blog. I think a lot of people in my life are, most people are people I met online. Most of my friends are long-distance friends. How do you navigate feelings of being a sellout? I struggle with this. So first of all, I’m gonna assume this person’s question is completely genuine and not a jab at us. So don’t worry, we’re not mad. I would say that since we started doing what we do at a time when ads became a thing, in real-time for us. So we did have to navigate the first angry wave of backlash that people were doing them at all. Then the many iterations of people trying to figure out and learn and still learn how to do it in a way that is genuine and not the best-case scenario, I guess. So honestly, this is one part of being an influencer that I feel like we’ve always been pretty genuine about. The brands that we really, really don’t wanna work with, we’ve always said no to and maybe there are some people that are in a gray area a little bit, I could say that, but I’ve never really felt like a sellout. I honestly can’t say I’ve felt it but I’ve been accused of it. But I honestly, don’t feel like I’ve ever felt like I was a sellout because I feel we’re earning money in a way that is kinda good.
Emma: I’m also assuming that this person’s coming at it with, this is a genuine question and not a jab, but I will say I always find this type of question sort of ridiculous because I just think that it’s just a way to put somebody down, that’s all it is. And it’s cool if you consider yourself a fine artist and you only make money by selling to museums or something, that’s wonderful. But I’m sorry, your privilege is showing. Some of us just have to find a way to make a living and I’m proud of how I’ve done it. I enjoy my work. I’m proud of what I put out. And if you consider it selling out, I think that’s your problem, not mine, because I’m happy to do what I do to pay my bills and support my family. And I’ve just always kind of felt that way. I think it’s just another way that people put down certain art or certain work, just like how people say it’s cute that you have this fun little hobby, or, oh, you must be a sellout because your work isn’t X, Y, Z, and I think it’s just another way to kind of belittle and put things down. And if you’re doing that to yourself, which might be where this person’s sounds like their question’s coming from is that they’re doing it to themselves. You should stop, you don’t need to tell yourself that story. You can just be proud of the work that you’re making and the money that you’re making from it, that you can just full stop right there.
Elsie: That’s true, you can believe whatever you want to believe about yourself, and I believe that I am an artist like Picasso.
Emma: There you go. Then you are and probably in his day people thought he was a sellout, so I don’t know, it’s just ridiculous.
Elsie: Oh my God, let’s have Picasso on our podcast. He’ll probably have to be a Halloween episode. And let’s ask him, what did you get for it? And I can’t wait to hear his answers because it’s petty. It’s bull and it’s probably the exact same stuff that people are still doing now to our heroes of today. You never get treated like that in real-time or whatever. I think that working with brands is really fun and really normal and I believe that we give a lot of value that they can’t find on other platforms, and that’s why some of our sponsors have been with us for more than five to 10 years. That’s, that’s a long time. All right, so let’s move on to the big Magic book report. So Big Magic is a book by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I have to say I have it listed in my Good Reads as one of my favorite books of all time. I think it’ll probably stay there my whole life. Let’s just first explain what Big Magic is about. I don’t believe that this is going to contain any spoilers for people who are interested in listening to it. I think it will probably make you more interested, but that’s just my opinion. It’s not a fix. You can’t really spoil this, can you?
Emma: No, no. And if you’re not familiar with Elizabeth Gilbert, she’s probably most known for the book Eat, Pray, Love, a movie starring Julia Roberts that came out years and years ago. But she’s also written lots of other fiction books, and I believe another memoir and then this book, which is kind of I don’t know if I would call it advice. I would call it more like a long pep talk for anyone creative. But I think the point with that, I’m trying to say is she’s an author. But if you’re like, I really want a book that’s gonna pop me up creatively, but I am not into writing, I’m a painter, I do ceramics, or whatever it is that you do. I think this book is actually great for anyone creative, doing creative work. So if you’re looking for a book that’s about creativity, maybe you’ve been in a rut, or maybe you just like to get a pep talk now and again, I do. Then I think that this is something you might really enjoy if you haven’t listened to it. And I listened to it like Elsie, years and years ago. I wanna say it was like 2018, and I really enjoyed re-listening to it. I definitely feel a little more inspired and just a little more like, oh yeah, life is full of this fun, mystical magic if you want to believe if you wanna have faith and creativity, whatever. And I don’t know, it’s just exciting and it, for me, was something nice in the winter cuz this time of year is kinda uninspiring to me. So I thought it was a great re this time of year.
Elsie: So it’s a very important book and everyone has to read it, we insist. It is very short too, and I’ll say Elizabeth Gilbert is probably one of the best non-fiction authors I’ve heard reading her own book ever. Her reading is very, very strong. I just love listening to her voice. So you’ll also love the audiobook if you choose to do that. And honestly, even if you hate reading, pretend like it’s a podcast and it’s almost the same thing. You’re gonna love it. So a big part of the book is introducing the idea that our creative ideas could be literal living beings. And it’s kinda weird, it’s definitely woo-woo and at first, it’s the sort of thing that would raise a skeptical brow, but she gives these stories that are so compelling and I won’t spoil the stories, but that’s one of my favorite parts of the whole book. I will say, I cried two times while putting on my makeup, and listening to this book and one of them was her first big magic experience story, I love it I love listening to it. The second thing that I love about this book is, okay, so as someone who did not graduate from college, it’s something that I’ve always had and probably always will carry with me like a little bit of, I wouldn’t say it causes me self-doubt as much as it used to, but it is a challenge, right? It’s like it’s a thing that I feel is something that I have to overcome rather than an advantage in life.
Emma: That’s your fill-in-the-blank on, we all have a narrative in our head that’s like, I’m not good enough because… and yours is, I didn’t finish college.
Elsie: And it’s something that I do feel like I kinda missed out on. I’m not willing to do it now. And I understand I totally could, if I was willing to do the work I could go to college anytime I wanted. And I understand that’s an option, but it’s not something that I’m interested in anymore. So anyway, in this book and also in the other book that we covered, playing big. She really tries to dispel the idea that you need a lot of education to do creative careers, and I found it really helpful because I think that it’s something that I’m just always envious of when other people are classically trained, in art or writing or any of the things that I’m interested in doing. But she is very convincing that it could give you debts that make your life harder or it could be an excuse to keep you from just starting the creative project is the excuse of like always feeling like you need more and more education. And that’s something that I felt encouraged by that anyone can start at any time and you don’t need to do a bunch of preliminary steps beforehand.
Emma: Yeah. I think she talks a lot about higher education like Elsie’s mentioning, but she does some other little pep talks throughout the book where essentially I feel like she’s kind of breaking down the whole idea of like gatekeeping creativity, or in her case, gatekeeping being an author or being a well-known or famous author. Successful, that’s the word I look for, successful writer because that’s one thing that has always rubbed me the wrong way is when people do this kind of gatekeeping thing where it’s like, you’re not allowed to make great music or be a painter, or be a writer unless you have an Ivy League degree or you write this type of fiction or whatever. If you do pop music, you’re not cool and I’ve always disliked that. I just really feel like it’s the opposite of creativity that you should be open to whatever it is that’s gonna come your way and grab hold of it and make something from it and make the best thing you can from your point of view and with your life experiences and the person that you are. And if that’s a pop song or a sexy fairy book or whatever thing that other people might perceive as low brow. I’m doing quotes, air quotes. I just always hate the kind of gatekeeping, art is only this, I just think it’s kind of stupid
Elsie: Listen, we’re not 21 years old. We don’t listen to those types of fake rules that don’t apply to us.
Emma: I think old people do it too. I don’t think it’s just 21-year-olds. I think people in their true forties, fifties, and sixties do a lot of gatekeeping too. And I just think when you hear it, you can go ahead and dismiss it. Is anyone out there listening? I think it’s not relevant to you if it’s not relevant to you. And if you wanna make high-brow art, make it. But if you wanna make low brow, make it. If you wanna go to college for art, go for it. Think about the debt though. And if you don’t wanna go, you can still be an artist. And I think that’s a little bit what Elizabeth Gilbert’s getting at in the book, and I really like that message because I think it says Hey, we’re all creative and we can all make stuff if we want.
Elsie: She has a very strong case for like, don’t make art your job because that puts too much pressure on it and can scare away your creativity. And this is something that I feel we all need to hear. Even those of us who do, like Emma and I, professionally do a creative career, but we still have to protect our creativity by making these little just for fun projects. And there’s still so much that we have to do. I think that a lot of people through the years would say, for the past 15 years, every year people ask me to have coffee or have a phone call or whatever and pick your brain and I always know before I even sit down what they’re gonna say, they want to quit their job, almost always. I think the idea of quitting your job, is your ultimate goal. I think it’s good to just believe Elizabeth Gilbert, believe us. Believe anyone who’s done it, it’s not the ultimate goal that you think it’s gonna be.
Emma: When I think too, along those lines, one of the things I wrote down that I really loved in the book was she talks a lot about being happy and content when you’re starting out in your creativity career and also when you’re being rejected. She talks about all the rejection letters she would get and how she was serving tables or working on a ranch and those were the things she did for money so she could pay her bills and live her life. But all the while she was writing and getting rejected. But she talks about being really happy and I guess how happiness to some extent, is a choice that we make. And also we can change our point of view around things at times. She talks about when she would get a rejection letter, she would view that as the universe hitting a tennis ball back to her side of the court. So it was now her job just to hit it right back, so she would send out a new submission when she would get rejected. And I think that’s a great way to look at setbacks and rejection or moments where you have kind of a failure, is to view it as just the universe is sending the tennis ball to your side and it’s your job to just send it right back. Don’t give up.
Elsie: I loved that as well. I also love the idea of no matter what type of art you’re making, considering yourself a painter or a writer or whatever from the first day, not, I’m trying to be this, I’m thinking of being this, it’s like you are doing it just as much as anyone else is doing it ever.
Emma: A couple of other things I loved from the book, she does a lot where she does the personification of like emotions, and creativity. And I think for her it’s more of the belief that creativity actually is this little being, like a genius that comes to visit you. And I love that idea. Whether you believe it in a literal sense or not I think is beside the point. But in one part she talks about she’s doing personification with emotions and she talks about, I’m getting comfortable with her fear and how she grew up a very fearful child. I think we all have fear at times and she talks about how fear is not a bad thing. It’s not an adversary at times that can keep us safe. We’ve probably all had those moments where our radar goes off and we leave a certain area or something happens where it’s it keeps us. So fear is not a bad thing, but she has this little speech that she gives her fear, she talks to it and she says I care for you and you’re welcome to come here and give us your ideas, but you are never going to be able to make decisions or drive the car. She just sets these boundaries with these emotions or these parts of herself and I love that cuz I like the idea of accepting who we are fully, but also recognizing that doesn’t mean that, let’s say fear has to be the driving force of our life. Because I think we can all agree that if we let fear be the driving force of our life, we’re probably never going to try for anything big. We’re never going to take a chance on like meeting new people or changing our career if we wanted to or even I think a lot of time I had a lot of fear around becoming a mother because I was like, what if I suck at it? What if I don’t love my child? And if I had let those fears be the driving force, I probably wouldn’t have my beautiful son now. I just think you can’t, you have to set boundaries but also accept these parts of yourself. And I really love her take on that and the way that she does it and the way she explains it in the book. I thought it was really helpful. And then also she does that with creativity, talking about how inspiration will come to visit us, and it’s our job to grab hold of it and help it have a real life. So, if you have a book idea, you should write it and let that idea become a real book or if you have an idea for painting, you should paint it. And then that idea gets to become real in the real world. And we’re just like a vessel that this idea is gonna flow through, that kind of thing. One thing I love about that whole concept is, I feel like it makes creative work less about us, less about ourselves, and more about communion with something beyond ourselves, something bigger I’m not a particularly religious person, but I do love the idea of being connected to the world through something that does matter to me, which for me would be creativity.
Elsie: I liked her quote when she said, my creative ideas must be the most important thing in the world to me, and also not matter at all. I think that is a mind-bender a little. I believe that it’s like you have to devote yourself completely to this creative process and remain committed and remain open, but also understand that it’s not the end of the world, it’s not that big of a deal. Because I think a lot of people can drive, myself included, drive themselves crazy, wanting to make one specific idea successful when really, Emma and I love to listen to success stories and people, how I got started stories. And if you listen to the stories over and over, you will soon learn that a lot of people found success when they least expected it by staying open and trying different things, not by having this one idea that they were obsessed with their entire life and they were rejected 150 times and the hundred 51st time it became a bestseller and that’s a little bit more rare. So I like the idea that if we allow the universe to guide us and stay open and just try things, just try everything that is interesting. We’ll find our place more naturally and we don’t have to force it. So one last thing I had down for Big Magic is the story of a woman named Winifred who got interested in a whole new subject when she was 80 years old and became a complete expert by the time she was 90 years old. And this is my long term, the number one most important thing about who I wanna be in my golden years is the whole never stop learning stuff that is so important to me. I just want to be starting something new until I die. I wanna spread the good news about that. I think that it’s such a good way to stay open to the world for one, to keep yourself surprised and to just keep experiencing things that you never thought you would be interested in like a hundred times in your life you can be obsessed with something that you never thought you would be interested in. What a beautiful experience.
Emma: Yeah, and I think too, it can help with keeping your ego in check, which we all wanna think we’re right about everything, or we know everything. And I think lifelong learning is a great way to remind yourself that you don’t know everything. And that’s okay and that’s good.
Elsie: Everyone send us a story if you have a big magic experience and don’t worry, if it’s not this year, if it’s like five years from now, still send it to me. I wanna hear them forever. Okay. So we will be back next week with a Comfort Rewatch episode for the classic Star-Studded movie, Twilight. So we’ll see you next week.
I miss the days when you used to have the Happy Mail and scrapbooking subscriptions! Those were so fun. Loved reminiscing with this episode.
Loved this episode! So recognisable (especially the whole how would my CV look like thing) and what a great book recommendation! Thanks girls! You’re the best! So happy you’re making this podcast!
Oh the wonderful blogging days, I was a huge fan girl from way back. I even got to meet you Elsie during your scrapbooking trip to Sydney, Australia! Loved it all…was so fun for me, Blogs, the Creative community worldwide, Etsy shops and paper crafting – was all very exciting times and made the world feel like the size of a pea – crafty friends everywhere!
I had my blog ‘Anastasia Drawing & Dreaming’ which was just pure joy and inspiration, for over 10 years!
I never monetized it but it was an outlet away from my mundane job in Finance…I miss blogging some days and even ponder if I should start up again.
Ok I am right with Elsie in the not finishing college thing- so glad to hear I’m not alone in that!! I’m mostly at peace with it, but sometimes not. Haha. I think it would be different if I did have a “real job”, but I don’t work outside the home at the moment, so I worry about being able to find a job that would pay the bills if I needed to. I’ll have to listen to Big Magic!! And I am always impressed by your entrepreneurial and creative spirits!! I have the creative thing down, not so much the entrepreneur stuff. Haha!