Several summers ago, I read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic. I love the way she talks about ideas as separate beings that float around like dandelion spores, looking for a place to germinate, grow and manifest into something great. She writes of creativity and living creatively as an act of courage and being unattached to expectations in the pursuit of creative endeavors.
She quotes poet Jack Gilbert:
“We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”
“Without bravery, we will never be able to realize the vaulting scope of our own capacities. Without bravery, we will never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, our lives will remain small - far smaller than we probably want our lives to be.”
“Do you have the courage to bring forth this work. The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
Gilbert elaborates, “When I refer to creative living I am speaking more broadly. I am talking of a living a life that is more driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
A friend and I were talking about mineral waters and discussing their differentiating qualities. He said, "You should have a tasting and call it A Flight of Sparkle."
I'm not what I would call "outgoing". I don't often reach out to others due to my own fears of rejection, whether reasonable or not.
In my 20s, when I had been living in the Bay Area for about a year and knew what felt to me like a reasonable number of people, I had an idea for a party - a 60s mod cocktail party like in Breakfast at TIffany's, where there would be fancy mixed drinks and lots of Martin Denny and Henry Mancini records on rotation. I was way into retro fashions in this period of my life. Loved old coats, purses, dresses and jewelry. There was a great supply of these things at vintage stores and they were relatively cheap. But, only one of the people I invited to that party came over and even he didn't stay long. I'm no Holly Golightly, it seems.
That was a pretty traumatic experience, and not wanting to ever feel that way again, I haven't been the invitation extender very often. But, I loved the idea of a mineral water tasting because while I thought myself a connoisseur, the truth is that tasting things one at a time over long periods of time does not afford the same ability to compare and contrast as a single sitting does.
I didn't tell anyone that I was planning a party. But it did spark a creative idea in my mind, and since I love getting and sending mail, especially handmade and crafted postal art, I sat down at my desk and started working on invitations.
The watercolor paper was taped off across the top and bottom, and I masked a small section in the center for the writing. I cut sparkle shapes out of the center masking then painted the paper with green and blue watercolor. Then I folded the envelopes and sewed the buttons on. I used my sewing machine to close the side seams, and I melted sealing wax over cooking twine with the tips dipped in candle wax to keep them from fraying. Last, I wrapped the twine around the button and considered them closed. The date, time and location details were on a separate card tucked into the top pocket of the envelope. They were mailed in black envelopes with planet stamps that had black backgrounds. The addressee was inscribed in neon pink gel pen.
I popped the invitations in the mail then followed up online, because while adorable, paper invitations are not quite as reliable as modern, real-time confirmation. I got eight waters from various countries: the UK, Norway, Italy, France and Germany. My favorite sparkling mineral water is Badoit, but I didn't have any for this occasion because the one place I know to buy it was out, and it's rare to find in regular grocery stores. My pal Abby loaned me her "party glasses". Everyone I invited came to my apartment and partook.
I learned that I don't like Perrier nearly as much as I thought I did. And Gerolsteiner isn't the worst, like I thought it was. I liked St. Geron and Hildon best out of this group, with Pellegrino and Ferrarelle being good and at least widely available. The others were harsher, less pleasant to drink, for me.
It was a fun art project because there were no expectations. I hadn't told anybody I was planning it, so there was no pressure. No fear of failure or disappointment. I just played around with my art supplies one day and what resulted were these fun party invitations. That is my favorite way with art, to have an idea with a purpose, but to be unfettered and free in the pursuit.
I was afraid when I sent out the invitations. Afraid nobody would say yes. Afraid my creative output wouldn't be appreciated. The point though isn't to not be afraid, but to do it anyway.
Nelson Mandela said, "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
It may seem like sending invitations and hosting a small, silly party would not warrant this treatise on fear, courage and creativity, but for me it does. That's how painful and traumatic it was for me to have tried to host a party and failed. And that's why this small, silly party was a courageous and creative triumph for me. If no one had come, I would have been disappointed. That was a risk, and I did it anyway.