From the Idea to the Real / by Melanie Ida Chopko

It's often a stretch for me to pull my creative ideas across the finish line to become real, whole things alive in the world.  I'm continually listening for a way to think about that process with more spaciousness and curiosity, rather than a bent towards crankiness that ensures my ideas won't dare to keep poking their heads out of the soil. My faithful, incredible writing group helps a ton, as do other artists who can pop their heads into the room and tell me, "Keep going!"

So last week I smiled wide hearing this dialogue between the words of writers Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Patchett (on the unedited version of her interview with Krista Tippett on

Anne Patchett put this beautifully - Her favorite part of the creative process is the beginning when she has the idea, she's alone with the idea. And the idea is a piece of perfection. The idea circles her head like an amethyst butterfly and catches the light...and she knows, This is the one! She doesn't have to make it, just enjoy the pleasure of this perfection that does not exist.

And then when the moment comes to actually make that book, take it out of the unreal and midwife it into the real, the first thing she has to do is pluck that imaginary amethyst butterfly from the sky, put it on the table in front of her and smash it with a mallet. Because it can never be made. The more she is addicted to making that, the harder it will be for her to do her job, which is to make what she is capable of making now. 

[That's what a friendly artist does], one with a friendly curiosity about their work and an open-hearted "oh well," and an absence of perfectionism. My attempt to making an amethyst butterfly is always just so bizarre - I end up making this thing that looks nothing like the glittering dream. I hammer this thing together and claim that it's an amethyst butterfly. I look at it and one of the hinges doesn't work and it's all lopsided, and yet, the feeling I have at this point is, "That's pretty cool! No one ever made one like that before!" The dream of the thing wasn't a real thing, and this is a real thing that has life and spirit in it. And I kinda like it. And now I want to go make another one. And we can leave the amethyst butterflies to the dream of perfectionism that is the death of all fun, all play and all joy.