Am I the Lobster in the Ballroom?

Following on from the last post I wrote about Liz Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, I’d like to share some thoughts on one of the parts of the book which really struck me. Towards the end of the book is a chapter on trust and in particular an anecdote about a costume party…

Liz writes about a guy she once met at a party, who told her a rather wonderful story about his little brother…

Little Brother, an aspiring painter, saved up all his money and went to France, to surround himself with beauty and inspiration. He lived on the cheap, painted every day, visited museums, traveled to picturesque locations, bravely spoke to everyone he met, and showed his works to anyone who would look at it. One afternoon, Little Brother struck up a conversation in a cafe with a group of charming young people, who turned out to be some species of fancy aristocrats. The charming young aristocrats took a liking to Little Brother and invited him to a party that weekend in a castle in the Loire Valley. They promised Little Brother that this was going to be the most fabulous party of the year. It would be attended by the rich, by the famous, and by several crowned heads of Europe. Best of all, it was to be a masquerade ball, where nobody skimped on the costumes. It was not to be missed. Dress up, they said, and join us!

Excited, Little Brother worked all week on a costume that he was certain would be a showstopper. He scoured Paris for materials and held back neither on the details nor the audacity of his creation. Then he rented a car and drove to the castle, three hours from Paris. He changed into his costume in the car and ascended the castle steps. He gave his name to the butler, who found him on the guest list and politely welcomed him in. Little Brother entered the ballroom, head held high.

Upon which he immediately realised his mistake.

This was indeed a costume party – his new found friends had not misled him there – but he had missed one detail in translation: This was a themed costume party. The theme was “a medieval court.”

And Little Brother was dressed as a lobster.

A 6-foot tall man, in a lobster red leotard and tights. With antenna… This idea that, at all times, not just when putting our creative ideas out into the world, we are baring ourselves to everyone about us and that means taking the risk that people will point and laugh at you instead of going “that’s so cool!”

I feel this way when I let others read my poetry, when I share new music I’ve discovered in the depths of the internet, when I wear the most outrageously coloured, floaty outfits in the midst of Dorset’s uniform of tweed and wellies and when I wear my hair wild and curly instead of straight.

There are those of us in life who are perpetually a big red lobster, one that lopes around the dance floor, crashing antenna into shit while everyone else, elegantly dressed, dances the pre-agreed steps. But whether those following the routine cheer in support, asking how you made the extra legs protruding from your mid-section or whisper critique to each other about the costumed crustacean in the room, makes not one smidge of difference.

We’re going to create. It’s not my job, nor yours, to be concerned over other’s opinions of what you bring to the ballroom.

Just bring it.

Let me know what you think