Book Review: "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert
Even with all of the who-rah surrounding Eat, Pray, Love that took place several years ago, I had never picked up a work by Elizabeth Gilbert prior to this month. I obviously knew who she was, and I had even watched her interview on "fear, authenticity, and Big Magic" with Marie Forleo. However, I wasn't entirely sold until I casually flipped through a copy of Big Magic at my local Target a couple months ago. If you've ever pondered about creativity or been stumped on why you keep missing the cruise to Inspiration Isle, I feel as though you may end up taking quite a bit away from this encouraging book. Here is a quick summary of Big Magic, as provided by the book jacket:
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the 'strange jewels' that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
Five things that I loved about this book:
- You don't need a permission slip to create things. Sounds like a "well, duh?" statement, right? In this day and age, it can be a bit intimidating to put your work - the products of your vulnerable heart and soul - in front of other people. These people could be critics, mentors, family members, or even those who are well-established, highly praised experts in your creative field. No matter who's looking at your work, it's doggone scary. The message behind Big Magic is that you are already creatively legitimate. You don't need a hall pass to create something that was inspired by your own God-given strengths and talents. Just do it. Life is too brief to wallow in fear about what others will think of your sketching or woodworking or writing or sculpting or guitar playing or designing. Take the leap and create.
- Creativity and fear can coexist. Yes, you read that correctly. In fact, they absolutely should coexist. As Gilbert states, "creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching alongside with it." Think of Fear from Disney-Pixar's Inside Out. Yea, the purple, bug-eyed, lanky dude in a sweater vest and bow tie? That's totally me. My personalized version of Fear (probably wearing skinny jeans and a wool sweater fitted with a Peter Pan collar) has controlled every little bit of my creativity for the past three years. Instead of acknowledging my fears, I resented them. Instead of feeding into my creativity, I starved it. Big Magic suggests that the two have to work together, and you have to make space for both to coexist peacefully. We're hardwired to experience fear for a reason. However, fear should remain a passenger in the vehicle that is your life - not a driver (or even a backseat driver, for that matter). Creativity thrives when your fears and anxieties aren't calling the shots. As someone who fights this battle almost daily, this was one of my absolute favorite takeaways from this book.
- The importance of inquisitiveness. "Curiosity didn't kill the cat. It created the mousetrap." Ever since I was a little girl, I've always been inquisitive. I learned early on to always look at things with a skeptical eye, ask why things are the way that they are, and understand that there are no dumb questions. Gilbert says that curiosity asks one simple question: "Is there anything you're interested in? Anything? Even a little bit?" To live a creative life, we've got to take interest in what makes our minds tick. Don't feel as though you have to rush into it. Take your time, stay inquisitive, and learn along the way.
- Stop trying to be perfect. Here's the thing - the idea of perfection is entirely subjective. One person's perfect is another person's dumpster fire. As someone who has struggled with this for years, I can say matter-of-factly that striving for perfection is like running at full-speed on an enclosed hamster wheel with no emergency exits. The most baffling part about it is that people - for a multitude of reasons - actually put themselves through it. No one and nothing is perfect, and that is absolutely okay. In order to create something, we have to let go of the tendency to sway towards perfectionism. As Gilbert says, "done is better than good." If we take our sweet time tinkering and second-guessing every little detail of a project, we may start to lose interest, fall victim to paralyzing insecurity, or - worst of all - quit all together. Stick with it and ditch perfectionism - the world needs your unique creative gifts.
- Elizabeth Gilbert's writing. Goodness gracious. Everything - her knack for storytelling, her fiery encouragement, her choice diction - was simply captivating. It's that kind of writing that makes you feel as though you're sitting across the table from the author at a quaint coffee shop with a latte warming the palm of your hand. Conversational, humorous, and raw. Because of this, I finished Big Magic within twelve hours. That doesn't happen too often but when it does, I know I've just read one heck of a book.
Mackenzie's Rating: 5/5 - Encouraging, humorous, and well-written.
Tell me - are you planning on reading Big Magic? If you've already read it, what were some of your favorite takeaways? Write me a comment below and let me know! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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Photo source of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is Goodreads, Inc.