by Elizabeth Gilbert
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.
I came across this book when I saw Jen Campbell talking about it on her YouTube channel; the amount of books I've gone out and bought because I've seen her talk about them is kind of ridiculous. I just can't help it.
I think there is a bit of a stigma around self-help books, though I'm not 100% sure this book is a self-help book. There's advice here for people with any interest in the arts, but it doesn't feel like Elizabeth Gilbert is trying to tell you how to live a creative life, she's simply giving advice and tips that she's learned through her own experiences and the experiences of people she knows. I think that's why I enjoyed the book.
I didn't agree with everything Gilbert said by any means, this isn't the creator's bible, but I don't think anyone will; I didn't go into this expecting it to change my life because I was more interested in reading about another writer's process. That doesn't mean I didn't find any of it helpful, because there are few a tips in here I'd definitely like to try out when I can feel procrastination tugging on my arm, but I think anyone who goes into this book expecting it to be a creative epiphany is simply setting themselves up for disappointment, and being a bit unfair on the book, too!
It's very easy to read. Before this I hadn't read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert, but since finishing it I've picked up one of her novels, The Signature of All Things, to see how her fiction compares to her non-fiction, and also because it sounds right up my alley. Big Magic is one of those books told in really small chapters, each of which is essentially a new story or tip, meaning you can either read it in one go or dip in and out of it whenever you like. For us creative types, this could be a very good book to keep by your bed.
What I loved most about it was the emphasis on just keeping going. There was a lovely section in which Gilbert talked about Harper Lee, and how she thought it was such a shame that the success of To Kill a Mockingbird frightened her from writing anything else because how could it possibly beat that? Gilbert's point is that you don't need to look at your work as the next bestseller, you just need to enjoy making it and put everything you can into it, and I thought it was great advice because, let's face it, pretty much every creative person - whether you're a writer or a painter or an actor or a musician or a florist - struggles with crippling self-doubt. Probably on a daily basis.
Ultimately I really enjoyed this, and I recommend it to any creative person out there!