Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 out of 5 ⭐️‘s
Is Creative Living For Everyone?
In Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert explains it is possible for anyone to live a creative life. Gilbert believes that we are all creative beings, and that creativity lives inside each and every one of us — it’s just that some of us choose to neglect it, while others fall freely and openly into it. Gilbert emphasizes that this book is for anyone who is curious about creative living, or for those who are already in touch with their creative spirit but want to dig deeper into how to enhance their journey. Gilbert uses her experience as a writer to reach out to the artistic community by providing useful techniques that are intended to encourage the creative process to flow freely, while putting fear and other obstacles in their place. Although I do think this book would be most ideal for writers, she does clarify that it is not specifically intended for the writing community alone and that it was written for any type of person who is living or attempting to live a creative life in any capacity.
According to Gilbert, Creativity Lives Within…
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Creating Takes Courage
Gilbert highlights courage as the key element necessary when striving for a creative life. She describes courage– as it relates to creativity– as having the tenacity and confidence to take the unpredictable path that leads toward a messy yet beautiful future, one full of excitement and boundless opportunity. Gilbert plays up the need for this kind of courage before even considering to embark on the journey. She digs deep with readers– asking if they’re brave enough to see the unknown that lies ahead, and even more unpredictable, to see what lies within them.
“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
Why Do We Need Courage? Well, Because, Gilbert Says, Creating Is “Scary”
In the book, Gilbert explains that having courage is crucial because creating anything new, where something didn’t exist before, is terrifying. Below I’ve listed some of the examples she uses in the book of the various “scary” things that can creep up on us and prevent us from fully exploring our creative gifts.
“Scary” Things — That Get In The Way
-What Your Family Will Think
-Not Having True Talent
-It Being A Waste Of Time
-Someone Already Did It Better
-Someone Could Steal My Ideas
-Won’t Be Taken Seriously
-Not Important Enough
-Won’t Change Lives
-Embarrassed To Have Goals
-Not Enough Discipline To Finish
-Don’t Have The Workspace
-Don’t Have The Time
-Not Enough Training or Degree
-Unleashing Inner Demons
-Best Work Is Behind You
-Best Work Never Existed
-Neglected Creativity For Too Long
-Too Old To Start
-Too Young To Start
-Nothing Good Will Happen To Me
-One Hit Wonder
-No Hit Wonder
How Gilbert Handles Fear—
“It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Fear Should Sit In The Backseat
Gilbert dissects what she means by fear, and breaks down both good and bad fear. She goes into a deep analysis of why we have fear in the first place and why some aspects of it are good– just not in the creative process. She explains how she allows fear to exist, and how she tells it to take a backseat during the times when she is actively creating. To illustrate how she does this, Gilbert reenacts a conversation that she sometimes has with her fear. In this back and forth she calls out her fear, validates it for existing, and acknowledges that although it can be helpful in some aspects of her life, there is no room for it in her creative space, for it to have any power, or for it to make any suggestions. She essentially kicks fear to the curb, verbally.
There is Freedom When Fear Is Put In Its Place…
“If you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting. And that would be a pity, because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you’re still here.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
What Happens When We Say No To An Idea?
According to Gilbert once we’ve successfully gotten rid of fear, creative energy will have the space and freedom it needs to flow. Ideas react to this flow by popping in and out of the mind. Gilbert says that this is normal, and that the experience should be embraced as it’s all part of the process. She emphasizes that as creators we should resist the urge to feel guilty if we decide to turn an idea away. She explains various reasons we might say no to an idea– perhaps we are in the middle of working on something else, or we have a gut feeling that the idea isn’t meant for us, or even perhaps we are just feeling too lazy to take on that particular idea at the moment. Gilbert makes it clear that all of this is healthy, and explains that ideas come and go, and if an idea is rejected by one person it just goes off into the universe and lands on the next person, until eventually it lands on the person it was truly meant for.
What Happens When We Say Yes To An Idea?
Gilbert says, that is when creative magic, or Big Magic happens. Gilbert describes how to identify if the idea is truly for you, and explains the telltale signs—- things such as butterflies in the stomach and goosebumps popping up on the forearms. The idea is letting you know that it’s yours and that you have been given the opportunity to run with it. Gilbert emphasizes that if you do decide to mold this idea into your own unique creation, then it is imperative that you see it through until the end. She cautions against allowing oneself to become the stereotypical burdened, damaged artist who struggles in misery until the work is finished. Instead, she encourages readers to set boundaries with themselves and others, and to put as much healthy energy as possible into the project, until it is completed. She instructs that if done properly the creative magic will be able to flow through you until the work is completed.
Gilbert Explains Creative Entitlement…
“Creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that — merely by being here — you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
Divinity, according to Gilbert is what occurs when we allow the creative process to simply happen— when we succeed at creating something that is uniquely ours without letting anything get in the way, and without allowing ourselves to give up or burn out. She explains that when we reach this point in our creative existence that everything we create, and that others – existing within this same mindset – create is forever growing, changing, evolving, or being recreated in some way or another. Gilbert explains that this is the way the universe intended creativity to work.
Gilbert talks about creative living
“A creative life is an amplified life, it’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
Do I have any criticisms? Yes. But I don’t think they’re monumental enough to deter you from having an interest in the book. But, even so they are worth mentioning. First, Gilbert bases the entire book on her experience as a writer. So, even though she does emphasize that this book is for all artists, or individuals interested in living a more creative life (and in all fairness she does mention various other types of creative pursuits other than writing in the book) it is overly presumptuous of her to assume she is well versed enough in all artistic areas that she can specifically direct advice to non-writers, since her experience pertains specifically to writing. Also, she doesn’t use any outside information to back up her ideas, or provide likeminded opinions or even quotes from other creative minds to back up her philosophy, which, I think would have served to amplify her perspective. Instead, what readers get is Gilbert’s opinion about how to create art based on Gilbert’s experience as a writer (remember Eat, Pray, Love?).
Another criticism I have is that Gilbert doesn’t discuss some of the real struggles that new or unestablished writers go through, like rejection, self publishing, or how to re-motivate oneself after being turned down or criticized. It could be because she has lost touch with the real struggles that writers and artists go through because she has had so much success. It’s also likely that she has fallen out of touch with the magnitude of her success and how that impacts her career— I mean, she has connections, publishing deals, fame, fortune, and having all of that at your fingertips makes being open to your creative flow a whole lot easier.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. She talks about creative energy like it’s a mystical out of this world concept that can sprinkle over you at any given moment, and, honestly, the way she communicated this drew me right in, it made me want to grab a cup of hot tea, and cuddle up by the fire with a cozy knitted blanket to brainstorm ideas. And, actually I did just that. I let my creativity flow freely as I scribbled down ideas onto my notepad and to my surprise the words seemed to fall right out through my fingertips. She inspired me. She helped me mentally reframe how I think about creative energy, and the process of creative living in general— how it is a daily habit, not just an occasional thing— more of a lifestyle really. Overall, if you’re a writer, or an artist, or you create in another capacity, and if you’re looking for motivation in your life to reignite that creative flame inside you then I think this book is worthy of your time. I read a physical copy and listened to it through Audible. If you decide to give it a chance I highly recommend listening to it as her voice has an uncanny ability to soothe and inspire. I know she helped me to live a little more freely and creatively, and for that reason alone I’m happy I took the time to read it.
Have you read Big Magic? If so, what did you think about it? If not, did my review inspire you to pick up a copy? Do you believe it is important to live a creative life? Is it something you aspire to do on a regular basis? How do you express yourself creatively? What gets in the way? Please let me know your thoughts and feel free ask any questions or comment below. I cannot wait to hear from you!
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If you haven’t read the highly popular book Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert you can purchase that below as well.