Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

creativity writing

Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert










The Blurb: “Elizabeth Gilbert 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. Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.”

First, a word about the Author:

Elizabeth Gilbert had a famous bestseller several years ago, which provoked an unparalleled love/hate reaction. Like, Big Hate. This is the only book of her’s I’ve read, and I found it genuinely helpful. I’m somewhat fascinated by how many people hate her so much, and since I have a contrarian streak, this was probably an appeal. I also wonder to what degree her being female plays into all this dismissive vitriol. The word ‘narcissistic’ crops up a lot, and the phrase ‘self-involved.’ Would, say Bob Gilbert face this? idk.

This book is for anyone who feels sort of …weird about having an interest in creative work. America is not a welcoming place for creatives, unless and until they have achieved celebrity status. And even then… Anyway, you’ve probably internalized quite a lot of bad attitudes which slow or stop you from moving forward. I sincerely think you’ll be lighter and brighter after reading this book, and you’ll be more effective at ( your chosen practice.)

For example:

“Shake yourself free of all your cumbersome ideas about what you require in order to become ‘creatively legitimate’… You do not need a permission slip… to live a creative life. Or, if you do worry that you need a permission slip—THERE, I just gave it to you… Now go make something.”

..and I learned that, no North American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature has ever earned a Creative Writing MFA.” This was a bit of a revelation to me.

She acknowledges that sometimes great ideas just drop and your lap, and if you are a recipient of this good fortune, nurture it. Not everybody gets these gifts, and if the idea is not welcomed into your life…it leaves.

She asks you to examine your fears, doubt, blocks, procrastination, ‘I don’t have time’ and other baggage that allows you to avoid… the stuff you actually want to do. If you can name it, you can begin to rid yourself of it.

Fear has nothing to offer you,  is freeloading around your brain and sucking your soul. Please don’t feed the fears, just gently escort them out of your way. You’ve got work to do.

“Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.” Huh. Perfectionism had always felt sort of admirable to me, quality-orientated, even, responsible. Yeah, no, bye.

Bottom line: I write more after reading this book, and rarely feel bad about doing it. She largely encourages paying attention, and being curious. Simple. If you fear new-age-y mumbo-jumbo, and perhaps you should, here’s a quote that I think is quite lovely. If it makes you hurl, skip this book:

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels — that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place — that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”

If you’re still here, and thinking, gosh.. that’s not beyond the pale, you might like this book. Enchanted sounds fun, right?

Here’s another, a variant of  ‘be careful what you wish for’/ ‘you are what you think’:

“Every time you express a complaint about how difficult and tiresome it is to be creative, inspiration takes another step away from you, offended.”

Perhaps because contemporary culture measures worth in exactly one way, your bank account, people are increasing reluctant to try things, or spend time on anything that does not offer clear, immediate financial payoff. But how many hours of your life have you spent on TV, social media, hobbies, etc. I mean, people spend entire weekends watching like.. football or golf or something tragic, and that’s considered ‘normal.’ Why feel worse about writing that other ways people spend time?

“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”


“Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone “safe.”

What did you think?  Have you read this, or other books by this author?  What was your favorite part?  Is there another, similar book that you prefer?  Is there anything you wish the author explained in greater detail?  Do you disagree with something they said? Let me know in the comments section, below. Thanks!

Need this book? Here are some options;

You can preview it via Overdrive or Libby. Ask your Librarian if your Library has access to these e-book services, and how they work with your library card.  If you decide it’s a keeper, here are some additional options:

You may find it at a used book store: Books-A-MillionPowell’sThirftbooks, or The Strand.

If You have a great indy bookstore near you, please support them.

or, You can buy it via Amazon


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