Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert

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Genre: Self-help
Pages: 273
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Opening Line:

Q: What is creativity?

A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

The thing that attracted me to this book was its focus on creativity. I consider myself a creative person, or at the very least someone who seeks creativity in their every day life. So I ached to read this book as an exploration of how creativity shapes us as human beings, and we in turn utilise creativity as a means of expression.

Straight away I noticed something when I began to read, and that was that this book is aimed mostly at artists and writers. Elizabeth Gilbert, as we all know, is a writer, so it is inevitable that her position as a writer will affect her writing when she discusses creativity. I’m also a writer, so this only enhanced the book for me, and made it even more readable. What I’m saying is, if you’re not a writer, then you might switch off.

This is the first book of Gilbert’s I’ve read, which might come as a shock. Her novel Eat, Pray, Love was incredibly successful, but I’ve never read it. Whether I’ll go out and buy it after reading this remains to be seen, but this book is the first taste of her writing I’ve had, and therefore my first impression of her as a writer and a person.

One thing that will stay with me from this book is the way Gilbert thinks of ideas and inspiration as being magical entities. However, if I’m going to believe that what she says is actual truth then I might want to start worrying that the ideas I’m not working at the moment will suddenly disappear, and that next week I’ll notice that someone else has written the book that I began. I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to happen, and while this kind of ‘magic’ is beyond what I am willing to believe, it is a nice idea, and a nice way to consider inspiration and creativity. It may be magical for some, and not for others.

From a writing and reading perspective, I like the style this book is written in. It’s broken up into parts, and broken up even further into short sections. This makes it quite a fast read, and is suitable for the self-help genre. However, it does rely heavily on Gilbert’s own life and experiences, and can sometimes come across as being an excuse for her to share these anecdotes from her writing career, and frame them as inspiration for other people’s creativity. I’m sure this isn’t the intention, but some readers might be put off by how much of Gilbert’s life is referred to throughout the book. I had no prior expectations for her writing style, so it didn’t bother me, but I did hope that it would be a more in-depth study into creativity, and draw on stories from different cultures, rather than focusing on her journey with creative living. I wanted this book to be more like Susan Cain’s Quiet, but about creativity rather than introverts. If that’s what you’re hoping for too…then that’s not what you’ll get.

In terms of genre, I don’t usually read self-help, but I do enjoy a bit of non-fiction every now and then, and this definitel satisfied my interest there, and even inspired me to want to write a self-help style book. At least, the seed of an idea has emerged, and I’m saying yes in the hope that it’ll stick around long enough for me to write it!

Writers and artists, definitly read this.

Elizabeth Gilbert fans, same applies.

Interested in becoming a writer? See the section entitled ‘Schooling’ on page 101.

Everyone else, if it takes your fancy, read it. It’s not hard going and you never know, inspiration might just strike.

Favourite quotes:

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” p. 8.

“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter the realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.” p. 23.

“I was suspicious of the idea that the best place for me to find my voice would be in a room filled with fifteen other young writers trying to find their voices.” p. 102.

Link to the book on Goodreads:

Big Magic

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