On Elizabeth Gilbert’s New Book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

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Want to jump start your creative energies? Be inspired to start that creative project you have been putting off? Dedicate yourself to not just your creativity, but living a creative life? Read Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic.

Elizabeth Gilbert gives us part memoir and sage perspective on one’s relationship to creativity starting right at the beginning with this:

“Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.”

A Wise Angel

big magic
Elizabeth Gilbert

And to the mysteries of inspiration she goes indeed. Big Magic is divided into thematic sections – Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. Short, nugget-like chapters within each section read as if a wise angel has swooped down to gently yet honestly poke that creative part of us who has likely been poking at us, and we’ve chosen not to notice.

Gilbert talks about what creative living means, and how it was modeled for her early in life. She writes, about her dad when she was young: “I knew he was doing his own thing and following his own path, and I intuitively sensed that this made him, by definition, an interesting person. I didn’t have a term for it back then, but I can see now that he was practicing something called creative living.”

Demons

As part of creative living, she goes into the power of declaring one’s creative intent —and how to keep that intent strong, “no matter how deep my anxieties and insecurities may be.” Having wrestled with her own creative demons, Gilbert goes to the heart of what stops us creatively, and how to acknowledge yet not be run by it.

Cycles & Purpose

She gives an insightful discussion about the many benefits of staying at creative endeavors over time. One is the ability to recognize our emotional patterns of creativity — the psychological cycles of one’s creative process. By observing these cycles, Gilbert imparts wisdom on how to get through emotional minefields that come up inside us again and again.

Gilbert also dives into the discussion on how creativity plays into finding purpose in life. “Find your passion and the money will follow?” Not. She contends that the question is not so much about what we are passionate about. “Finding purpose in life is to answer this question in total honesty: What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?” Every single pursuit has its “own lousy side effects.” The real question is: What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work.” Good question.

Then there’s failure. A creative life is not without it. You’ll learn what she thinks about how to navigate disappointment without going too far into the depths of “shame or rage.”

Big Magic Means Space for Paradox

Big Magic chews on how a “devotion to inquisitiveness” serves as the key to creative living, as is making space for paradoxes, such as these:

“What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.
We are terrified, and we are brave.
Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.
Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.”

If we can make space for these paradoxes, Gilbert believes we can make anything.

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert. You have written a jewel of a piece that anyone wanting to access their creativity more deeply or wanting more of a creative life (what that means to them) can read and come back to – it can be our friend when we need to go back to the well, our well, of inspiration and creative rejuvenation.

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