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The first book I read in 2017 was Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. Long story short, I loved this book.
“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
I went into Big Magic with no expectations, having never read any of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books before, but I came out feeling really inspired as a writer and as a creative person in general.
The best way I can think to describe Big Magic is that it made me feel like I was just sitting down for a cup of coffee with Elizabeth Gilbert and listening to her speak (I listened to the audiobook, and I’d highly recommend it) about her creative journey as well as dispense some invaluable advice for aspiring writers and artists. It felt like she was a mentor, giving me some tough but illuminating advice on the struggles of pursuing a creative passion.
“Anyhow, the older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.”
The book is honest about the harsh realities of being an artist without being discouraging. Gilbert discusses the struggles of being creative while also trying to pay your bills and feed yourself. She is very blunt about not expecting your creative work to support you (a piece of advice that I think I really needed to hear), however despite this bluntness, she comes across as extremely encouraging and supportive of artistic pursuits that come from a place of pure passion rather than a desire for a paycheck. Gilbert seems to have been able to make peace with having to work a day job in order to support her writing (which is exactly what she did until the success of Eat, Pray, Love), and I think that’s the ultimate point she’s trying to make about art: it is not your art’s job to support you. Your job is to do whatever you can to support your art. Your art will most likely not make you rich (don’t expect to be the next J.K. Rowling), and in fact, you may never even get to the point where your art supports you enough that you can quit your day job, but that should never, ever be the point of the art in the first place. If your art never supports you financially, that should be perfectly okay with you as long as you get to still make art. That’s what being an artist should be.
“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
There were a couple of aspects of Big Magic that I was a bit skeptical of, namely the actual “magic” that Gilbert is referring to in regards to where inspiration comes from. Her explanation was a bit too out there for me. I just couldn’t get on board with the concept of ideas floating in space, bouncing around from one person to another until they find the right person. I think I am just too much of a skeptic, though I did find the concept of what she was saying quite intriguing, and her personal stories were very compelling.
“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
Even with my skepticism of the magical aspects of creativity that Gilbert is pushing in Big Magic, I still came out of the book feeling inspired to pursue writing and art for no reason other than that I love them, so I’d say the book was a success.