Books, Pop Culture

Review-Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

November 30, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

Our first Glamourtunist book recommendation is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Full of Gilbert’s signature wit, remarkable storytelling, refreshing candor, and realness, the author gives challenging though care filled arguments about what it means to do creativity without delay, and to do it right where we are in our lives. It did not disappointment me at all and will not disappoint others who are interested in conversation about what it means to engage happily and mindfully with creative life and all its precariousness and vagaries, today.

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The book begins and ends on a beautifully phrased question and statement Gilbert recounts as having been asked by the late writer Jack Gilbert (no biological relation to the author) to a student whom he was advising about her own creative work: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” This book has many wonderful gems within it that will inform as it affirms our choice to say yes, both for anyone who either already considers themselves an artist/creative/or someone who makes things, as well as for those who do not see themselves as being creative or have otherwise negative associations with the idea of creativity, offering stories that suggest how one can begin to see what she calls “creative living” differently and in a life they may see as not having any creative inclinations at all. Gilbert shows convincingly that creativity and ideas are an infinite resource, and that “the work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you” (221).

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What I found most exciting about this book were Gilbert’s anecdotal insights about creative living beyond various kinds of fears, from her own life and stories told to her at various moments in her life, to the creative living of others such as Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and to fellow writer in the “self-help” genre the sociologist, Brené Brown. These stories serve as useful terrain for Gilbert to invite creatives to radically remake our definitions of foundational words and phrases in art making (“creativity,” “ideas,” “discipline”) in ways that will usefully move us forward in making our art, or even to just figure out what that art we are here to make even is for those who are pondering this important question. This aspect of Big Magic I found to offer the greatest insight on how creative can show up for their work and themselves in ways that will assist them in building new rituals for creative life that make the joy and pleasure of creativity, all that truly matters. Gilbert’s discussion of perfectionism in relationship to fear was also thoughtful and encouraging, and I especially appreciated the fashion reference she used in unpacking this complicated emotional territory, writing:

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And, as I already mentioned, I am and have long been a fan of Gilbert’s realness or candor, especially her irreverent potty mouth when she says things like:

 

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I mean, HELLO! Yaaaaaassssszzzz!

I enjoyed the entire book, but the sections titled “Persistence” and “Trust” were my favorite. In “Persistence,” and in other sections of the book,” Gilbert challenges the age old discourse of the artist suffering productively for their work, and instead argues and establishes the efficacy of joy and self-care as a part of the work of creative living, thus running counter to the harmful and intergenerational embrace of suffering for one’s art. One will hopefully come from this discussion resolved to taking care of their body, mind, and soul in whatever way they cane, seeing that as part of creative living and also part of the responsibility artists have to nurturing the most important resource in creative living, which is ourselves. In “Trust,” though Gilbert does not explicitly make the book or this section about any one or more religion, her discussion about having trust in inspiration and creativity as it trusts the creative person to bring forth the work that only they can bring was, for me, a meditation on faith that linked faith in the creative process to faith in a spiritual sense as well. This discussion offered helpful consideration of the role of certain tenets of faith to recasting our relationship to creative life, such as devotion (daily practice (what I see as ritual), belief, responsibility, and ultimately, love.

Big Magic is easily among my favorite books from this year, and I am elated for many more reasons than I have named here, to suggest it to Glamourtunist readers. If you have read the book already I would love to hear from you in the comments below, or if you read the book at a later time please feel free to come back to this post and share your thoughts. Lastly, a special shout-out to the discussants in “Soul Supplies” virtual book club I co-created and co-facilitated with Dr. David Glisch-Sanchez of Soul Support Life Coaching (@soulsupportLC), where we discussed Big Magic. Your comments about the book make me excited to reread it again, and again.

You can follow Elizabeth Gilbert at @GilbertLiz and also read other people’s thoughts on the book by following #BigMagic in social media.

 

 

 

 

 

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