Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear - A Review
Sometimes in life, all you need is a little magic, or in some special cases, Big Magic. This week I finished reading the highly recommended book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and I have definitely caught the recommendation bug. I can’t stop telling everyone that I know about this masterpiece and how much it will transform their lives. If you’re reading this, then prepare to also catch the bug once you’ve read the book as you won’t be able to stop shouting its praises!
Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is hard to explain really. I’d maybe describe it as a self-help book meets autobiography with a dash of fantasy - that’s not to say that it’s made up or not real, just that it reads so magically, with incredible anecdotes dotted throughout that make you re-think your attitude towards creativity in the best ways possible. Does that make sense? Perhaps not, but I’ll talk you through some of the main ideas so that you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Big Magic describes ideas as being alive, something I had never considered but that now makes total sense. After reading the description of how ideas come and go and move from person to person, as well as many other incredible anecdotes, I cannot help but believe that they are alive. Reading these thoughts throughout the book convinced me that as an idea comes to me, it’s my responsibility to nurture and care for it, otherwise it will either move on and find another loving home, or it will die, and I don’t want that to happen!
Another aspect of Big Magic that struck a chord with me was the perspective on living a creative life. This is an overarching topic throughout the book, but it’s addressed specifically towards the beginning. If you’ve heard David Kelley’s Ted Talk on Creative Confidence, or read his book, Creative Confidence, you’ll have good understanding of this idea (if you haven’t, you definitely should!) - the basic idea while some people might describe themselves as a “creative,” everybody has the capacity to be a creative person. You don’t have to be an artist, designer, illustrator, writer or any other categorically “creative” profession to live a creative life, you can output creativity in many aspects of life, in many different ways, and I 100% agree. Elizabeth describes this in a much more poetic way, and it’s extremely inspiring to read.
“Your own reasons to create are reason enough”
Since we all have the potential for creativity, we are also entitled to be creative for whatever reasons and in whatever ways that we see fit. Whatever your reasons might be, whether it’s for yourself, to see joy in others or another reason, you are entitled to do just that, even when people (including yourself) tell you otherwise. I love the declaration that Elizabeth shares: “I will never stop creating, no matter what the outcome, and no matter how deep my anxieties and insecurities may be.” This is becoming my anthem - to keep doing what I love because I love doing it, no matter how hard things might get or how unsure I might become. I’m going to continue to make things that encourage, inspire and empower me, and as the book states, “create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
“I do what I do because I like doing it”
Realising that for me, it’s important that I create work for myself, has helped me to stop caring what the outcome might be, or how other people might react. Big Magic explains that you can’t dictate what the outcome will be, or how people might react. The reaction doesn’t belong to you anyway, it belongs to the people who are reacting. You can make whatever you want, with whatever meanings you intend it to have, but in the end it doesn’t matter because people will have their own reactions and that’s fine; you made the work for yourself anyway!
“If you love something enough, you don’t mind eating the shit sandwich.”
This positivity is abundant throughout Big Magic and I love that. It’s all about loving what you do and being optimistic throughout. Elizabeth describes it as “stubborn gladness” and I don’t think there’s a better way to describe it. Say yes to things, be positive, get inspired, don’t let rejection get you down, keep going, enjoy what you’re creating, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and be glad even when you’re in between the bright moments. Also, love your creativity, because your creativity loves you back.
“Love over suffering, always”
My favourite quote of the whole book, is “love over suffering, always” (so much so that I’m contemplating getting it tattooed on me permanently!) I think, and Elizabeth describes so well, that it’s so easy as a creative person to fall into the trap of suffering for the sake of your art. We all know the trope of the suffering artist who makes such beautiful, melancholy work, but I don’t want to live like that! I’ve done it myself, tweeting about the sucky things in my life, or how difficult it is to be creative, and the truth is, it doesn’t make me feel any better, or help my creativity in the slightest. I want to be a designer who makes things that uplift, empower and bring joy to the world, and I choose love over suffering, always.
In summary, please just read this book. It’s truly phenomenal, and challenged me with new ideas and new perspectives in every chapter. Even if, scratch that, especially if, you wouldn’t call yourself a “creative person” - this book is for you. I could talk about it all day, but I don’t want to ruin it all for you, so just trust me, you need to read it.
If you have already read Big Magic, comment below or tweet me letting me know what you thought! I’d love to chat about what you got out of it and how you’re implementing it in your own life! I’m definitely doing so in many ways, and I’m hoping for, as the book asks, “more wonder, please.”