Jan 112016


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books (September 22, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1594634718
ISBN-13: 978-1594634710
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.

January 4. Part 1, Courage
January 11. Part II, Enchantment
January 18, Part III, Permission
January 25. Part IV. Persistence
February 1. Parts V and VI, Trust and Divinity


Part One: Courageous
Can you think of a time that you were courageous in your creative life?
The example that sticks out most for me was years ago, but it left the biggest impression on me. My mom was very gifted when it came to sewing, crocheting, knitting etc. I wanted to learn, and so I made a skirt. My mom had to fix the skirt a little bit, but I was still so excited that I tried it on my own. And my mom was so proud of me.

What did that look like for you?
It looked like victory. It showed me that if I wanted to try something new but didn’t think I would be good at it, I should still try.

How did I feel?
It felt nervous, but amazing. I did a so-so job, but I still did it. Even though I didn’t keep sewing, I did make a few more things, and got better as I went.

What inspired you to be courageous?
My mom. She always told me I could, and should, do anything I wanted. She had more confidence in me than I did in myself.


Part Two: Enchantment
In the Enchantment section of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her fanciful notion that ideas are life-forms looking for human collaborators to help them manifest. What ideas have been knocking on your door recently, asking to partner with you to be made real?
I have a few thoughts running around in my head. Hopefully I will manage to get some of them done:
Go through my books and only keep the ones I really can’t let go, then organizing them by author
Take more photos and start a photo journal.
Be consistent in doing a meal plan every week.
Make some diy quote boards.
Make a lighted lighthouse terra cotta pots.
Build a raised garden.
Start a window sill herb garden.

Another of Elizabeth Gilbert’s magical notions is that our genius is something that sits outside of us, not within us, and we aren’t entirely responsible for its behavior. When we do well, we owe some of the credit to our genius. When we don’t, some of the failure can be attributed to the absent genius. How does externalizing your genius help you take a less angst-filled approach to your creativity?
I’m not sure I agree with her on this one, I tend to think all creative thoughts come from within us, but to answer the question I’ll think from the standpoing of it not.

It’s easier to do something without hesitation if someone/something else is the instagator, so I wouldn’t be so apt to dismiss it. If the project didn’t work out well, then most of the blame could be put on them/it. So, maybe that’s a good way to think. I’ll have to analyze that theory. It may help me to be more creatively productive.

The reading guide (pdf) on Elizabeth Gilbert’s website suggested that we draw a picture of our “daemon” or external genius as a reflection on the Enchantment section of Big Magic.
Since I haven’t drawn anything freehand since I was in grade school, I thought I’d pass on that. But if I did draw it, it would be of a mermaid since I think in another life God made me as a mermaid. Why else would I feel more at home and more at peace with myself and the world when I’m at the water, especially at the beach.


Part Three: Permission
How does the perceived need for permission hamper your creativity?
Since I’ve never really been creative, I have to “give myself” permission to let others see what I’ve done. I never feel like I’ve done as good as I should on most things.

What would it take to feel like you have the permission you need to be as creative as you want to be?
After reading this section of the book, I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter if your creation is exactly as you wanted it or not. It only matters that you did it. The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is especially important in being creative. You’re doing it for you, no one else. As the author says, creating something should be fun and healing.

Which quotes from Big Magic worked best for you as permission slips to be creative?
1) If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?

Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they make their own f***ing art.

2) And then go deep within that space (inside your head) as far in as you can possibly go, and make absolutely whatever you want to make. It’s nobody’s business but your own.


Part Four: Persitence
One aspect of persistence that Gilbert covers is the need to accept the most difficult parts of any endeavor along with the fun parts.

1. What are the disagreeable aspects of the creative work you want to do? Can you endure them? What strategies do you want to put in place to make them easier to handle?
I’ve always been more of a thinker than a doer. When I was in high school there was a poetry contest and somehow my poem became very popular. That set off the “idea” that I wanted to write poetry. I’ve also thought about writing a book and painting. So I guess the answer to “what are the disagreeable aspects of the creative work you want to do?” is me. I seem to be really good thinking up ideas of things I’d like to do, but I never follow through. The other day I had a recurring idea, to make and sell soap and candles. We’ll see. I’m at the point in my life that I want and need a change, so maybe this is the time I follow through.

2. Gilbert addresses perfection as an enemy to persistence in a chapter that is mostly directed at women. How has perfectionism impacted your creativity? If you’re not male, how has that played out in your experience? If you are male, are you aware of cultural differences around perfectionism that are related to gender?
When I was younger, I was a big perfectionist. But as I’ve gotten older, I don’t really care that much if something I do is perfect. A few months ago my daughter and I painted a butterfly and mine was not perfect at all. The younger me would have never posted it online. The older and wiser me didn’t care that it wasn’t perfect (well, maybe just a little) and posted it for everyone to see. On my blog, and on Facebook. One of my favorite affirmationss is “Don’t live for the expectation of others. Live for yourself, for your dreams, for your happiness”.

3. Which quotes or anecdotes from Big Magic most motivated your desire to persist with your creativity?
1.) As (Mark) Manson writes with profound wisdom: “Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” Manson explains it this way: “If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not housnads of times, then you’re done before you start.”

2.) Talking about Marcus Aurelius who was a Roman Emperor and philosopher: His frustrations and his self cajoling sound amazingly contemporary (or maybe just eternal and universal). You can hear him working through all the same questions that we all must work through in our lives: “Why am I here? What have I been called to do? How am I getting in my own way? How can I best live out my destiny?”

This read-along is hosted by Joy as part of her
New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge
Big Magic Read Along

  7 Responses to “Read-Along: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert”

  1. Vicki, this book sounds great, like it would inspire you to be more courageous and try new things! Excellent presentation.

  2. This sounds great.

  3. What a beautiful memory to recall for creative inspiration.

  4. I have seen this book a couple of times in the bookstore. I’ve never really picked it up until I read your review. I’m going to have to see if I can get a copy. It sounds interesting. I like the idea of being more courageous.

  5. sounds like something I’m needing to read, just about now.

  6. I like your list of creative projects — they sound really fun and healing, especially the garden-related ones.

    I love the notion of telling critics (or the critical voice inside of me) to go make their own art! I’m surprised how much that frees me to do my work without worrying about what others thing.

  7. I also loved how much I related to the problems of Marcus Aurelius — eternal and universal, as you say.

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