Tuesday, March 15, 2016

About a Book:  Big Magic

I recently finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear.  As the subtitle suggests, the author assumes that the reader is fearful of either living a creative life or of being creative.  There were more than a few times while reading the first chapter that I determined to send the book back to the library unfinished but always picked it up again later to continue reading -- and came away with several pages of notes and quotes.

Gilbert's use of the word creative is very broad and includes activities from writing to dance to painting to music and everything in between.  And though she didn't specifically define the word, it also probably includes plenty of activities in addition to those.

One of Gilbert's most interesting theories is this, in her own words:
     I believe that our planet is inhabited . . . by ideas.  Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form.  They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us--albeit strangely.  Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will.  Ideas are driven by a single impulse:  to be made manifest.  And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.  It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.
She believes that ideas are always searching for and trying to get the attention of someone to work with.  If they cannot, they will search for someone who is more receptive.  I'm not sure why but this was a very freeing concept for me.  I could imagine saying to some ideas, "You're a great little (or big) idea but someone else will be able to work with you better than me" and to others, "Oh, I'm going to write you down so I don't forget you."  There should be no guilt in not accepting an idea and moving forward with it.  Gilbert has a lot to say about ideas and how they get our attention, how we work with them, and what causes ideas to be lost to us, even after we've begun working with one.

Some other thoughts I garnered from the book:
  • Authenticity is more important than originality.  If an idea is completed with authenticity it will seem original.
  • Complaining will scare away inspiration and creativity.  Don't complain about how difficult it is to be creative but, instead, enjoy your creativity and delight in the work.  Inspiration will be close.
  • Forget perfection because it's unattainable.  It prevents people from finishing their work and sometimes from beginning.  It sometimes disguises itself as a virtue.
  • Completing is an achievement.  (Most people don't finish what they start.)
  • She recommends that we get over our insecurities and self-focus.  She says most people aren't thinking about you, anyway.  They're thinking about their own lives and work. 
  • Don't quit too soon.  Maintain a perspective that both challenges and failures are interesting. “Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.  Because that moment?  That’s the moment when interesting begins.”

The message I came away with was to engage whole-heartedly and joyfully with inspiration and creativity.  A failure is just another learning experience.

If you read the book I hope you'll let me know what you think.



  1. This book is on my wish list! Now I just want to read it even more.:)

  2. Nice review! It sounds like a good read.

  3. A little strange the way she approaches ideas. Kind of makes me want to giggle. But the other thoughts are dead on. Congrats for sticking with it.

  4. It sounds like a very interesting book! How people come to believe things intrigues me, maybe because I have a very good friend who believes things in a very different way that I. She would love this concept. I do like the encouragement to finish the work. I sometimes get stuck in the process and seem to think that a project will be better if I just keep working with it. Perhaps it is the idea that is more important in the end...

    1. It was interesting and I came away with some different ways to think but I didn't necessarily agree with everything she presented. I find that most people think differently than me, especially my husband! I get stuck on projects not because I think it will get better but because I don't have much hope of it getting better -- sometimes. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Kathleen.


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