Book review | Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert



“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt—that’s what I call Big Magic” (8).

Many of us want to live a life full of creativity. Creativity comes in many forms. Writing, singing, composing, dancing, photographing, painting and sculpting are the most obvious ones, but gardening, starting a business, making your own skincare products, collecting owl figurines (who doesn’t love owls?) are also ways of living a creative life. Everyone who keeps a blog is already expressing their creativity. However many of us would probably want to be more creative in general or, in my case, not be afraid to show the products of their creativity. I, like millions of others, would like to write a novel and get published. I also want to write songs and hear them on the radio performed by musicians far better than I am. So why don’t I? And why don’t all those other people start or, if they do, quit half way through?

It couldn’t be fear, now could it? The subtitle of Big Magic perfectly conveys its subject: “Creative Living Beyond Fear”. Elizabeth Gilbert talks a lot about fear in this book: fear of other people’s opinions, fear of failure, fear of not being original enough, fear of not being talented enough, and so on. She argues that fear basically keeps us from doing what we want most and it sometimes keeps us from being inspired. She reasons creativity is not about success or perfection; it is about doing what you love most. Life is short enough already. Give it your all and don’t think of the outcome. The result does not matter as long as you enjoyed it. You should never write (or do anything really) to become famous, rich or successful. It is a wrong place to start from. To be creative is a success itself. You should live a creative live, because you love being creative. Being creative without fear, being you without thinking about what others might think, makes you a more wonderful and interesting person.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her own creative process, her failures and successes, leaps of faith and search for divine inspiration, lack of ideas and facing fears. She shares anecdotes about her life and those of her creative friends. Above all she encourages her readers to embrace their creativity and be creative despite the outcome. Big Magic reads like a long speech. A book that is about creativity and how it can elevate your life. I agree with many of her ideas and reading this book made me consider what I want to do most. It made me think about how fear might hold me back. I did at times found this book a little too spiritual with ideas being entities floating around from one person to the next waiting to be picked up and leaving if they don’t. Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing style is not for everyone. Still if you want to be a more creative person or need some gumption, this book will get you excited and gives you a push in the right direction. Be creative and kind, people!

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. London, Oxford, New York, New Delhi, Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2015.

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