–By Marie Taylor
If you’re looking for a book that will inspire you to lead your fullest creative life, look no further than Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (published in 2015 by Riverhead Books). Despite having only read one book by Gilbert (as you might have guessed, it was Eat, Pray, Love) and following her on Facebook, I still consider myself a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert and her writing style.
Big Magic is not a how-to guide for writing the best book or creating some kind of masterpiece. Instead, it is a sporadic arrangement of personal anecdotes mixed with real-world advice to remind all of us why we create something, and how best to pursue this creativity. Although the book was supposedly not written with a specific creative field in mind, the author primarily uses her own experience as a writer to give advice about how best to live up to your full creative potential.
If you’re the type of person that needs hard facts and data to back up any advice you receive, this book is not for you. To be honest though, if you were that type of person you might not have picked up this book at all, in which case my last statement was unnecessary. That’s not to say that you don’t need this book, because I think that this book could be enlightening and useful to many people. I just think that you need to approach this book with an open mind, because although there isn’t an abundance of hard data, the messages from this book are wonderfully spot on and immensely inspiring. Gilbert is simply offering wisdom, her wisdom, to help people rethink the obstacles that hold them back from pursuing a creative passion.
Gilbert encourages everyone, no matter your background or your skill level, to actively pursue something creative. It could be writing a book, or teaching yourself to draw, or even picking up a sport that you loved when you were younger but fell out of as an adult. If you’ve found something you love, keep that love and pursue it for yourself. She argues you should do this not because you expect great riches or recognition to be found in it, but because it makes your life more fulfilling in the long run.
What I love about Gilbert is that she takes a very pragmatic approach to finding passion and pursuing what you love. She’s not advocating that you give up your day job to become a still-life painter in Italy, or that you should devote your entire self to this passion. She is simply giving you permission to find something creative that makes you happy, then reminding you to take some (not all, but some) time every day to do this. She argues that perfectionism is overrated. Do the best that you can with what you have, but then put your artwork out there and let the universe decide what it thinks. If others love it, great! If not (which she has personally experienced much of the time), that’s ok, because you do this for yourself, not because you need approval from others.
I enjoyed this book immensely, and I love getting Gilbert’s take on creativity and the pressure that people feel to be “the best”. You would think that a renowned author (and my own personal writing hero) would not have any doubts left about her skills, or wouldn’t be burdened by emotions that happen when things don’t work out. Not this author, and certainly not in this book. Despite publishing several books and having one become a major best-seller (even Oprah’s a fan!), Gilbert still recognizes her own fears of inadequacy, but then gives you her perspective on managing those fears and still pursuing projects that she loves. I don’t need someone seemingly perfect telling me how best to get over my hang-ups, so the humanity that Gilbert shows in her work is extremely appealing.
This book really resonated with me as I continue this path of growing as a writer. The book reminded me about the balance between having control and letting go of my creativity, and it even inspired a couple of personal epiphanies about projects I want to pursue. As I continue to write these book reviews I feel even more strongly about reviewing the overall content of the work, and not so much focusing on the smaller details or technical errors. I agree with Gilbert’s larger message of being an authentic creator instead of a perfect one. How can I criticize someone else’s voice if I’m not willing to put my own out there?
There are many messages within this book, but the main one I identified with is this: just get started. Find something you’re curious about, or maybe something you already know you love to do, and JUST GO DO IT. No more excuses. And if you need further validation about your own creative goals, then you need to read this book. I promise that you won’t regret it.