February’s Book: Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

My personal development reading challenge for 2019 continues with the book Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is the book I chose for February- or maybe it chose me, but either way I truly enjoyed reading it.

This book is all about “Creative Living Beyond Fear” as the title claims and the life experience, whimsical opinions and inspiring stories that Gilbert shares in her book really do offer a road map for such a way of life.

Whether you consider yourself to be a creative individual or not, this is a wonderful book to help you break through your comfort zone and start living a life that is truly yours. If you are an artist in any way whether you are a writer, painter, dancer, musician or poet trying to find a career path with your creativity, I would dare to say that this book is a must read for you. The struggles that Gilbert discusses, from finding inspiration to earning a living with creative careers is honest and enlightening.

In the opening chapter titled Courage, Gilbert ends with the question, “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.” On the next page she beautifully states that, “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.”

This is the tone of this book; loving the treasures that you contain and learning to be brave enough to set them loose upon the world. It’s not about financial success or fame here, it is about making connections with inspiration- ideas floating in the ether waiting to be embraced, and then truly finding joy in the journey of exploring that magic. I love the way Gilbert describes ideas and inspiration as living entities, which probably sounds strange for anyone who is not an artist. But when your joy and peace is in creating actual objects, combinations of words or even music notes for others to observe and relate to, the concept that ideas are supernatural beings waiting to be embraced kinda makes sense.

I also appreciate that Gilbert emphasizes creating a positive atmosphere and relationship with our own creative energy. Rather than the idea of starving artists and addicted musicians, the idea that being connected in a positive way with the inspiration we seek is more conducive to actually creating. The woe-is-me artist is a bit passe. In my adolescence I was that ill-tempered and discontented artist, partly because my life was not so stable, but also because it seemed to be expected of me. That age old idea that good artists must be tortured is set aside by Gilbert, and I have to agree that being miserable is not a necessity in being a creator. In fact, the opposite is most often the case.

“You can battle your demons (through therapy, recovery, prayer or humility) instead of battling your gifts- in part by realizing that your demons were never the ones doing the work, anyhow. You can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting- its partner…”

I have many favorite moments in this book, and I actually caught myself laughing out loud at certain comments or stories. I could share so many passages and quotes with you, but then you might as well have read the book. The process of inspiration coming to real life fruition is a theme throughout the book, and my favorite example is when Gilbert shares a story about wanting her own garden. On a whim she decides to plant a garden, which lead her to researching her lovely flowers one by one, which lead to one door after another waiting to be opened which ultimately lead to her writing the book The Signature of All Things. The process took over 3 years, proving Gilbert’s point that it’s not always about passion being key in creating, but curiosity. The story gives me goosebumps because as a creator, I know that feeling of magic- when you don’t really know why everything has lined up perfectly but it has, and then you really realize that there are bigger forces at play. Inspiration. Big Magic.

“Curiosity is what keeps you working steadily, while hotter emotions may come and go.”

Gilbert leaves readers with the idea of “fiercely” trusting your creations without regret. Sharing your art with the world, no matter what your medium, can be a very scary thing. But I want to leave you with these words by Gilbert before I go. Good advice for creative souls.

“Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time you were given. You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.”

Also a good viewpoint on life in general.

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