Finding “creative living beyond fear.”
Well, as I have been trying to chip away at my reading list, I decided to take Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic with me to Mexico. This book explores creativity and how to find it. Although not your typical beach read, this book was a fun Cancun companion.
Here is the Amazon summary,
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.
In her analysis on creativity, Gilbert explores the six parts: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. It seemed fitting to review her book in the same fashion.
First things first: What is Big Magic? Here is how Gilbert describes it:
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.
As I mentioned earlier, this book is all about understanding creativity and learned how to find it in yourself. Gilbert believes that we are all capable of Big Magic, the outcome of tapping into our most creative self. She argues that the first step is to have the courage to bring that creative self forward.
Without bravery, they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small.
I totally agree. If I did not have the courage to start this blog, I likely would never have realized my love for writing. So ask yourself this:
Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.
Still not feeling brave enough? Still not feeling that you are worthy of granting yourself that yes? Maybe because you believe you are not smart enough, not tech-savy enough, too lazy, or too poor? Well, here is Gilbert’s response to that:
Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.
Now the hard part is over. You have said yes to living a more creative life and are waiting for that nugget of Big Magic to hit. Well, it isn’t always that easy, according to Gilbert.
Naturally, Gilbert references her own experiences with creative living, all centered around her pursuits to become a bona fide writer. She says the key is to show up for your craft continuously.
Work with all your heart, because – I promise – if you show up for your work day after day after day after day, you just might get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom.
Honestly, it can be a drawn out and painful process, sitting in front of my computer, fingers poised on the keyboard, waiting for a thought to surface that I can mold into a sentence worthy of publication. But this is all part of my creative introspection and, as Joan Didion said,
I don’t know what I think until I write about it.
I connect to what Gilbert is saying, but I want to take it a few steps deeper. Instead of showing up for your work, I advocate showing up for yourself. I love to write, but sometimes my creativity well is dry and words, inspiration, and interest just completely escape me. So, when sitting there, fingers at the ready, just flat out does not work, I find it best to show up for myself by doing the things I love. Hiking, organizing my closet, going for a run, reading, taking a nap, going for a walk, looking at old photographs, watching a YouTube video, or writing a thinking-of-you note to a friend is a sure-fire way to reset and restore my creativity.
So we have the bravery and the work ethic we need to find that Big Magic. Now we need to dismiss the idea that we need permission to live a creative life.
Creativity is fleeting and elusive. It will visit you at the worst time (that poem hits when you are outside doing yard work) and will evade you when you need it most (sitting there, paint brush in hand). It can be a ruthless lover, so why devote your life to it? Your parents may tell you that you will never be able to support yourself as a musician. Your spouse may ask you to think of the kids before you quit your 9 to 5 in pursuit of a career in dance. Society may tell you that being a street performer isn’t reputable. Well, Gilbert says to hell with their thoughts. You don’t need their permission to live a creative life. As humans, we are, and always have been, makers. From the beginning of our time, we have been inventing, making, creating, and doing and you have the right to continue along this path.
You are strong enough to pursue a creative life without anyone’s support, guidance, or respect.
I think it’s a mighty act of human love to remind somebody that they can accomplish things by themselves, and that the world does not automatically owe them any reward, and that they are not as weak and hobbled as they may believe.
That being said, I really do appreciate that Gilbert stresses that she never relied on her creativity to support her. As I mentioned above, creativity won’t always be there when you need it most and until you tap into that Big Magic at the right moment, it likely won’t fund your livelihood. Instead, Gilbert suggests that you need to support your creativity, instead of asking it to support you. Only without the pressure of financial and social success will your creativity thrive. Basically, don’t quit your day job.
We are half-way through the phases of creativity! Now it is time to keep the momentum going. What is the best way to do that? Easy, says Gilbert, “keep it sexy.”
There is one key way to do this: have an affair.
When people are having an affair, they don’t mind losing sleep, or missing meals. They will make whatever sacrifices they have to make, and they will blast through any obstacles, in order to be alone with the object of their devotion and obsession – because it matters to them.
Alright, not as scandalous as you might have thought upon first read, but this advice is easily understood. As I like to say, we make time for the things we love, and our creative passions are just that.
So if you love to read, you will sacrifice those 15 minutes of sleep. If you love to travel, you will find the money. If you love to knit, you will carry your needles everywhere you go in hope of those 15 minutes of solitude with your craft in a dark corner…or where ever people go to have affairs.
This is really the defining phase of striking that Big Magic, because here you have to trust that the system works. You have to trust that if you do have the courage, the enchantment, the permission (or lack of it), and the persistence that you will live your most creative life.
But, wait – what if you don’t know that you love to write, or paint, or knit, or dance? Well, let’s go back to step one, bravery, and talk about my favorite topic: how to find passion. In her book, Gilbert focuses on how curiosity is the key ingredient.
I believe that curiosity is the secret. Curiosity is he truth and the way of creative living…Furthermore, curiosity is accessible to everyone. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times…But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity. The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion.
Again, it all comes back to saying yes. Yes to a challenge, yes to something new, yes to an interest, yes to yourself. Gilbert believes that curiosity – and what I think is better termed openness – will always work to find that creativity life and, in effect, that Big Magic.
So it worked. But it only worked because I said yes to every single tiny clue of curiosity that I had noticed around me.
So again, I said yes to writing and it lead to the creation of this blog. Then I said yes to researching Why We Write About Ourselves and it lead to an interest in memoirs. And after reading many memoirs and exploring what my memoir would be about (sneak peak: Me and PD), I might have discovered what my Big Magic could be.
So go out and say yes, and wait for the creativity to come to you.
If you can’t do what you long to do, go do something else…So wave your arms around. Make something. Do something. Do anything. Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative action, and – most of all – trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again.
Gilbert has lead us to the end of the process. Here we learn that we need to take the process lightly and treat it as a playful undertaking.
Only when we are our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.
Now we can finally let Big Magic take effect.
As you can see, I really do agree with the advice that Gilbert dishes out. She offers sound logic and her process has merit if you are feeling inspirationally stagnant. The only thing that I did not enjoy about this book is the author’s tone. As a self-proclaimed expert of creativity, Gilbert’s tone comes off preachy. If you can get past that, I think you would really enjoy this book. If you feel that you understand the steps around permission, divinity, and persistence, and want to just focus on the trust and bravery, then I would recommend skipping Big Magic and read instead Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.
Either way, let’s say yes to living a more creative life and finding our Big Magic.
What did you think of this book? Let us know below.