Get Back to Work
A Review of Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
By Vickie McEntire
Are you feeling stuck, blocked, ready to give up? Why not let Elizabeth Gilbert cheer you on with her personal beliefs about creativity in her book Big Magic? It’s perfect for the beginning or seasoned writer.
Gilbert begins by saying, “What we make matters enormously…Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.” She shares what she has learned about creativity, inspiration, and perspective. Being a great storyteller, Gilbert weaves personal stories throughout the book to show what she’s telling. She is so good that she can get away with beginning Big Magic with the classic words: Once upon a time. I admit I have not read Eat, Pray, Love, but I inhaled her book, The Signature of All Things—another example of her storytelling ability.
One of my favorite concepts in the book is when she asks the reader to live a contented creative life by accepting two contradicting ideas, “My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).”
Big Magic is written in short, easy-to-absorb chapters. It doesn’t feel like studying, but she teaches the reader about courage and fear, faith and focus, ideas and saying yes to them, persistence, and trust.
She understands the motivation to create for many is consumed with the competition against others and self and invites us to lay aside conventional thinking and make things for the purpose of sharing with others with no expectations. She offers liberation from the ego to the artist, “because in the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience.”
Gilbert reminds us that we don’t need permission to live a creative life. Do what awakens you, what makes you feel alive. She reassures the reader that quitting your day job to follow your dreams is not necessary, but suggests you fold your dream into your everyday life. She also says we shouldn’t try to save the world with our creativity, because that heavy intention will be apparent in your final product.
Gilbert is a supporter of drawing on your education from life experiences. She even titled one of the chapters Learning. The book inspired and encouraged me so much that I began writing my second novel on the blank page in the back.
She uses humor to help the reader understand that whatever project you are working on “ain’t your baby.” Unfortunately, too much dignity can get us in trouble.
My four favorite words in the whole book are on page 143, “It’s never too late.” She concludes the book by telling the reader to get back to work. I couldn’t have said it better myself.