Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’: Book Review

Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic somehow found its way to me when I needed it most. In the early stages of a pandemic, everything felt entirely new, overwhelming, and unbelievable. Yet, simultaneously, I found myself in a position to pivot my creativity. The name Elizabeth Gilbert might ring a bell. Bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love (2007), her follow-up to the follow-up to the follow-up is Big Magic: Creating Living Beyond Fear.

I was too young to sympathize with Gilbert’s life hurdles a decade ago. Now, being nearly the same age as her at  Eat, Play, Love (referenced several times in this book)I suddenly find myself understanding her journey to self-discovery a bit more.  

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic Book Review

big magic book

Describe in one word: Courageous
Genre: Nonfiction/ Self-Help
Good Reads Rating: 3.9/5
Pages: 288

Why we choose Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic 

Big Magic is Elizabeth Gilbert’s ode to inspiration and creativity.  Big Magic reads like an optimistic fortune cookie through engaging storytelling and thought-provoking ideas. Gilbert writes with wit and humor giving you a sense of calmness and self-affirmation: “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.“; “You are not required to save the world with your creativity.” 

“What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?” ― Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert reminds us that intuition can be the creative force inside of you. Whether you want to be a painter, writer, or ballroom dancer, you will be rushing out to cultivate your creativity by the time you get to the last page.

What is Big Magic about

Big Magic takes you through the depths of Elizabeth Gilbert’s unique creative process to guide you on mustering up the courage to live a more creative life. By definition, creative living is to live a life that is led by curiosity rather than fear. Gilbert seeks to show readers that the act of creativity does not have to be a tortured, unnecessary, and suffering process. Instead, she concedes we must learn to coexist with fear. To be stupendously imperfect, to be good enough. Onward ever, backward never. 

“Fear is always triggered by creativity because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Through Gilbert’s experiences, tales of her friends’ endeavors, and the self-actualizing territory of Eat, Pray, Love Gilbert discusses the challenging aspects of creative living. She advises rejection, doubt, and habits we need to have to live a creative life.

Gilbert’s philosophy on creativity derives from ancient Greece and ancient Rome. During a time in which people believed that creativity was an attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant, unknowable source. The Romans called this creative spirit, a genius—a magical divine entity. Ideas, Gilbert says, choose their owners. And they only come to you if you are open to receiving them.

For more insight into Gilbert’s radical idea of what “being” a genius means, watch her TED 2009 Talk “Your elusive creative genius.”

Life lessons from Big Magic 

  1. Permit yourself to create: Reading Big Magic is like a permission slip. The thought, “I’m going to start a blog on maternity leave,” sounded like a great idea- for about 12 seconds. Then fear sunk in. I wouldn’t say I like writing and would prefer to remain reclusive. But the truth is, most of the time, creative people are their biggest obstacle. Gilbert argues that you must believe you are entitled to create, no matter what rejection you may face. You need to stand up to your inner voices and announce yourself to the universe, “I’m a blogger,” as she suggests you do. 
  2. Let go of your fantasy of perfection: To gather the courage to pursue our creative life, we must overcome self-doubt and perfectionism. A subject you should be all too familiar with if you have read Daring Greatly. Gilbert suggests acting like your creativity is the most crucial thing in the world, but at the same time, it works as if the outcome doesn’t matter. All you have to do is be good enough to complete something. The creative process does not have to be painful, and you should not have to suffer. 
  3. Led a curious life: Ask yourself, is there anything you are interested in? Follow that small clue of curiosity, and that is where interest begins. Success doesn’t necessarily define the most passionate people. It’s the most curious people. 

Who is Big Magic for

It is never too late to start creating. Big Magic is a modern classic for mothers, fathers, children, or grandparents who need confidence or reassurance to live a creative life. You do not need a career in the arts or a craft to which you dedicate your mind, body, and soul. But it would help if you dared to choose curiosity over fear to find the treasure inside yourself. When the idea has found you, then the magic happens.

Suggested further reading

 Daring Greatly by Dr. Brené Brown

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is just one book to help develop intuition and creativity. I highly recommend you look at all “12 books to read to transform 2020.” This will give you an entire list of books to challenge the way you think, push you to face your fears, and do what ignites your soul. 

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