My thoughts on Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Book Reviews for Artists: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Lets get this out of the way first.

I, Lianne Williams, admit that I avoided reading Elizabeth Gilbert's newest success Big Magic for MONTHS because I thought Eat. Pray. Love. (her first hit), was basically, annoying as hell, and I admit I said I refused to believe she could ever contribute anything relevant to my life and that yes, Eat. Pray. Love. remains the only book I’ve thrown across the room in frustration because it made my eyes roll so far back into my head, that it hurt.


That being said, and humble pie consumed, my feelings for Big Magic, after I finally persuaded myself to just take a look, couldn’t be more different.

Big Magic is now a fundamental corner stone of my creative library and you need to read it if you haven't already.

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Maybe I can’t connect with Gilbert on a personal level, maybe we won't ever be best friends, but when it comes to creative matters and the world of art making... she hits the nail on the head with this book. So much so I actually have tickets to go see Big Magic Live! Not to heckle obviously, but to just sit in the aura of this fascinating human-being and absorb whatever I can from her wisdom and insight. 

What convinced me to finally read Big Magic, despite the constant recommendation from people I respect and admire, was actually hearing her Ted Talk on creative genius and realising who she was afterwards. Devoid of my earlier bias (I promised to never be so closed minded about people again) I was so impressed by what she said that I purchased Big Magic that very same day (the book was actually inspired by that talk) and digested her ideas with gusto.

It had a huge impact on me. I know because I got angry and cried. It pushed some very uncomfortable buttons in me but also gave an immense sense of hope.

So what is Big Magic actually about?

I would describe it as a very astute observation on the creative process, taking you through the motions of creative thinking from the moment of inspiration, to making money from your ideas, to success, to failure and back again.

It is a beautiful and funny tribute to the life cycle of an artist with all the unique troubles and joys we encounter with intriguing snippets of history, spirituality, insight and first hand experience.

It's also interesting to note Gilbert's connection to The Artist's Way, another book I frequently turn to, as it turns out that it was actually this book that inspired her to embark on the journey she took in Eat. Pray. Love (NOW I understand!)

For me, I found a LOT of common sense and wisdom in Big Magic. My copy of the book is now heavily highlighted and annotated. Dare I call it a Bible for creatives? Hmm. It’s not far off. I certainly get that feeling of support and guidance from it. Yes, it's a memoir of sorts and she tells you HER version of events, but simultaneously she invites you to manifest your own. It motivates and reassures that even though the next step in your creative life might seem utterly impossible (see insane) it’s still there... ready for you to take. 

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Here are my favourite parts of Big Magic

  1. Gilbert describes ideas as living entities that float about looking for a human host to manifest into reality. If you ignore them for too long they simply move on to the next person. That's why if you ignore an idea for too long someone else seems to come up with the idea eventually. You had your chance, but they're the ones who took it. 
  2. Don't force your money troubles onto your art making. Get a job and pay your own damn bills. Creativity does make money and should be rewarded well, but don't try putting any financial responsibility on it- it can't work under those conditions. Being a creative give you permission to play, NOT shirk off your adult responsibilities.
  3. Do it for the love of it, not for the success. I will always paint, draw and write. I will always make. Despite whether or not anyone sees it, or likes it. Sure, I'll throw a massive tantrum about it once in a while but ultimately I can not stop myself from being creative. I will always come back to it. That's the power of it. It's the core of my behaviour and life. Social/financial/career success is an icing many of us won't get on our cakes. But we still have cake. Let's eat!
  4. Society should cultivate happy, healthy artists. Imagine if Van Gogh or Amy Winehouse had a few more years on Earth making their precious art? We need to begin supporting and protecting our Creatives rather then neglecting, and ENCOURAGING them, to a life of self destruction and agony. We need to stop believing we need to 'suffer' for our art.