Book Review: Big Magic

Big Magic. Read more at pamelapetrus.comLet’s talk about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. You may recognize the author from her best-seller Eat Pray LoveHer newest book, Big Magic, has taken the creative world by storm. It’s shown up on practically every must-read list and you’ll see perfectly styled photos of it on almost every creative’s Instagram. With good reason.

I have a tendency to not want to “finish” books that I really love. I hate feeling like its over! I’ll save one chapter or at least several pages so that I don’t have to close the door on the experience. The Nester mentioned this recently and I felt a lot less like a weirdo because of it. Despite my desire to “save” the ending, I finished Big Magic.

If you practice creativity in any sort of way, this is a must-read. Gilbert’s thoughts on how creativity comes to be and how it should be treated are life changing. As I read along, I realized I have been approaching my own creativity in the wrong way. Here are my biggest takeaways from the book:

  1. Creativity is a gift to us, not to our audience. I realized that, especially with my writing, I always work with the audience in mind. I write such that they can hopefully take something away…be inspired or feel a part of something. Instead, I should be writing for me – writing to process my thoughts or get that big idea out there – not such that my audience is affected.
  2.  Creative living shouldn’t be hard or emotionally challenging. In the book, Gilbert frequently talked about the troubled artist, the martyr that sacrifices their own well-being for their art. She talked about those dark and troubled makers who think they can’t be creative without a life filled with turmoil. Gilbert’s take on creativity is purely the opposite. She said that if creating doesn’t bring your joy, then you should abandon it. I don’t live a “troubled” life, yet I do worry to death over how well I do things. Rather than worrying about the result, the feedback, or the end game. I just need to create, put it out there, and be done.
  3. “This is a world, not a womb.” Gilbert takes a pretty no-nonsense stance against being susceptible to the criticism of others. She says we’re all entitled to our own opinions and undoubtedly someone’s will be different than ours. Without doubt, someone out there will truly dislike your work. That’s not what matters though. As creative livers, our job is still to create. Our job is not to coddle those who don’t agree or explain our rationalization. We must just simply create. And most importantly, we must do so with the understanding that not everyone will like it and that’s perfectly okay.
  4.  I hold on to the results much too tightly. In the past, I’ve always created with an end game in mind. If I’m writing, it’s with the hopes that it becomes an awesome blog post. If I’m painting, it’s with the intention of having some lovely art to fill a spot on the wall. I seldom create just do stretch my creative limits. By focusing so heavily on the result, I’m missing out on most of the beauty of the process. Since reading this book, I’ve done way more pointless writing and painted several more useless paintings. And that’s wonderful.

If I had to sum it up, this book basically says get over yourself and go make something. Creativity will come and go, and if you’re not willing to nurture it and give it a safe place to live, it’ll go somewhere else. Fear of failure or ridicule is within most of us, and if we’re not careful, we’ll let that fear take over our lives. I wrote a bit about my fear of painting recently and that revelation came from this book.

All in all, I think this book gave me the kick in the ass I needed. It reminded me that nothing has to be perfect. It showed me that I am often afraid of my creativity and that I shouldn’t be. It taught me that inspiration and creativity are magical gifts and that I should pay attention to and nurture those regularly. It was encouraging, real, and uplifting. Actually, I might read it again!

P.S. I took this photo in the bookstore because I read it on my iPad. Which do you prefer – real books or digital? I can’t decide!

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