Tag Archives: Big Magic

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!

Creativity: Why We’re All Creative

Creativity at pamelapetrus.comThis post is for my “non-creative” friends. I’m currently reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it’s so inspiring! If I had to sum up what I’ve read so far it would be, “get over yourself and go make something.” That’s probably just the message that I need to receive. It’s probably completely different from what others are taking away.

Nonetheless, as I read this book I’m realizing that creativity is so subjective. Not only is it subjective, it also varies with great intensity. So often I’ve been told, “you’re so creative,” followed by “I’m just not that creative.” I have always been flattered by that compliment, yet I’ve also always been taken back by it. I don’t consider myself to be “creative” in the sense that the word is always used, and I’ve never liked how the term separates people, firmly on one side or another – creative or not creative. While flattering, I’ve always felt that this compliment put a divide between me and the one speaking it.

As I read through Gilbert’s thoughts on creativity, I realize that we’re all creative. If you’re shaking your head in dismissal, keep reading. The thing about creativity is, it’s not some God-given right of passage that a lucky few are bequeathed. Instead, I think it’s a learned skill and a mindset. Bear with me here.

Sometimes we tend to group people into categories based on our limited information. However, I don’t think we can label someone as creative or not creative. Instead, I think creativity is about trying something. It’s about making something. And most importantly, it doesn’t matter if it’s “good” or “bad.” You see, sometimes we determine someone’s talents based upon how the masses react to their work. That’s insanely incorrect. Our job – all of us – is to create things based on our abilities and put it out there in the world. Some things will be revered by many and some will go unnoticed. The level of fame achieved by our work is not what determines its importance.

Furthermore, creativity isn’t just making world-renowned paintings. It’s not sewing a perfect stitch or designing a beautiful room. Instead, creativity is about making shit happen. All sorts of shit, actually. We mistakenly assume that creativity lies solely in the arts, and therefore if we aren’t master painters, then in turn we’re not creative. I must call bullshit here. Someone’s creativity might be communicated through painting. Yours might be in how you parent. It might be in how you dress. It might be in how you prepare tasty, low calorie desserts. It might be in how you rigged that shower head to not whistle anymore under pressure. Creativity can be anything! It’s a lifestyle and it’s something we all have access to.

On the flip side, I don’t think that we all exemplify creativity in our daily lives. For those of us who attempt artistic tasks, our creativity is a little more noticeable. However, just like any other skill, creativity must be practiced. We must train our minds to pay attention to our creative ideas and most importantly, we must continue to practice when our first creative attempts are a flop. Not everything we do will develop as we saw it in our heads. Not everything will cause you to walk away proudly. The trick here is to keep using your creativity anyway. Statistics say that you have to get it right eventually! The more we practice, the better we’ll become.

For me personally, my creativity is less about making wonderful works of art and more about just doing things. I just put words on paper (or a screen, rather). I sometimes throw paint on a canvas or draw things. More importantly though, I stack things together until they make sense to me. I just do things. I figure out ways to make things happen. If I need to reach a top shelf, I find some stuff to stand on. If I need to get 12 things done when there’s only time for 8, I find a way to make the remaining 4 things happen. I am proud to say that my creativity is less about my artistic endeavors and more about how I live my daily life. Creativity is not a room in which we can put the painters and crafters and designers. Creativity is a way of living life. It’s a way to make magical things happen, both on a legit canvas and the figurative canvas of life. It’s not reserved for the select few. It’s for all of us to use as we will. It’s not something that often happens magically though. It’s a learned skill, a way of life if you will. And it’s up to you whether you want to tap into your well of creativity or not.

Today, I’m waging a war against “creativity” as we know it. I forge this war in hopes that everyone will realize that there’s creativity of some sort within all of us. It may not be technically artistic, yet there’s a way in which we can all lead creative lives.

Go forth and do something creative! It could be as simple as sprinkling a new spice in your casserole or mixing a color/pattern that you haven’t tried before. I’m not asking you to rival Picasso; I’m just encouraging you to do something simple to tap into your creative ability.