Monday, January 21, 2019
Read by Elizabeth Gilbert
Published September 2015 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: audiobook checked out from my library
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
Divided into six sections – Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, Divinity –in Big Magic Gilbert encourages each of us to live our most creative lives. She’s not necessarily saying we all need to pursue work in the creative arts, even acknowledging that, should we reach the apocalypse, hers is a skill set that won’t be much use. Instead, she suggests that we all live our lives with curiosity, not fear; that we make time in our lives to be creative in some way. In the section titled “Permission,” Gilbert says too many of us wait for permission to be creative and insists that we don’t need that permission. But if we still feel we need it, she ends the section by giving us that permission.
Some of Gilbert’s ideas can sound a little kooky. She believes, for example, that ideas are a kind of living thing that may move from one person to another. Here, she has a valid reason to believe so. Some years ago, Gilbert began writing a novel she was very passionate about. She did a lot of research and had gotten well into the book before life intervened and she had to put the book aside. When she was finally able to come back to it, she found that she had lost her muse. The book just wasn’t working for her any longer. Flash forward some months to when she first met author Ann Patchett. Patchett asked Gilbert what she was working on and Gilbert said she had just given up a book and explained what the book had been about. Patchett was astonished; she was close to publishing State of Wonder, a book with an amazingly similar story line. What was more incredible was the fact that Patchett got the idea for her story at almost the exact time Gilbert gave up on hers. Gilbert remains convinced that this idea jumped from her to Patchett, the person best able to bring the story to life. Weird? Definitely. But it certainly does make you wonder, doesn’t it?
Gilbert reads the book and it’s very much like having a conversation with a friend who is so passionate about something that she can’t stop talking about it. She is funny, she is honest, she is absolutely passionate, and once in a while I felt like she was going on too long (as people can do when they really want to convince you of something). I very much enjoyed the writing and Gilbert’s many references to other creative souls, including musician Tom Waits, which made me even more inclined to recommend this book to my son, the artist and huge fa of Waits.
I needed this book. I needed that permission. I used to be much more creative. I made Christmas presents, I painted furniture, I sewed costumes and pillow covers, I journaled for my kids and kept a log of story ideas, character sketches, and interesting names to use in stories. I even set up my office several years ago to give me a space to be creative. The strange thing is that, when my kids were younger and lived at home and my life was much, much busier, I found the time to do those things. More recently, I have felt the pressure to do the things that “have” to be done instead. But I had so much fun being creative with my holiday decorating again this year and a window opened. Gilbert crawled right in and made me understand that it’s imperative, for our own sake, that we do those things our soul yearns to do.