Rebecca's Reviews > Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
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really liked it
bookshelves: self-help, writers-and-writing, read-via-edelweiss

With her new book, Gilbert sets herself up as a layman’s creativity guru much like Anne Lamott does with Bird by Bird or Stephen King with On Writing. This is based on Gilbert’s TED talks, and it reads very much like a self-help pep talk, with short chapters, lots of anecdotes, and buzz words to latch onto.

Here’s a taste of some of Gilbert’s main ideas:
• Forget about entitlement; “You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life.”
• Authenticity is better than originality; after all, there’s nothing truly original out there
• Art is all about paradoxes: it’s simultaneously meaningless and meaningful (“human artistic expression is blessedly, refreshingly nonessential”)
• Don’t be so serious; the “necessary suffering” of the artist is a myth
• Replace the Martyr with the Trickster – it’s all play anyway (“intracranial jewelry-making” – a metaphor she borrows from Tom Waits)
• Follow your curiosity and keep saying yes
• Finally, put your work out there with trust – words like success and failure don’t matter

I found this book to be both enjoyable and helpful. It’s so different to Gilbert’s other work that you don’t have to have read or liked any of her previous books. The voice and message are similar to Rob Bell’s in the field of contemporary theology: reminding readers that what is too precious for words should, perhaps paradoxically, be held loosely with open hands.

Only occasionally did Gilbert get a bit too New-Agey for me:
“Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest.”

She illustrates this hypothesis with a story about a book project she abandoned after Eat, Pray, Love. Her idea was for a novel about a woman who travels from Minnesota to Amazonian Brazil to join an entrepreneurial scheme and ends up falling for her boss. Wrapped up in her now-husband’s immigration saga and the writing of Committed, Gilbert left the idea alone for two years and it withered...only to turn up as Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. Gilbert seems to literally believe that her idea migrated to her new friend. Hmm...

At any rate, this is definitely inspirational stuff, if not exactly groundbreaking. “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
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Reading Progress

January 12, 2015 – Shelved
January 12, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
June 17, 2015 – Started Reading
June 29, 2015 – Shelved as: self-help
June 29, 2015 – Shelved as: writers-and-writing
June 29, 2015 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
June 30, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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Lorraine Love your review!


Rebecca Thanks! It's a good book and a quick read.


message 3: by Sonja (new)

Sonja Arlow Great review,I only recently listened to one of her TED talks and really enjoyed it


Rebecca Thanks, Sonja. If you enjoyed the talk I think you'll love the book.


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