The Professor Life Book Club discussion

Big Magic > Big Magic - General Discussion

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message 1: by Macy (last edited Jun 04, 2018 02:31PM) (new)

Macy Skipworth (theprofessorlife) | 13 comments Mod
I know some of you have started Big Magic! Let's go ahead and get discussion started here, too. This thread will be super about general musings! If you have another thought that you want to start on a separate thread, go ahead and just add it to the "Big Magic" folder when you post!

Did you know you can also create polls for the group? Similar to a poll on Insta or Facebook, you can post a question and give different answers and see how everyone responds. Just check the "Polls" tab on the right side of our group -->

What have you thought about Big Magic so far? What do you like or dislike about it?

message 2: by Crissta (new)

Crissta Morrison | 4 comments I downloaded and listened to Big Magic in one day, and (obviously) was immediately captivated. Elizabeth Gilbert has a lively voice and a vivid imagination. I think the part that stuck with me the most was her concept that there are a million different ideas and inspirations floating around, waiting for someone to bring them into existence. I also liked how she emphasized that it was our job as the creative person to be available for inspiration: make time for the idea to see we're serious about bringing it to fruition. Another part that made an impression was making a pact with your creative thing (writing, dancing, etc), that you will never rely on it to make a living for you. It's important to pursue the thing that makes your soul feel alive for no other reason than just that.

message 3: by Megan (new)

Megan Guy (meganguy) | 5 comments I haven’t gotten as far as I’d hoped in the past two days (classes started this week so unfortunately my reading has been devoted elsewhere.) However, the bit that I have read has been tremendously engaging and fun to read! Liz Gilbert is so charming and witty, and her way of perceiving life is very infectious! I already noticed myself approaching my work differently, trying to capture some of the magic and ideas she talks about! I really love the thought that ideas are alive! I can’t wait to finish the book!

message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Davison (sedavison) | 4 comments I picked up this book when I found myself in Waterstones (oops) last week, and finished it within a few days, which is completely out of the ordinary for me as I'm a slow reader.

Now, I honestly think it's one of my favourite books. I've never read any self-development books before and was so worried that it would feel like I were being told off as I was reading, but Gilbert's voice is so welcoming.

Her imagery and amazing ideas about imagination and inspiration really caught me, and I genuinely did come out of it feeling creative - I even dug out some old creative writing which I'd like to get back into.

That said, I did think that towards the end she focused quite heavily on writing as the creative outlet. At the start, she was very general and only used writing as a reference point, but towards the end, it felt a bit like she was specifically talking about creative writing. I started out reading with my upcoming PhD in mind, but ended up wanting to write prose again, which isn't necessarily a bad thing I suppose!

Did anyone else read the book with a specific creative outlet of theirs in mind?

message 5: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia Rocha | 4 comments I’m in the middle now. I’m enjoying it! I have to say that I’m writing my paper so it came in a good time. Love how she talks about the criative process a d how to battle our demons.

message 6: by Dwight (new)

Dwight Davis (dwightdavis) | 4 comments I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to read this book. I wanted to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine but it was checked out of the library and this was available. I’ve never read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert but I know I’d Eat Pray Love and I (unfairly, as it turns out) assumed she was just another schlocky self-help guru.

I’m really glad I was wrong.

I’m not far into this but I can already tell it’s going to be really good for me. I’m in a place where I feel fairly directionless right now and I’ve been longing for some purpose and some more creative fulfillment. I’ve found myself writing screenplays and short stories and poetry in my free time which is a far cry from my more typical academically dry critical analysis. So Gilbert’s push to have us live more creative lives is really enriching for me in this moment. And I love her definition of living creatively: “Living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

When I read that on page 9, I had to put the book down and sketch a few ideas out. I really love that she’s pushing us here not necessarily towards creativity as it’s usually define (artistic creativity) but towards a life of courage to pursue your questions. For those of us who feel (to use Gilbert’s word) a calling to academia, it can be really easy to *think* we’re pursuing our curiosity when really we’re just researching or writing whatever we think might get us to the next step of our career. I know a lot of my research is often driven by an underlying fear of rejection from academia. I like that she’s insistent that creative life means a life of real curiosity, a life driven by the desire to learn and explore and create and not by fear.

I think for me that means not only pursuing the questions I actually want to pursue, but also to create the space in my life to have more artistic pursuits, too. To set aside some time to do more creative writing projects and satisfy that neglected part of myself.

So, I know this is a big question, but what would “creative living” look like for you?

message 7: by Karly (new)

Karly Haggerty | 3 comments I haven't finished the book yet, because like Megan I have had to read for classes :( One thing that stood out to me was the distinction Gilbert made between bravery and fearlessness. Making healthy space for fear rather than fighting it. And on a sad but funny note I found myself nodding at almost everything on her anxieties list starting on page 13.

message 8: by Megan (new)

Megan Guy (meganguy) | 5 comments This has been interesting for me, because I’m a music major and I’ve had similar struggles to Dwight where I feel that I tend to play specific pieces strategically for my career. I don’t take the time as often to really follow my own curiosity and creativity as a musician. After reading about half of this book, I think that’s truly holding me back from bridging the gap between “musician” and “artist.” At the same time, I also think I’ve become so focused on pouring my creativity into my musical career that I’ve neglected other passions. I used to write voraciously, and I’ve had an itch to write a specific story recently that I’ve been procrastinating. This book has made me realize it’s time to enter into a contract with that idea, like Liz Gilbert says. I can’t wait to finish this book because it’s already helping me identify how to get true creative fulfillment in my life!

message 9: by Lucy (new)

Lucy (foxie_wilde) | 6 comments Hello everyone!

Sorry I'm a little late to the discussion - I've been in France the past week. I'd originally intended 'Big Magic' to be my holiday reading, but I started early (because who doesn't get excited about a new book?!) and was that hooked I finished it before I event went away (oops! But it did mean I got to *treat myself* to another book).

As you can probably tell, I was totally absorbed in Gibson's book. Her writing style is welcoming and witty, and I often found I had read a lot more than I believed I had. Her ideas in 'Big Magic' resonated so much with me, particularly as I'm preparing to start my PhD in September. However, like Sarah, I did think Gibson tended to focus more heavily on creative writing towards the end of the book. In a way, this is probably natural as she is coming from that discipline. That said, there are so many different forms of creativity and ways of living creatively - for me, one of those is even thinking, particularly with my interest in philosophy.

Although I've often been told that when it comes to writing, academics are the 'basement painters' of the writing world (i.e. it doesn't need to be poetry, just functional), I still believe there are other areas of the academic world where there is room for creativity. Partly in answer to Dwight's question, then, 'creative living' for me involves a big component of 'creative thinking'. Although I'm from a languages background, I work a lot in philosophy now; whilst for Gibson 'creative living' involves catching ideas and not being afraid to try things out, I feel similarly about how I go about doing philosophy. A while back, I used to play it safe and be more fearful of trying out different ideas. Now, and even more so after reading this book, I feel more courageous to try things out and experiment, even if they don't always work out.

I think most of all, the main things that resonated with me as I was reading 'Big Magic' were:
- Ideas have a life, or an energy, of their own and as creative individuals we have to solicit those ideas and work with them
- To make enough room for fear, but do not allow it to overwhelm your creativity
- Done is better than perfect! (particularly important for academics, I think, who often seem to be pathological perfectionists!)
- In a way, try to dissociate yourself from others' reactions to your work; be proud of it for what it is, but don't get overly sentimental about it, as there will always be people out there who will be critical, or you may be rejected etc.

In particular, I feel this last one hits home hard as I start entering a career in academia. I know that I will face rejection along that career, whether it be from employers, publishers, journals etc. But I know I need to get better at reminding myself that 'I did the best with the resources I had at the time, and I completed that work'. That in itself is an achievement.

message 10: by Carissa (new)

Carissa (withinthewithout) | 5 comments Hi everyone! Sorry I'm super late to the game - I moved states in the process of joining this book club. I just got a chance to read a few chapters of the book. Here are my thoughts so far:

-Elizabeth Gilbert has a very unique writing styles. It's personable and feels like I went to a friend for advice. I think this makes her advice more tangible and applicable.

-The part that really hit home for me was when she began to list all of the fears that we have that detour us from instead of living a creative, courageous life. When I read through these, I teared up. I recently left a job as a marketing manager to enroll full time in grad school, something that has deeply caused me to reevaluate my the course of my life and what truly matters to me. In this transition period, I've seen myself fall victim to fear in so many ways. Though sad, it really helped encourage me to know that these excuses are not "unique", as Gilbert writes. They are parts of general fear, which makes me feel relief in that it may be easier to overcome.

message 11: by Ashley (new)

Ashley (adeutsch) | 4 comments So glad the audiobook gods decided this is the book I should read! After finishing my comprehensive exams, I had definitely lost touch with the magic. Reading this has made me excited to work on my diss again, get back to quilting and find the big magic in other parts of my life.

I agree with many of my book club friends who have commented above. She focuses a lot on writing but that’s the standpoint she speaks from. Ideas need to be given life, we need to embrace fear and we have to trust the universe doesn’t want us to be miserable.

As I’ve read this, I’ve already recommended it to friends who have English degrees, my advisor and other PhD students. It may not be all encompassing, but I think it serves as a great spark to reignite our passion (and curiosity) within.

message 12: by Crissta (new)

Crissta Morrison | 4 comments I agree with so many who have already posted: Gilbert's book felt like a personal invitation to engage in the creative life. I resonated with Gilbert's discussion of the writing creative life because that is my creative outlet. I've been feeling guilty for a while about not committing to a writing process, making several excuses: everything from I'm working to I'm not feeling inspired, but truthfully, I think I've just been lazy. I would like to engage in contract with an idea. I don't have one yet, probably because I haven't been open to it, but this is now a priority for me.

I was talking with a 7th grader last week who has imagination flowing out his ears. He was telling me about an idea book he found from when he was 6! He told me he's been keeping these idea books since he could write! In the same week he created a non-profit "Drank" business for the summer camp we were at (posters, menus, recipe sheets, and all!) So I want to take a page out of his book!

To answer Dwight's question, I think the creative life for me looks like keeping an open mind and open schedule, and of course, like my new friend, an ideas book. I would also like to see this overflow into other aspects of my life! As I was listening to the book, I decided to go out and plant a tomato plant (now with two tomatoes maturing!), and I've also helped my mom and sister with their gardens. What began as a slight curiosity has in this short amount of time overflowed into a full passion! I now am growing more plants than I have space for on my apartment balcony and enjoying every minute of it!

My question for the group is something I worry and struggle with: I've heard it said that you should only be a writer (and I suppose any other curator of creativity) if you can't help but write. As I've already said, I've been lazy, so apparently I can help writing. Ultimately I guess my question is should I continue in this creative realm of life if I can live without it?

message 13: by Lucy (new)

Lucy (foxie_wilde) | 6 comments In answer to Crissta's question about whether you should continue writing if you can live without it, I personally feel you definitely should!

It reminds me a little of something Gibson said in her book at some point: we do creative things not because they are 'necessary' to our lives/ survival, but because we can! (I am paraphrasing a bit!) So even if you can live without writing, it could still add so much extra joy into your life. You could always try some of Gibson's suggestions, solicit ideas or keep an idea book. But if in the end you think writing isn't giving you as much joy as you feel it should be, you could always take a break, do something different (like the creative outlet of your gardening), then come back to writing later when you're both ready to enter into that mutual relationship. I don't know if that's helpful at all, but I do hope you find the answer that makes you happy 😊

message 14: by Macy (new)

Macy Skipworth (theprofessorlife) | 13 comments Mod
I’m loving this discussion on creative juices! Y’all are inspiring me to read faster. Def can keep continuing this discussion, but make sure to pipe in on the new post in “General Topics” for picking out a new book for July!

message 15: by Macy (new)

Macy Skipworth (theprofessorlife) | 13 comments Mod
You guys. This book is amazing. I’ve never been so motivated to pen my thoughts. I actually woke up with an idea for a novel today and immediately typed it out. 😂 I think Liz would be proud!

I think what spoke to me most was her statement about how inspiration doesn’t have rules, or limits, or competition. It is infinite, and there’s plenty to go around. This is such a freeing thought, and helps me think highly of others instead of jealous. When I know I can create something as touching as theirs instead of being jealous that they took up all the great ideas, it is such a more pleasant writing journey!

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