I was gifted this book as a Christmas gift from my husband five years ago. I remember reading it at the time and then it went, lovingly, on to my bookshelf. Now during these strange and unsettling times I decided to read it again. I had a brief period a few weeks back when I was struggling to read anything. It’s rather unnerving when you are unable to do something that comes as natural to you as breathing. So I added this to my bedtime read. As much as I yearned for the escape that I usually get from a good book, I also wanted something that would give me hope and inspiration. This was the perfect book to turn to. I’ve been picking it up every day since then and have found it uplifting and enlightening, something I very much needed at this time.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surrounds the process – and reminding us all just how easy it can be.
By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people who have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.
Whether you long to write a book, create art, cope with challenges at work, embark on a long-held dream, or simply to make your everyday life more vivid and rewarding, Big Magic will take you on a journey of exploration filled with wonder and unexpected joys.
This books has been a revelation in so many ways and Elizabeth writes with such honesty and with such love and conviction that you do come to the point where you feel you can actually do it. And for the right reasons too. When I say ‘it’ I mean anything that you have been holding back from embracing for whatever reason. To be a creative person who doesn’t create is a sad thing to be and Liz quite rightly points out that only we can bring it to the table.
The book talks about creativity and how it is based on magical thinking.
And when I refer to magic here, i mean it literally. like, in the hogwarts sense. i am referring to the supernatural, the mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the devine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. because the truth is, i believe that creativity is a force of enchantment – not entirely human in its origins.`How Ideas Work’ – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Liz suggests that ideas inhabit our planet as much as ‘animals and plants and bacteria and viruses.’
‘They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us – albeit strangely.’`How Ideas Work’ – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Ideas want nothing more than to be ‘made manifest’. They come to us wanting to be embraced and brought to life. And if, after time, we do not grab hold of them, well then they simply move on. As I read it simply made sense. If you think about it, how many times has an idea flittered around your head and, for whatever reason, you haven’t done anything with it only to find it brought to life by someone else?
And of course there have been many times that an idea has come to me and because of my lack of faith in my own ability and that voice in my head that is constantly saying ‘You can’t! You can’t! You can’t!!’ I leave them sitting in the back of my mind and then before long I see the very essence of the story written in someone else’s words.
I found Liz’s philosophy on the whole thing strangely comforting. Before I always have seen it as an opportunity to berate myself, telling myself I was too stupid, cowardly, angry (or whatever other negative words came to mind) to do it. Always I would find myself shrinking believing that I was the problem and didn’t have the talent needed to bring the idea to life. ‘Someone always thinks of it first so what’s the point?” I would say to myself. The point is that the idea did come to me. I felt it tapping me on the shoulder, even nudging insistantly for a while and I was too scared to look it in the eye – so of course it moved on. It’s frustrating but now, oh yes now I see. I need to stop differing on the outside wishing I could get into this elusive world of writers and JUST. BLOODY. WRITE. And for the joy of writing – nothing else. What may come from it, well it really doesn’t matter at this point. I simply need to embrace my creativity. Say YES to it and enjoy the process for exactly what it is.
One chapter that resonated strongly with me was Hungry Ghosts, it talks of the difference between ego and wonder. Our egos, although an important part of us, can be destructive if not kept in check and when I look back at the times I have been hurt, angry and frustrated it is usually because my ego (which I think has a massive impact on my own sense of self worth) has taken a battering.
I take things very personally and when I really think about it and break it down, it is that angry lion that is my ego, that is most hurt. It roars and spits and rumbles within me for the longest of times and the only person it really affects is me. Already those who have ‘done me wrong’ have moved on with their lives but the lion is left within me simmering and stewing and placing a heavy shroud over my wonder. I’ve felt that I have become very good at removing negative influences from my life when I can but in reality the effects of their negativity have long continued to have an influence over me. My ego and that need for reassurance has actually stopped me from creating. And that is not good.
There has been times over the past few years that I have felt I have lost my sense of wonder and hope. But I can see now that that they are still here… I have just been giving ego and fear a louder voice.
…do not let your ego totally run the show, or it will shut down the show. your ego is a wonderful servant, but it’s a terrible master-because the only thing your ego ever wants is reward, reward, and more reward. and since there’s never enough reward to satisfy, your ego will always be disappointed. left unmanaged, that kind of disappointment will rot you from the inside out.`Hungry Ghosts’ – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Although this is the first book I have read by Elizabeth, I have, for quite some time, found her an inspirational figure through social media. She always seems to provide a little light in times of darkness. Some years back I did buy myself a copy of Eat Prey Love but lent it to a friend before I had the chance to read it and have never gotten it back – a sure sign that she loved it. I shall certainly be getting myself another copy before too long and look forward to exploring the other intriguing titles in Liz’s back catalogue. I love her writing style. I’m especially pulled to her short story collection, Pilgrims and her novel the Signature of All Things as well as her latest offering, City of Girls.
Big Magic is an inspiring read and one that found me again at a time of stress, worry and fear. I feel the magic of it and I WILL write and maybe it will be good and maybe it will be bloody terrible, but I will be doing it and learning as I go. That’s what’s life is all about after all.
Big Magic is published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
About the author
Elizabeth Gilbert is the number one bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and several other international bestselling books of fiction and non-fiction. Her story collection Pilgrims was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; The Last American Man was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her follow-up Memoir to Eat Pray Love , Committed, became an instant number one New York Times bestseller. Her published novels include, Stern Men and The Signature of All Things, which was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize. Her latest novel, City of Girls, has just been published in paperback (also available in hardback, audio and ebook). She lives in New Jersey.
You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @GilbertLiz
You can also follow her on Instagram at @elizabeth_gilbert_writer