Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear

I’ve finally read the book I longed so much for last year. I read about it long before it was published, and started seeing quotes from it a few months before I could source it out in a local book shop here in Sweden and bring it with me home.

Big magic Creative Living Beyond Fear Of course I’m talking about the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, written by my favorite author Elizabeth Gilbert. I love reading about the creative process and how our brain works in mysterious ways. But really, what is creativity? Gilbert says:

Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.

She encourages us to embrace it, when it comes easy to us and when it’s hard. But she doesn’t really explain it because she is okay with creativity being a mystery. I found many nuggets of wisdom in this book, as is evident by the many quotes I’ve shared. There is plenty of encouragement and good advice for creatives in this book, like a crash course to embracing your urge to create, but maybe it wasn’t the masterpiece I’d expected. I’m not sure it was because I wasn’t in the right moood, or if my huge expectations for this book stood in the way.

But I’m not saying it’s not worth reading, it absolutely is a must-read, at least if you’re aspiring to do anything creative with your life… I’m just saying I had too many preconceived ideas of what it would be about, and how it would have the power to change my life… But it didn’t, probably because I already am living a very creative life. The permission slip that this book is wasn’t what I longed for…

I’d imagined it would be profound and magic, and in some ways it is. I think it has the power to change lives, and it probably already have for some readers. I hope that it continues to be read for years to come, especially by young people who might be afraid to go after their creative passions.

Quote by Elizabeth Gilbert - found in her book Big Magic

But to me, it was more like a soft, kind hug than a push to live beyond fear. Though getting a soft, gentle book-hug feels great from time to time, am I right?

Big Magic Definition Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear… but what does it mean? Big magic is what happens when a human is hit by inspiration and acts upon that inspiration, but Elizabeth Gilbert does not recommend you to sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. Instead she points out to us that our time here on earth is short, so we better do our stuff right now. She talks about how creativity is a gift that needs our attention and love, and it doesn’t matter if what you make will be published (or seen in galleries or sold at MoMa), the most important thing is that you keep showing up. She urges us to keep making art (in what ever form it shows up) and to not let fear hold us back. She talks about all kinds of fear, not only of failure. There is fear of starting, of not being able to finish, of being successful and fear of taking the leap to give something new a try… Fear gets in the way in many forms, sometimes it’s hard to even see what it is.

And Gilbert knows something you might have forgotten, or never knew:

…you have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

I think it’s a personal reminder directly written by Elizabeth Gilbert to me, though her book Big magic, but maybe it’s something we all need to hear? The clock is ticking, please focus.

To write a whole book about being creative, you need a lot of good examples of people walking the path, and Gilbert has included many of those. You also need metafors and a way of almost making the fleeting subject of creativity, inspiration and muses that you’re writing about into human form, like visitors in our life. She talks of Creativity as something that lives inside you, something that came to you almost like a lover, asking for your attention.

She gets almost religious about the subject, and I do that too sometimes. It’s such a big all-encompassing passion, that it’s not strange that it feels divine in many was. Gilbert writes:
Pure creativity is something better than a necessity: it’s a gift. It’s the frosting. Our creativity is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe. It’s as if all our gods and angels gathered together and said, ‘It’s tough down there as a human being, we know. Here – have som delights.‘”

My religion is creativity, so I get that. Making art, and writing just for fun like I do on this blog, is my favorite candy. It gives me a better rush than any sugar ever will. That’s why I recommend everyone to give it a try, to start art journaling, painting, watercoloring, to try embroidery or make postcards. When you find what’s right for you, you have found the missing piece of yourself. And never mind being original, just start and your voice will find you eventually.

The older I get...

I like the idea of thinking of creativity as the frosting, that layer of “extra” that makes everything worth while. It’s not necessary for our survival, and yet it is. Even the poorest of people sometimes take the time to decorate themselves, and to make their world prettier. It’s a human need, to explore, to decorate, to create and make new things. To make up stories, to color, to document and comment through our creativity.

Even the starving artist wants to keep being an artist, even when he is hungry… Though it’s more modern these days to want to become a thriving artist, or to have a regular job and do art as a side hustle. No matter how you manage it, there is room within you and in your life to do art. If you don’t believe me, you should listen to Elizabeth Gilbert. She gives you permission to do your thing!

That is the most important message of Gilberts book, to me. It gives you a hug when you feel like: what’s the point? It gives you comfort that you’re not alone in wanting to birth your art, or that you’re the only one who can’t sleep because your head is full of words or colors or what ever your artistic expression comes from.

If you too have read the book, let me know what you thought in the comments!

Big Magic resources

* Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – get more information at amazon
* Big Magic Links – and more, one of my en masse posts inspired by this book
* Another good book is this novel – also by Gilbert
* Book reviews – all my previous book reviews in one page – so many yummy books here!

Lastly, just remember:

Your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you’re here.

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10 Responses to Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear

  1. Thanks for your insightful review Hanna! I may be one of the few people who got annoyed by this book, and your post made me realize that yes, she did make some good points that I didn’t appreciate when I read it. I get much more from reading your blog and participating in the postcard exchanges than I did from reading this book. I felt the book was more of a “one size fits all” approach where I’ve found in life there are so many different ways to get to the same place.

    • iHanna says:

      Yes, there are a lot of general ideas and talking to artists as a homogeneous group in this book, which can be comforting but also hard to take in. Glad you liked my review, it means a lot to me.

  2. I read the book earlier this year when I had an important decision to make and it helped a lot. Each page had, for me, a buried truth, something I already knew but needed brought to the surface and Big Magic did that My hope is that older people read the book, not just younger people fearful of setting out on a creative life. There are many of us who have squeezed our creativity in to small, perhaps stolen, moments, have not had the income to do anything but create practical items and need just the kind of encouragement in Big Magic provides.

    • iHanna says:

      Oh wow, you’re so right Wendy! I too know that a lot of too grown up grown ups needs to be “freed” to be creative without judging themselves, that is true. That’s part of what I wrote about in my post of 40 lessons for creatives. :-) Thanks for the reminder that old, as well as young, need a guide, maybe even more at times.

  3. tally says:

    Dear Hannah, we know each other “for ages” so I take the plunge and write a comment. You will never know in which special kind of moment.
    But I just have to put a comment.
    Yes, life is short. Creativity is very special. It’s heart tickling.
    Not only creativity. There are other things too, climbing, adventure.
    Tallymother will never ever comment to my blog. Neither will here partner talk about it.
    Yes. Life is short. Live it, my dear.
    Thanks for this post.

    • iHanna says:

      Yes, we’re old blog friends, so I’m glad you took the plunge to write a comment about how short life can be… There are many adventures to be made, both within creativity and within nature, life and love. It’s a precious time, this life. Take care of yourself, Tally.

  4. Susan King says:

    Like you, I was long anticipating this book and finally read it recently. I was underwhelmed. I think it was perhaps because I have read so much about creativity lately that this seemed like pretty standard fare. I was expecting so much and so I was disappointed. It might be time to stop reading about it and spend the time just doing it!!

    • iHanna says:

      Haha, underwhelmed,what a great word Susan. I too love reading about creativity a lot, but in between I need to DO stuff, so I agree with you, that is the most important thing. Keep creating! :-) And if a book gets a lot of hype, maybe wait a while to read it…

  5. Sarah says:

    I’m not a huge Gilbert fan, but I am a fan of creativity. I think Sir Ken Robinson summed it up nicely: “Being creative, which is partly about having original ideas, requires actual skills in the fields in which you’re working, an openness of mind, a willingness to explore, a confidence in your imagination, a willingness to try new things out, make mistakes, and try again.” Whenever I’m in a creative funk, I know I can always come to your blog, Hannah, for inspiration. Thanks for that!

    • iHanna says:

      Oh Sarah, you’re too kind to me. So glad my blog can cure your creative funks, even though I doubt you’re in those very often! ;-)

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