'Big Magic': Elizabeth Gilbert says live, create and be brave
March 6, 2016 12:00 AM
"Big Magic," by Elizabeth Gilbert.
By Ashley Boynes-Shuck
According to best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame, creativity is within the reach of all of us — and she wants us to pursue it in all of its terrifying glory. In her latest book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” she advocates for the pursuit of passion, the cultivation of curiosity, and — perhaps most important of all — the harnessing of creativity and inspiration.
"BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR"
By Elizabeth Gilbert Riverhead Books ($24.95).
Ms. Gilbert claims that, whether you are a farmer or an engineer, a ballet dancer or a novelist, or even a door-to-door salesman, you, too, have the power to be creative — but only if you are open to it. She insists that creativity is not limited to the stereotypically creative, nor is it an aspirational trait that is somehow available to only a select few. The primary tenet of the work is that, if we are attuned to it and open to receive it, the inspiration to live a more creative life can come to any of us at any given time — and she means this on a near-literal level.
Throughout “Big Magic,” which Ms. Gilbert concedes is technically a self-help book, although not really meant to help anyone other than herself, she personifies inspiration in a way that doesn’t come off as trite or cheesy. Ms. Gilbert explains in her infamous wordy fashion that if we are listening, inspiration talks to us, and even seeks us out when we are ready. She says that it follows us around, and lingers, and sometimes leads us wherever it wants.
“Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest,” she writes. Ms. Gilbert notes an experience she had with a fellow writer during which, she believes, an idea was physically transported from herself to the novelist through the action of a kiss. To her, the idea was originally latching on to the wrong author, and she analogized it by comparing the situation to her fostering a baby until it was ready to go be with its forever-family.
Ms. Gilbert acknowledges that some of her ideas may seem odd or “out there.” She notes that it may sound crazy, but she firmly believes in Big Magic — that moment when an idea or inspiration finds and is manifested by its rightful owner. And we can all access this Big Magic if we so choose.
“If you are alive, you are a creative person,” she says, adding that we must allow ourselves to occasionally tap into what she calls the arrogance of belonging. The arrogance of belonging, she explains, is not a bad thing — it is the notion that, because we exist, we are entitled to create.
And create the author does. Throughout this memoir-turned-creative-living-guidebook, Ms. Gilbert discusses her insecurities, her past failures, and the difficulty of her craft while discouraging others from living from a place of fear. She also makes it clear that your art needn’t be of vast importance or stoic to be worthwhile.
“We are terrified, and we are brave,” she writes, and she reminds readers that, whatever the work is, it wants to be made through you. “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner — continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you — is a fine art, in and of itself.”
Ms. Gilbert’s latest book on creativity will undoubtedly seem like an uncharacteristic choice for many traditionally minded readers, but I believe will surprise and delight those who dare to seek out Big Magic.
Ashley Boynes-Shuck is the author of “Sick Idiot” and “To Exist.” She lives in Pittsburgh.
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