Saturday, October 3, 2015

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

 Cover love! It's so bright and colorful!
Book Summary
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy. 

Flo's Review
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. And this book is exactly what I needed to be reading right now. I'll explain why more as we get into this review. 

The thing I loved most about this book was its honesty. This is not a book for a 20-something, straight out a college. A 20 something needs the pep talk that says, "Work hard and chase your dreams! You can succeed at anything you put your mind to! Follow your passion with everything in you and you will change the world!!" Because in your 20s, you have that time and energy and that vibrant passion.

But this book is for the 30+ crowd, I believe. This book is for the woman or man who has a full-time job, a family, a mortgage. And I'll speak for myself here. Yes, sometimes you might want to quit everything and start over in search of your 100% perfect dream life. But the reality is you have a job that you like or love, you have friends and family and commitments that fill your soul. Your life is already full, and you just don't have the time or the ability to drop everything and decide to write a book for 8 hours a day or travel to Europe to paint the beauty countrysides. Big Magic says, "Yes, live the life you're living, but integrate your creativity into it." If the only time you can write your poetry is at night with a glass of wine after the kids are in bed -- do it. Or the only time you can dance is to wake up early in the morning and attend the early morning session at the gym or studio -- do it. This book is saying that you will have to make sacrifices and squeeze it in when you can: but do it because you love it. Not because it's going to be your life's work.

Jumping off that, there's a big emphasis in the book to doing your creative thing for no other reason than you love doing it. Not because you're trying to make the NY Times bestseller list. Because you may not...and then what? I see this book has gotten a little bit of flack for being pessimistic, and I can see that it is very brutal at times. Gilbert does say that you can work and work and work on being creative for your entire life and never get published or recognized in any kind of way. I see how that is hard for some people to hear, but I like the honesty of it. I like that this book says: go to work, take care of your family, continue going out and having fun with friends -- and within all that, find the space for creativity, too.

There were a couple of things that didn't really mesh with me about this book. For one, this book was kind of like how you're single and your friends in happy, perfect relationships are like, "It'll happen for you, too! I was literally picking my nose when Romeo found me and we now have a perfect life and live happily ever after! Chin up!" It's true....but I also know that it could be a little frustrating to hear that over and over again. "Just wait! It'll happen!" Elizabeth Gilbert was very successful and does make a living with her creative life, so this book sometimes gave me that same feeling. There was also a whole analogy about living life as a trickster that just didn't connect with me...I can see what she was going for there, but it fell a little short, in my opinion. Finally, she went on a really long tangent about "don't go to college for your passion, you'll just get debt and unhappiness." I understand the idea of not straddling yourself with debt because you think if you get this certain degree you're guaranteed the million dollar job -- that's definitely not true, I agree. But I also don't think going to school for your passion should be discouraged. If you can do it -- do it! For me, going to school for my writing gave me connections that I would not have made otherwise. These helped hugely in the "it's all who you know" game. Also, school was one of the few uninterrupted periods of time when I could just focus on my creative gift.

So, back to how this book  was exactly what I needed right now. I mentioned before that I'm writing a book and talked briefly about some of my struggles there. The update is that I came to a point in the story where it's not not moving. It's standing still, and I'm trying to figure out how to breathe life into it again. Well, first of all, my wonderful #otspsecretsister actually seems really interested and is encouraging me to talk about it more. Nothing excites an artist more than talking about his or her work! Second, I just started taking a MOOC on fiction writing last month. Third, NaNoWriMo is next month. And then I start reading this book. Basically, from all sides the universe is telling me: Flo, write your story. So I shall. With the help of the MOOC, I am looking more closely at my characters, because I decided on my own a few weeks ago that what I need to do is to bring my life into characters in order to bring more life into this story. 

And just like that, I'm back in the game. And I know, like Big Magic says, that I may finish the story and it may be a dud. Or I may finish it and it may be amazing. But either way, it's about the process: I am having fun with it and learning more about myself as a creator. And like a lot of people and their creative endeavors, it's almost become less of a "I want to write because it's fun" and more of a "I have to write because these words have to come out of me, and my soul won't be able to rest until they do." Which, I believe is exactly what Elizabeth Gilbert means by the term "big magic."

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