Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you were to ask me what my favorite thing to do in life is, I would say it is to create. It doesn’t matter if it’s the blank canvas I set up on my easel last night waiting for daubs of oil paint or the novel I’ve been working on for what seems like forever, it is the act of creating that I love the most.
I enjoy reading about creativity, but when I read Nina’s recommendation of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert for her GNB Favorite Book of 2015, I knew it would be a book I’d love. And I did.
Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic describes finding our creative angle through curiosity.
“Curiosity only ever asks one simple question: “Is there anything you’re interested in?” Anything? Even a tiny bit? … Following that scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places. … Or it may lead you nowhere. You may spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end–except one thing. You will have the satisfaction of knowing you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble human virtue of inquisitiveness.
And that should be more than enough for anyone to say they lived a rich and splendid life.” – p 238
I agree. I think the biggest barrier to creative living is the notion that we must be successful with our creativity. But in Big Magic, Gilbert emphasizes, No, that’s not so.
Gilbert talks about the pressure of succeeding and how paralyzing it is. She recommends keeping your day job no matter what you’re creating. I agree. There is no quicker creativity killer than to believe your art has to pay the bills, steadily.
What about creating for the sense of creating, just for the fulfillment of it?
For me, I know I’m a better person when I make time to write and paint. I need the time to be. There is a tremendous amount of magic in the timelessness found in the act that is creating. Gilbert writes this in Big Magic:
“Because when it all comes together, it’s amazing. When it all comes together, the only thing you can do is bow down in gratitude, as if you have been granted an audience with the divine. Because you have.”
“We all need something that helps us to forget ourselves for a while — to momentarily forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up… Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.”
If we’re not creating for the million-dollar payout, we’re creating for the fulfillment and meaning it brings us. That is enough of a reason. But if we love what we’re doing, greatness may happen from the work and diligence at doing what we love. Gilbert says, “If greatness should ever accidentally stumble upon you, let it catch you hard at work.”
She emphasizes taking a chance. Create. Not for success in terms of becoming the next big artistic wonder, but for fulfillment and the chance to live an interesting life. The act of creating brings deep joy.
When we dare to create, we gain joy. We’ve all been given the gift of being able to create, whether it’s baking a cake, drawing with pencil, writing a journal, creating a garden, or redoing an old car. Creativity is essential for a full life.
In Big Magic, Gilbert asks, what is it you will be curious about? What will you begin to create? As Gilbert says so well,
“The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”
Have you read Big Magic? We’d love to hear what you think — please share in the comments below. Thanks!
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