Book Review: Big Magic

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This past week has been a roller coaster. The worst part? How many times have we collectively said that this year? Too many. Sometimes, I can’t even believe we made it through this year, but we have (mostly) unscathed so I suppose that’s one thing to be thankful for coming into the holiday season.

One way I have been coping with all the events this past year is turning to my favorite books. I have so many in my personal library. I had big plans to read lots of books this year but I just haven’t been able to keep my focus lately. Returning to the books that I know, the ones that are comforting and easy and funny is all I can do sometimes.

At the library a few weeks ago, I noticed Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbertย when I was on my way to the checkout station with an armful of books. I grabbed it with one hand and added it to the stack. I love Elizabeth Gilbert (don’t we all?) and had heard good things about Big Magic, so I was eager to start reading.

Admittedly, it sat in a stack next to my desk for a few weeks. I had to renew it twice. I wanted to read it so badly but every time I felt ready to start something new, some outrageous thing would happen in the world and it was all I could do to focus on my own life, let alone allow myself to be immersed in a new book. When I finally did sit down to read this book last weekend, it was the exact breath of fresh air that I needed. Just a few dozen pages in and I was already feeling rejuvenated and wanting to start sharing it with others.

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Big Magicย is about living a creative life. It’s about how to summon up your courage to live a creative life, despite any and all doubts you may have. She talks about why you shouldn’t accept your limitations, why fear is actually a really boring state to be in, and why it exists so closely to creativity. Gilbert also talks about the magic of ideas, the true magic of what happens when an idea presents itself to you and the choices you have upon recognizing it.

The book is divided into four parts: Courage, Enchantment, Permission and Persistence. The chapter on persistence was definitely my favorite. Of spending years writing, before getting published, she says:

“The most important benefit of my years of disciplined solitary work was that I began to recognize the emotional patterns of creativity – or, rather, I began to recognize my patterns. I could see that there were psychological cycles to my own creative process, and that those cycles were always pretty much the same.”

It took years for her to learn to recognize each stage of her own personal creative process, how to combat it, and to push onward. Understanding how to handle your frustrations as an artist is a vital part of even being an artist, she says. You cannot expect things to happen without there being major frustrations, feelings of regret or confusion along with way. If you want it with all of your heart, you will push through the not-so-great moments because you love what you do.

If you’re feeling any sort of doubt right now in life, about anything at all, I cannot recommend this book to you enough. Elizabeth Gilbert writes to you, the reader, like you are a friend, and above all she gives a damn good pep talk. This book will inspire, or re-inspire you, and so much more.

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