Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear – A review
Big Magic is the one book I’m most likely to gift to a friend. I’ve read it 4 times. The last time was last week in preparation for writing this article. I wanted to be sure I still loved it as much as I did the first three times.
And yep, it’s a keeper. But this time, I borrowed the audio version from the local library and listened to Elizabeth Gilbert weave her own collection of short stories as she offered up her lessons on creativity.
I highly recommend the audio version if you have the option.
I thought I’d take a moment to summarize just why this has become one of my favourite self-help books to date.
First off, it sorta feels like a memoir rather than a self-help book. And I love the fact that Liz doesn’t take herself too seriously. I personally hated Eat, Pray Love. I found it self-indulgent – and it just wasn’t my bag. But I’m self-aware enough to realize it was a “me” problem since over 10 million people can’t all be wrong.
So how did I land on Big Magic? One of my favourite writers over on Medium recommended it as one of the most transformative pieces of writing she’d ever read so I thought…okay…I’ll give it a go.
Not at all disappointed. What I love best, is Liz’s irreverent vibe. And I don’t agree with her on some fundamental concepts but damn…I appreciate her peculiar way of looking at things.
But here’s what we do agree on and my takeaways from the book.
You might think…I’m no creative. I’m a travel advisor. I sell travel. But we all are creatives. Creativity comes in many forms. The social media post you did last week…that’s you flexing your creative spirit. Or the podcast you are recording or the email you sent out.
The trick is to stop hiding behind the fear that nobody will like your shit. Who cares if they do? It doesn’t even matter if it’s great at first. It eventually will be but you have to make crap before you can make cream.
Okay, okay Phil Knight…we heard you. Just do it already.
On idea manifestation
The book is called Big Magic. Liz tells a story about how one of her big original and wildly unique ideas got away from her and landed up in a novel by one of her contemporaries. I won’t spoil the plot by giving away too many details, but Liz has this belief that ideas are out floating in the ether for anyone to grab. They don’t belong to any one of us but rather flirt with many creatives waiting for the right person to reach out and grab them and bring them to fruition.
How many times have you had a great idea that you were almost sure was the next great invention only to put it aside thinkin’….”Nah, that’s crazy. Nobody would want that.” Only to see it on the shelf at Walmart 6 months later behind a SOLD OUT sign. Or some version of that.
Ideas got things to do and people to meet…they’ll come to you thinking you might be the right person but if you aren’t ready for the opportunity, they’ll move on to the next punter.
Of course, the biggest deterrent for most of us doing the things we think we should do…ought to do, probably will hate ourselves immensely if we decide not to do…the biggest thing that gets in our way…is fear.
I love how Gilbert talks about life as a giant road trip. And on that road trip, she’s packed some snacks, there are maps, she’s cued up her favourite music and riding shotgun is Creativity. In the backseat sits Fear. But before the three of them head off on some mysterious route across the cornfields of Iowa, she turns around and she has a fierce heart to heart with Fear. She tells him…” listen, you can come along for the ride but you belong in the backseat. You don’t get to choose the music, decide on the internal temperature of the car, give any sort of directions. You don’t get a say….and you most certainly cannot drive!”
Of course…I’ve paraphrased all the above in a way that speaks to me but I just love this. It’s so friggin’ true.
No matter what we decide to do in life…there will always be fear. So many people keep waiting to jump in until fear leaves but fear should never leave. It has a place and a purpose, (picture a dark, deserted road on a cold, stormy night, walking alone, stranding when a white windowless cube van rolls up and a tattooed man behind the wheel missing both front teeth asks you if you need a lift) That’s when fear serves its purpose, punches you in the gut and tells you to run…
But fear has no business making other major decisions in our lives.
The best quote of the whole book is this…
because I think it’s actually the secret to success. Consistency of practice, of whatever craft you decide to adopt, will always beat perfection. It is better to post on social media every single day and be okay with everything not landing than it is to hold off one day’s post because you can’t get your message quite right.
Not all my articles I write are fantastic. I know that. But I write ‘em and more importantly, I post ‘em. I post them when I really don’t want to post them because I am okay with releasing them to the world even if they aren’t perfect.
Not only does posting every Thursday, come hell or high water, make me someone people can depend on but I know I am a far better writer today than I was early 2020 when I struggled to compose even a 600-word blog article.
On Courage and perseverance
People generally give up when things get interesting. “Interesting” is her word for challenging.
She actually references the work of Mark Manson who coined the phrase “being willing to eat a shit sandwich” to help bring home her point. It stuck with me.
The concept is this…no matter what you decide to do in life, even if it is following your passion. There are going to be aspects of it that just suck. Take travelling. We all love to travel. We can’t imagine doing anything else but every now and again….we get stranded at an airport. Or we lose our luggage. Or we get tossed in a Peruvian jail. – whoops…was that just me? 😳
But when asked, are you ready for your next trip, we eagerly wave our passports.
Now for what we didn’t agree on. Liz says it’s a mistake to expect your passion and creativity to fund your way of life. She argues that putting too much responsibility on your creativity will douse the flames. We part company on that note, but I look forward to a time I can discuss it with her over a glass of wine.
Oh and…I’m not changing my mind on Eat, Pray, Love.
Hey…if you find yourself struggling to connect with enough quality clients, I can help you with that. I have my group program launching in April but if you can’t wait, send me a message and let’s chat.
If you missed any of the other books in this series dedicated to the month of March, which is also National I Love Reading Month. Here are my recommended reads for books that changed my life:
Week One: Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
Week Two: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Week Three: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Week Four: The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Week Five: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.