Look at that, #SHIGGYSUMMERREADING is underway! Thanks to Amazon trade-in, I was able to swap an old geology, public policy, and psychology textbook for 7 books off of my reading list for the season! The first book I decided to read out of the bunch was Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.
First of all, I just have to say that the cover of this book is absolutely beautiful to me. The pops of color remind me of Holi, which then reminds me of fun, happiness, and that song Balam Pichkari (great tune, please listen). That’s all a tangent though because this book has nothing to do with any of that and is instead focused on the idea of ‘Big Magic’, the mystical force behind your creativity and inspiration.
I picked up with book because I myself felt like I was in a bit of a creative rut. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what the problem was– I mean, was I scared to put content out there? Was I having a block of new ideas? Was I putting too much pressure on myself to be great out of the gate? I still don’t know. But interestingly enough, even though Gilbert couldn’t fully sell me on her idea of the enchantment of the writing process, her book still managed to provide me a little comfort.
You know how you know things? Like in your head, you are wise and know that you shouldn’t be discouraged by a lack of inspiration, or compare your work and creative process to that of others, or try to be a completely original artist because truly everything has already been done and you’d have better luck trying to be authentic? But even though you know that, you have a difficult time actually accepting those words until someone else tells you those same words? That was the main beauty of this book for me. Gilbert was able to cover all the topics of creativity that I felt insecure about and dissuade my doubts. With each passage in her book, she encourages her reader to not put so much pressure on themselves, to not live in fear, and to not live in despair– after all, writing should fulfill you! And when it comes to such personal topics like literature, art, the creative process, it’s very easy to get long-winded and wordy when trying to explain this effort– I’m a perfect example of a rambling mess. But luckily, Gilbert has such a succinct writing style that all of her points come across incredibly swift and clear. She makes her point and she’ll only make it once, and it will make you feel enlightened and seen.
And then Gilbert comes to her main thesis. The way I interpreted her main point in the book– the thing that makes this book different from all other writing guides– is to not feel weighted, restricted, or stressed by the pressure of creativity and creation because it’s not really even in your hands as a creator. No, your inspiration and ideas are a product of ‘big magic’– like literal magic. And these ideas are almost like little fairies or pixies that are just all over the universe patiently waiting for the perfect host who can actualize that future book, painting, poem, or whatever that they’re carrying.
So if you’re feeling writer’s block or just generally uninspired, that can be quite comforting, right? Like it’s not your fault that you can’t come up with something right now and instead of blaming yourself, Gilbert gives you an out to blame the universe or ‘big magic’. But there’s also something limiting about that idea; like there’s only a finite number of ideas to chose from, or like you can’t actually open up up your mind and imagine a world of possibilities inside your head. And because of that, I’m hesitant to fully lend myself to her point and absolve myself the personal pleasure of having my own ideas.
Another part of the creative process where Gilbert loses me a little bit is when it comes to the actual writing. Gilbert, the author of multiple other books including Eat, Pray, Love, is obviously no stranger to the killer work and dedication that it takes to make your ideas develop and come to life. But if you’re looking for any insight on that here, you won’t find it. This book is strictly focused on the inspiration and invention portion of creating and not really about what happens after you’ve got the idea in your grasp– which I found slightly disappointing. After all, making and developing your work is just as important and creative as coming up with it, right?
Overall, the book was a good read; decently fun, fast-paced, and easy to get through. Though there are some major structural things that I wasn’t really convinced of upon finishing, I will say that this book covers an almost full spectrum of creative hardships and because of that, it’s something great to read if you have passion but just need a side of encouragement and reassurance. It’s something great to pick up if you’re like me, just struggling to get started working on something. Even though I didn’t believe Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ idea, I still felt more generally open to ideas and experiences and have felt more inspired since finishing it.
I enjoyed it, and if you’re looking to open up your mind a little bit and think a little deeper about your creative process, you will too!