In 2006 Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a little travel memoir called Eat Pray Love, maybe you’ve heard of it. At the time, I dismissed the book as hippy dippy bullshit, and assumed the author wasn’t much better. Since I made that completely unfounded judgement, Elizabeth Gilbert has done nothing but prove me wrong.
Move aside Peter Carey, I’ve found myself a new writer to idolise.
If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be writing those words about Gilbert I would have laughed in their faces. Me? Idolise the woman who wrote Eat Pray Love? I think not. But here I stand, absolutely and completely corrected.
After doing a couple of TED talks about creativity and living a creative life, Gilbert has written a book that is the perfect mix of self-help, manual and memoir. Big Magic is a compilation of advice and anecdotes about living creatively, and learning how to banish the inevitable fear and obstacles that come with the creative life. While it didn’t turn out to be as instructional as I had thought it was going to be, the number of pages and paragraphs that I have flagged is proof enough that there is a lot of useful stuff in there.
Aside from finally proving how much of a judgemental idiot I was (and probably still am) for dismissing Gilbert out of hand, the book also contains a host of really useful ways to embrace your creativity and ignore the voices inside you trying to convince you that you’re not good enough. Gilbert is emphatic that we all deserve to fulfil our creative potential, while living full and interesting lives.
I don’t want to be afraid of bright colours, or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavours, or sudden changes, or even failure…I am going to spend as much time as I can creating delightful things out of my existence.
Gilbert’s style is conversational and endearing – she’s not immune to the criticism she received for Eat Pray Love, but nor is she going to let it drag her down. She is extremely pragmatic about the realities of putting her art out into the world to be judged, and recognising that once the act of creation is over, how that work is judged or received is completely out of her control. To live a creative life we must come to terms with the ultimate paradox:
My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).
Big Magic is essential reading for anyone who wishes they were more creative but is being held back by fear – and it’s also just a really interesting and inspiring book. I give it 10 out of 10 transformed opinions.