Big Magic is one long permission slip to embrace the inspiration and resulting in creativity that could permeate our lives, if we allow it. Each short chapter is an invitation to say ‘yes to dancing with creativity’ - even if we don’t know the steps or the beat!
I purchased Big Magic when it was published in 2015 because I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s story, her sense of humour and her witty writing skills. I read up to page 37, where she theorizes what ideas are, how they collaborate with humans to manifest into reality, and what happens if we say no to them - they just go and find someone else. I shut the book and quarantined it to gather dust on my bookshelf.
Fast forward through nearly five years of maturing, healing, growing and adulting, I felt ready to dust off the cover and finish reading Big Magic and give ‘ideas’ another chance. At this time in my life, I had a very different perspective on fear, failure, and what I was personally capable of achieving.
Having mentioned this experience to a group of my friends and some clients, it appeared that others had similar experiences when starting to read the book. It was then we decided to review the book collectively, and like ‘magic’ an Okanagan book club organically came together with a group of the most interesting and delightful women!
Gilbert writes “creativity is a path for the brave, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction”.
This sentence was remarked on quite frequently as the fear of having to say yes to some unknown idea wasn’t unique in our group. Most of us had felt not good enough, too busy, not creatively educated enough, afraid of our own greatness at some point or another and our inherent bravery had been squashed by fear, too, over time. It became clear that our group hadn’t felt comfortable devoting any serious time to creativity. The demands of life’s responsibilities had effectively edged out any time and energy for potential creative pursuits – or so we believed!
What Liz Gilbert does so expertly in Big Magic is to break creativity down into tiny, easily digestible tidbits. She offers tips and tricks on how to approach creativity slowly and with optimism and faith, rather than unrealistic expectations.
Gilbert briefly explores the history of inspiration and how the ancient cultures saw its origins very differently than we do today. Creativity was thought to come through the human being from the Divine, but over the centuries was replaced by something that comes from within the human being, with no Divine Muse required.
This shift, according to Gilbert, is why so many people struggle with pursuing and enjoying even the simplest creative adventures. Today, there seems to exist a pressure that unless we create something epic and famous, it’s not worth even trying. As the ladies and I chatted, we remembered feeling this pressure, too. Liz Gilbert reminded us to get out of our heads, into our hearts and bodies, and to feel our way forward rather than to think our way out of it.
This was the biggest permission slip of all and offered us all relief!
Some of us in our book club are married with teens or single moms of younger children, and we shared how deliberately making time for our own creative pursuits added so much value to our own lives. Whether it was a few minutes of crochet, doodling, creating block prints, taking a class on marbling silk scarves, or committing to a series of classes, it was time well spent. We soon discovered how it added to the balance we so often craved instead of taking away from it.
Finishing reading Big Magic stoked my own creative fire. It also reinforced the permission I was already deliberately and consciously giving myself, which was to create because it adds pleasure and meaning to my life; to create because I can; to create because it's fun!
“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust - and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always