12 Things To Take Away From Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic

I owe a lot to this book. Over the recent weeks weathering some rocky professional patches, with my creativity running on half empty, the advice in Elizabeth Gilbert's latest work, Big Magic, has been a total draught of happiness; something like that feeling J.K.Rowling describes when Harry Potter drinks Butterbeer for the first time, and the warmth spreads to his fingertips and makes him grin from ear to ear. Alongside some 30 degree Spanish sunshine, this book restored a lot of the confidence and general zest for life that had been eroded in my previous employment.

It's funny how much readers are prone to pouring their souls into narratives laid out before them on the pages of a book, making situations applicable to their lives in the way we consume horoscopes (that, too, I have no shame in admitting). We subconsciously squeeze inbetween the lines of someone else's story, asking characters and the like to shuffle up because we can scarcely believe the author is actually describing our own life. But Big Magic details fears, problems and career commonalities experienced the world over when you're trying to make a go of something; and in that sense, the book truly resonated with me.

Big Magic basically gives strategies for discovering and utilising your creativity to your best advantage; which for a lot of us, means letting go of the fear that we don't have any right to create art, that we aren't very good at it, or we'll end up being relegated to the graveyard of broken dreams if we dare try. And before you say it, the book's not just aimed at writers or would-be novelists. Gilbert explains that we are all makers, because creativity is a hallmark of our species.

My copy of Big Magic is now moth-eared and sticky where it rested on sloppily suncreamed legs on holiday; but I have no doubt that I'll be returning to the two hundred and seventy-six pages of wisdom more times than I can imagine in the future. And Elizabeth, if you're reading, this blog post = done is better than good. 

Here's twelve of my favourite snippets from the book:

On creative living:

"You do not need anybody's permission to live a creative life. Human beings have been creative beings for a really long time - long enough and consistently enough that it appears to be a totally natural impulse. It's your birthright as a human being. If you're alive, you're a creative person. The guardians of high culture will try to convince you that the arts belong only to a chosen few, but they are wrong. We are all the chosen few. We are all makers by design ".

On persistence:

-"Frustration is the process. You don't just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren't so going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the demands of creative living".

On creativity as a natural impulse:

"An abiding stereotype of creativity is that it turns people crazy. I disagree. Not expressing creativity turns people crazy. Bring forth what is within you, then, whether it succeeds or fails. And if greatness should ever accidentally stumble upon you, let it catch you hard at work".

On getting in the zone:

"I always try to remind myself that I am having an affair with my creativity, and I make an effort to present myself to inspiration like somebody you might actually want to have an affair with - not like someone who's been wearing her husband's underwear around the house all week because she's give up. Seduce the Big Magic and it will always come back to you - the same way a raven is captivated by a shiny, spinning thing".

On keeping sane:

"The paradox that you need to comfortably inhabit, if you wish to live a contented life, goes something like this: 'My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me, if I am to live artistically, and it must not matter at all, if I am to live sanely". 

On having courage to be creative:

"I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure, I believe this is one of the oldest tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its amusement and for ours. The universe buries strange jewels with us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels - that's creative living".

On having permission:

I believe that saying you enjoy your work with all your heart is the only truly subversive position left to take as a creative person these days. It's such a gangster move, because hardly anyone dares to speak of creative enjoyment aloud, for fear of not being taken seriously as an artist. Best of all...inspiration will overhear your pleasure, and it will send ideas to your door as a reward for your enthusiasm".

On inspiration:

"Ideas are alive, ideas do seek the most available human collaborator, ideas do have a conscious will, ideas do move from soul to soul, ideas will always try to seek the swiftest and most efficient conduit to the earth (just as lightning does). The most important thing to understand about eudaimonia, though - about that exhilirating encounter between a human being and divine creative inspiration - is that you cannot expect it to be there all the time. It will come and go, and you must let it come and go."

On keeping curious:

"Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times. But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity. If you can pause and identify even one speck of tiny interest in something....do it. Follow that clue. Trust it. It's just a harmless little scavenger hunt. Following that scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places".

On authenticity:

"Most things have already been done - but they have not been done by you. So what if we repeat the same themes? Once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours. Anyhow, the older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I'm far more moved by authenticity. If it's authentic enough, believe me - it will feel original".

On pitching:

"I decided to play the game of rejection letters as if it were a great cosmic tennis match: Somebody would send me a rejection, and I would knock it right back over the net, sending out another query that same afternoon. My policy was: You hit it to me, I'm going to hit it straight back out into the universe".

On entitlement:

"Defending yourself as a creative person begins with defining yourself. It begins when declare your intent. Stand up tall and say it aloud, whatever it is: "I'm a writer". Hearing this announcement, your soul will mobilise accordingly. (Trust me, your soul has been waiting for you to wake up to your existence for years)". 

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