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It is rare for me to read a book that changes me. That inspires me to do something different. This probably has something to do with the fact I hardly read non-fiction books. But this changed the moment I read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. I have read varying reviews on the book. Some people ended it feeling as empowered as me. Other readers thought it was hard to get into and not relevant. I learned quite a bit from this book, which I wanted to share for other people living a creative life.
What is Big Magic?
Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
This beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
So what did reading Big Magic teach me?
1. The Fun of Failure
This term is something I picked up from recently reading The Happiness Project, but it is extremely relevant in terms of creative living. One of the most important steps towards becoming a writer is pitching your heart out. Gilbert got rejected A LOT in her earlier years as a writer. But she continued to pitch magazines, journals, newspapers and publishers until she was successful. She wrote that pitching for her was like playing tennis: “You hit it to me, I’m going to hit it straight back out to the universe.” Sometimes she would get a rejection letter and send the same piece to another publication the same afternoon.
Chop up that failure and use it for bait to try and catch another project.
To be honest, I have hardly pitched my stories to different outlets. I think this is due to not only the fear of failure, but lack of inspiration. But I can’t be afraid of failing. Like Gilbert said, these people don’t know me. If they reject me, it doesn’t matter. So pitch and pitch until your heart is content. Gilbert also writes that all jobs in life involve eating a bit of a shit sandwich every now and again. “If you love and want something enough, then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.” Preach!
2. Curiosity is Everything
Gilbert calls curiosity the truth and the way of creative living. She insists that everyone should follow the scavenger hunt that is your curiosity, as it can lead to amazing places. I think curiosity is even more important when it comes to travel and writing, as it is through the unexpected moments that many stories are formed.
Gilbert also wrote about ideas, and how “inspiration will come and go, and you must let it come and go.” I’ve never really thought of ideas in this way, but it is true my mind is always creating and imagining different ideas. It is up to me to write them down and make something with them too.
3. Don’t Quit your Day Job
This is probably the biggest lesson I learned from Big Magic. I very regularly feel somewhat ashamed that the two jobs I have are in the hospitality industry, especially when people ask me what I do or if I am studying. Even if this is not what I anticipated doing when I was studying journalism at university, the fact is I wasn’t built for a corporate job. Slaving away behind a desk, doing monotonous tasks and working 8 to 5 doesn’t appeal to me — even if it meant I earned a hell of a lot more money. If working these casual jobs means I get quite a bit of spare time to put towards my passion, then that’s okay with me.
Gilbert says she always had a day job until after Eat Pray Love was released. She didn’t want to burden her writing with the responsibility of paying for her life, which completely resonated with me.
There is no dishonour in having a job.
4. You Don’t Need Permission
Finally, Gilbert writes that no one needs permission to live a creative life. And if you really need someone to give you permission, than you have hers to go and live the life of your dreams. Creative living is a path for the brave, but it is up to you whether you pursue a creative life — no one else.
Declare your intent and announce it to the universe.
I hope that some of these lessons also resonate with you, whether or not you want to live a creative life. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Big Magic, as there may very well be other parts of the book that inspire you. But no matter what, continue to live a life beyond fear that is full of big magic.
Have you read any inspiring books lately? Let me know in the comments.