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Big Magic

Written by: Elizabeth Gilbert
Published: September 22, 2015


"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert explores the world of creativity. The author discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need to live our most creative lives. Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love," draws on her own experiences and shares stories from other artists to delve into the mysteries of inspiration and the challenges of living a life dedicated to creative pursuits.

Gilbert begins by defining "Big Magic" as the process of engaging with creativity without being driven by fear. She encourages readers to embrace curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She divides the book into six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity, each addressing a different aspect of living a creative life.

In "Courage," Gilbert asserts that fear is the biggest obstacle to creativity. She encourages readers to pursue their interests despite fear, emphasizing that it's essential to start expressing oneself creatively without waiting for permission. In "Enchantment," she describes the unpredictable nature of inspiration, suggesting that ideas are almost living entities that interact with humans to be realized.

"Permission" challenges the notion that someone must be deemed worthy by others to live a creative life. Gilbert emphasizes that everyone has a "treasure" within them, and it's up to each individual to unearth it. "Persistence" addresses the importance of dedication to creative work, even when it is difficult or not externally rewarded. Gilbert acknowledges the reality of rejection and failure, but she counsels resilience.

The section on "Trust" focuses on the importance of trusting oneself and the creative process. Gilbert encourages a light-hearted play with creativity rather than heavy, burdensome seriousness. Finally, in "Divinity," she discusses the paradoxical combination of hard work and the magic that seems to arise when deeply engaged in creative endeavors. She encourages readers to appreciate the mysterious nature of inspiration and to continue creating with reverence for this process.

Throughout the book, Gilbert's tone is conversational, honest, and often humorous. She demystifies the creative process, making it accessible to all, and debunks the idea that suffering is necessary for creativity. She shares her own experiences and struggles openly, from the joys of creative success to the disappointment of projects that never come to fruition.

Final Thoughts

"Big Magic" offers a refreshing take on creativity as something not reserved for the chosen few but as accessible to anyone who seeks it. Gilbert’s insights provide encouragement and a framework for understanding the nature of inspiration and for integrating creativity into everyday life. Her message is one of empowerment, urging readers to uncover the "strange jewels" within and to engage in the art of living creatively beyond fear.

10 Big Ideas

1. Creativity Without Fear

Embrace creativity with courage, accepting fear as a companion but not the ruler of your creative journey.

2. Inspiration as a Partnership

View inspiration not as a solitary genius within but as a mysterious external force that collaborates with you.

3. Permission to Create

Give yourself permission to explore your creativity without seeking validation or approval from others.

4. The Habit of Persistence

Persist in your creative endeavors even in the face of obstacles, rejection, or indifference.

5. Trust in the Process

Cultivate trust in your abilities and the creative process, allowing creativity to flow without excessive self-criticism or doubt.

6. Embracing Curiosity

Let curiosity lead your creative pursuits rather than being solely driven by passion, which can be fleeting.

7. Originality vs. Authenticity

Focus on being authentic in your work instead of obsessing over originality; authenticity resonates more deeply.

8. The Lightness of Play

Approach your creative work with a sense of play and lightness to keep the joy alive in what you do.

9. The Intersection of Discipline and Magic

Understand that creativity is a blend of discipline and a mysterious magic that can't always be controlled.

10. Letting Go of Suffering

Release the notion that suffering is a prerequisite for creativity; it's possible to create from a place of joy and fulfillment.

5 Exercises

1. Daily Creativity Journal

Objective: To document and nurture your creative process each day.

  • Keep a dedicated journal for recording your creative ideas, no matter how big or small.
  • Write for at least 5 minutes each day about anything that sparks your curiosity.
  • Review your entries weekly to see which ideas continue to interest you and explore them further.
2. Fear-Setting Meditation

Objective: To acknowledge fears that may be hindering your creativity and find ways to move past them.

  • Sit quietly, and meditate on what you're afraid of in your creative work.
  • Write down these fears and then write rebuttals to each, arguing why the fear is unfounded or how you can overcome it.
  • Regularly revisit and update this list as you confront and conquer each fear.
3. Permission Slip Creation

Objective: To give yourself permission to create, make mistakes, and be imperfect.

  • Write a physical "permission slip" that allows you to engage in your chosen creative activity.
  • Place the permission slip in your creative workspace as a reminder that you are allowed to create freely.
  • Whenever you hesitate, look at your permission slip and remind yourself that you have the right to create.
4. Curiosity Walks

Objective: To stimulate curiosity and gather inspiration from your surroundings.

  • Go for a walk with the intention of noticing things that intrigue you. Bring a notebook or camera to capture these curiosities.
  • After the walk, review your notes or photos and write down any ideas they spark.
  • Incorporate one piece of inspiration into your creative work.
5. Creative Play Time

Objective: To engage with your creativity without pressure or expectation, simply for the joy of creating.

  • Set aside at least 30 minutes a week to create something just for fun, with no goal in mind.
  • Use this time to draw, write, dance, play music, or any activity that feels playful and enjoyable.
  • Notice how this free-form creation affects your mood and your approach to more structured creative work.

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