Big Magic: My 5 Takeaways

A dear friend, and my former English professor in college, suggested I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert years ago. He and I are very alike as far as personalities and interests are concerned; we’re both a bit anxious, we both appreciate good theatre and deep conversations, and we’re both arguably certifiably insane if we aren’t being at least a bit creative (perhaps we’re both certifiably insane even if we are creating, but that’s besides the point haha) That’s why he wanted me to read this book in the first place; this book is all about the permission to live your creative life, and furthermore, the importance of living your creative life. I regret not reading it sooner.

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It was on the flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta, the first of two flights that would eventually take Ted and I to our honeymoon destination, that I tucked into the pages of this book. I had an idea about its subject matter, and that’s why I chose it for the honeymoon. It seemed appropriate that at such a transitional period of my life, you know committing to spend said life with this one other person for its entirety, that I should take the time to re-explore myself, and my interests.

I feel like I’m constantly exploring myself and my life, and taking inventory of what I like about it, and what seems a bit archaic, or “not me”, and unloading accordingly. Like, the interests and obligations I have associated with my life are somehow cargo on a very weighted down ship, and I have to toss the excess overboard before I start taking on water, or things that are inauthentic, and a waste of my time.

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Anyways, that’s why I finally decided to pick up this book. To self-examine, and to better understand the importance of not just acknowledging my creative interests, but admitting that ignoring them is a crippling hindrance to my self development.


My 5 Takeaways from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

  • Ideas come and go based on whether or not we are ready for/paying attention to them//Yes, Gilbert personifies ideas as these living things that sort of bounce around wanting to be made manifest. The part that particularly struck a cord was when she described a situation in which she had an idea for a book, got sidetracked due to life happenings, and stopped writing it. Not long after, she was talking to another author that described the book she was working on that had a premise almost identical to the the book Gilbert had abandoned. Bottom line: Don’t be surprised by those “I had that idea/They stole my idea!” moments, and don’t be angry by them, either. Be happy for that person, and for that idea; at least someone did something with it! It just wasn’t the right time, and other ideas will come!
  • You don’t need permission: You don’t need anyone’s permission, or approval to live a creative life. Gilbert makes the point that humans originated as creative beings, so why fight it!? It’s practically in our DNA. Our bodies are temporary, but so live the life you always wanted! (And note that living your creative life can be as simple as taking the time to play an instrument once a week in the privacy of your home. You don’t have to play the Carnegie, but by all means if that’s your goal…go for it!)
  • Hardly anything is original anymore, even less are authentic: Fear is often a factor in keeping us from living a creative life, especially a fear of being original. Gilbert explains that most things have already been done, and that’s okay, and even to be expected! As humans, we’ve had a lot of the same questions and passions throughout the ages. So, don’t abandon a hobby, or an idea because it seems pedestrian or “over done”, what’s most important is that you approach and execute your creativity in an authentic manner. So write that boy meets girl story, start a blog even if people roll their eyes and say there are already a million and the market is saturated, re-invent the wheel for God’s sake! Whatever you do, do it because you love it, and if it’s done in an authentic manner, Gilbert promises “it will feel original”.
  • Approach your creativity as if you’re having an affair: I loved this comparison, and I’m definitely not a proponent of cheating, but it just made so much sense. Think about it, though. A lot of people, me included, usually push aside their creativity the things they enjoy outside of their 9-5, because they don’t have time. People that are having an affair, always have time. Even if it’s just fifteen or twenty minutes, people that are passionate or hot for someone outside of their marriage take those short minutes to see that person in the stairwell and do, well unmentionable things…even if it’s quick. Gilbert words it perfectly when she says, “When people are having an affair, they don’t mind losing, sleep, or missing meals. They will make whatever sacrifices they have to make, and they will blast through any obstacles, in order to be alone with the object of their devotion and obsession-because it matters to them.” I mean, whoa. So true! For me, I make excuses about blogging, or getting better at cooking and baking, saying I don’t have time. However, I’m passionate about these things, and I should make the time. Talk about lighting a fire under my butt! Thanks, Liz!
  • Get a real job, it’s not your baby!: I always assumed that Gilbert spent her days as a writer, and did just that-wrote. That was her day job. Wrong. Gilbert always had a day job so that her writing didn’t have unnecessary pressure thrust upon it. Think about it, if you’re relying on the thing you love, writing in Gilbert’s case, to pay the bills, and make you a fortune, it almost takes the fun out of it, and makes it a chore. “There’s no dishonor in having a job”. I loved this line in her book, because there are times I have felt whimpy, and like a sell out for not going head first into some less secure pursuit of life. I love knowing that she actually recommends having a job to make money, and allow you the piece of mind to create. Why didn’t I think of it like that!? She also cautions against thinking of your work as “your baby”. This sort of thought process can make it difficult for you handle criticism of your work, make you reluctant to modify it anyway, and ultimately keep you from releasing it out into the world. So, instead think of yourself as your work’s baby, and allow it mature and change you!

So, in conclusion, don’t make the mistake I did when I let this book lie on the shelf for months on end, mere ornamentation. Read it. The sooner you do, the better!