Book Review: Big Magic


Sometimes a book comes along and you find yourself savouring every page, every paragraph. It had been a while since I had come across such a book. Whilst reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I was experiencing something which I thought was long lost to me, something I had grown out of. I experienced a joy I thought I had left behind in my adolescence, never to be felt again. This book took me back to times of reading under the sheets into the wee hours of the morning, hoping Mum wouldn’t walk past my door and notice my torch shining through my make-shift tent. I did not want this book to end.

Elizabeth Gilbert might be proud to know that I am making more of an effort to notice the offers the world is presenting to me, and taking them up. I work in a book store. I see books come and go everyday, in and out of trend. I had just moved to the city and, out of fear, had renounced my creativity, telling myself to pursue more “adult” preoccupations. I saw Big Magic on the shelf and thought to myself “perhaps for a past me, but not for me right now.” Initially I was drawn to it, but I let it go.

Then a woman came in and bought four copies. Four. This little book was starting to tug at the hem of my skirt for attention. Soon after another woman bought two. I asked her -“Is this any good?” I had opened the flood gates. She just gushed about how much she loved it – how every creative person should read it, and how it presented a refreshing idea on what creative living can be and how ideas work. Despite my current denial of my own creativity, roles were reversed and she sold me.

This was an offer I did not pass up and I am so, so grateful that I didn’t. The first chapter – COURAGE – discusses fear. Almost all negativity is the result of fear and it usually shows itself through laziness, procrastination, distraction, denial… I felt like I already new this, but I had forgotten it. Is that overcoming denial? It almost felt as if Gilbert was introducing this book to me by describing my life to me at that time.

What stood out for me the most was the way Gilbert defined creative living by pressing the fact that you must make your own definition. She reassured readers that one does not need to be a full time artist, nor making money from ones art, to be a creative. I will keep contributing to multiple vocations in my spare time for me – for the simple act of making something. Because that’s what makes life great, right? Doing and making cool stuff. We don’t do it to get famous and we most certainly don’t do it for money; we do it to live a life on this earth that we are satisfied with. I am inspired to be more than just a consumer, I want to be a creator.

My eyes are a little bit more open to the world and the people around me. Creativity is not sparse nor unique. Everyone is creative, and I think everyone, at some level, yearns to live creatively. I can now see that my own Father lives creatively as a mountain guide, taking people up into the Tasmanian wilderness. He uses his qualifications to work in oil and gas to earn a buck, and to therefore fund his own business and passion. Creative living is making money work for you.

I found myself contemplating my education – particularly my time at university studying theatre. An attitude I walked away with was, “it will be really hard and you probably won’t make any money from it so therefore it’s not worth pursuing, just be grateful for your fun university experience.” If you don’t live and breathe your craft, you don’t want it enough, right? As deeply as I love theatre, I was not willing to unequivocally dedicate myself entirely to one venture only to be met with struggle and rejection, as my teachers had unintentionally forecast. Paying attention to artists like Elizabeth Gilbert and Mari Andrew has allowed me see that it is unfair to demand your creativity to make money for you, and you don’t have to be the best at something for it to be a part of you (but not all of you).

While I wasn’t reading this Big Magic, I was thinking about it. This book was motivating me to make changes as I was reading it, and I am continuing to do so after I have finished it. Whether you consider yourself to be creative or not, you should read this book. This book is for everyone. #Life changer.

Photo by Meg Biram

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