Big Magic:Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Big Magic:Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert Unabridged  Audiobook Read by the Author Cover
I’ve been doing some critiquing for friends recently, and that has been an eye-opening experience. As much as I know that I need to let people see my “serious” writing, I have only been able to bring myself to show it to a couple of people—and none of those people are writers. Husband, siblings—you get the idea; no one gets to read Lydia’s story. I’m very sensitive and always concerned that I’m going to take criticism too much to heart. I am the only one who has read my current work-in-progress.

I don’t have that issue with my prompt writing because there’s always the disclaimer out there that I pounded out those pieces in a very limited time and didn’t bother to edit or revise them at all. Those are not “serious” pieces, and we all know it. I’m just playing with words. I think I need to start taking that sort of attitude toward the stories I actually care about, because I really need the feedback, and I need the accountability of having to finish chapters for a critique group if I’m going to finish anything.

And this sob story brings me to Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Liz’s reflections on creativity are some of the few things that can reliably pull me out of a creative funk, so I listen to Big Magic frequently. Feeling bad about writing or anything else in my creative life? Time to listen to a kind and wise mentor.

I have no idea how many times I’ve read this book. I love it that much. It’s definitely a seven-mustache book for me. I have the audiobook on my mp3 player and I've never deleted it. I don’t count every listen toward my Goodreads challenge; I figure it’s only about five hours long, so counting every time seems absurd.

This is not a how-to book on writing techniques. It is not a how-to book on self-care. It’s all about your emotions and getting them to a place where you can write. It helps you to deconstruct cultural ideas that put so much pressure on creatives that they can’t create. Liz is a writer, so a lot of her examples and anecdotes relate to writing, but she also has stories from songwriters, poets, ice-skaters, illustrators, dramatists, and other artists. She brings adult wisdom to the work while keeping a sense of childlike wonder. She leaves room for magical thinking, but only if it helps support her in her writing, because if it makes the work needlessly more difficult, then what’s the point? This book allows me to laugh at myself without mocking. It’s about fear and life and creativity. It’s mystical and inspiring and comforting. Listening to it is like having Liz take you by the hand and say “It’s going to be okay, dear one. Please create. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

This book isn't about getting rid of fear, kicking its butt, and showing it who's boss. You need fear, and it's not going anywhere, so don't fight it. But in writing, it’s kind of silly. Especially if it’s not only keeping you from showing your writing to anyone, but keeping you from writing in the first place.

So I would like to take a moment to raise a glass to you. May this book and its gentle adjustments to your attitude help you to be courageous with your creativity. May you, creativity, and fear go on many crazy road trips together. May you follow your curiosity and share your work with the other weird bipeds of this planet, because life is short, and no one can make that thing quite like you can.

What inspires you? What helps you to move past your fear and do the work?
Leave a comment below or my hairless ghost lemur will haunt your dreams.

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