Because creative living is where Big Magic will always abide. - Elizabeth Gilbert
Sometimes so many people recommend a book to me that my only choice is to read it.
Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" is one such book. When I saw that it was featured as a signed book at Barnes and Noble for Christmas, I gently suggested to my husband that it might be a book that I would love to see under the tree on Christmas morning. He listened and it was mine.
Unlike most books that I get for Christmas, I waited to read this one until I was ready to fully take it in. I read it with a pencil in my hand to underline important passages and to let Elizabeth Gilbert's message really sink in and resonate with my soul.
My reader relationship with Elizabeth Gilbert is hot and cold. The book that propelled her to success, "Eat, Pray, Love" was good, but definitely not one of my favorite memoirs. At times her story of self discovery during her world travels really mattered to me, but at other times I felt completely disconnected to her journey. I felt the same thing with "The Signature of All Things." I really, really loved parts of it, but other times I found myself flipping pages to just get it done.
Regardless of this relationship with Elizabeth Gilbert, her Ted Talk titled Your Elusive Creative Genius is one of my favorites of all time.
So I figured that an entire book dealing with the same subject matter would speak to me.
And it did.
Gilbert's conversational tone throughout the book drew me in immediately. It was as if she was talking to me as a friend, a confidant, a fellow creator on this planet who has a voice and a message and doesn't always know how to use it. She tells stories of her own creative process, her failures and her successes.
My favorite part of the book was when she explained that ideas are living entities that are waiting to find a medium to bring them into the world. "Remember: All it [an idea] wants is to be realized. It's trying its best. It seriously has to knock on every door it can." She illustrated this point by recounting a book idea she had. It was set in the Amazon and included an adventure for a reluctant heroine named Evelyn whose ordinary life gets overturned when she travels to Brazil to recover a missing young man. Gilbert had to side track this idea even though it was bought by her publisher.
Life happened and she neglected this book idea, and then several months later, she attended a panel discussion about libraries and met Ann Patchett. They formed a strong friendship that was forged mostly through old fashioned letter writing. In one letter, Ann mentioned her new book idea which was about an adventure in the Amazon jungle. When they met for lunch a few weeks later, Ann told her more about the book idea which was so similar to her own that she got chills. She realized that her idea got impatient and jumped to Ann who could realize the idea's full potential. Ann wrote the widely renowned book "State of Wonder" which essentially was Elizabeth's idea. Sometimes if we wait too long, an idea will do what it needs to do in order to be brought to fruition.
From this story, Gilbert goes on to talk about her own journey with writing- how she was persistent even when she didn't feel like she was any good at writing. When she got rejections, she would work harder, and she never quit her day job nor did she go through a fancy MFA program. She worked hard and listened to ideas as they came to her.
At times Gilbert does get a little preachy, but overall, she remains true to her message that creativity is a beautiful gift and that all of us need to create, even if it's just for ourselves. Even more she says that if you create with only your audience in mind, you are doing yourself a disservice. Create because you can and then maybe your message will reach others in ways that you don't even anticipate just like her success with "Eat, Pray, Love" which she really wrote in order to work through her own emotional turbulence.
For anyone that ever wanted to create but was afraid to do it, and for anyone who lost their way as a writer but still feels like they have something to say - pick up this book which is a beautiful reminder of why we should uncover the jewels within us and bring them to life.