MARCH BOOK REVIEW; BIG MAGIC; Creative Living Beyond Fear

I didn’t agree with everything in this book. Some parts left me saying hmmmmm really? That doesn’t sound right. But the parts I did agree with left me nodding my head and fist bumping like we do in church these days. They also left me gladly smiling at the realisation of the fact that I’m not alone with some thoughts I have been tossing back and forth in my head for some time now.

AUTHOR; Elizabeth Gilbert. (AMERICAN)

Genre; Non-Fiction

Publisher and year of Publication; Bloomsbury. September 2015.

Number of Pages; Hardcover – 273

Price; E14.99

Other Titles; Eat Pray Love, Pilgrims, The Signature of All Things.


This book was literally in every book store I entered in January, mostly at the entrance, in a pile, screaming to be picked up. Since I never read Eat Pray Love, never saw the movie either, I thought ok, lets give Gilbert a shot. I don’t regret the money spent on it, however I must say I do not think this book, as self help as it portrays itself is for everyone.

The book spiritualises creativity, suggesting that an idea or inspiration comes to you in mystical, transcendent ways and can float away as divinely as they came, leaving you for “a more serious” human to collaborate with if you don’t focus energy on it. This I am not quite sure what I think of yet, but I see how it makes sense. Sometimes.

Quoting her;
“Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest is through collaboration with a human partner.”

She recounts how the idea of a novel she once worked on and had to dump because of a tight schedule left her for another writer Ann Patchette, who she before then had never met. Same theme, same story line, set in the same city. Gilbert thinks the idea was transmitted from her to Ann Patchette by some force of the universe on the very day they met, considering the time around which Ann began working on the novel.

Gilbert goes ahead to describe how our responses to such occurrences can either ruin our creativity or develop it.
Instead of regarding her idea/work as being stolen or regarding herself a loser who can’t deliver on anything she starts to create, or even blaming God for making Ann a better novelist, she chose to see it as being a terrific little miracle, allowing herself to be grateful to have played whatever part in the unfolding of an idea.
This for her is Big Magic… “the closest she has felt to sorcery.”

Well I don’t feel ideas float around looking for the most cooperative human all the time, because how then do we explain ideas that come based on personal experiences from travel or actual training and research?

She also insists that completion is a rather honourable achievement in its own right, which is relatively true, but she said this based on the premise that something done is better than something good. I do not agree. I think it’s important to get down and dirty if you must, for however long it takes to produce good work, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just to be able to say you have done something doesn’t sound right to me. Feels like a horrible ego filled statement. She tries to use Harper Lee as an example, hoping she had just published all her other works regardless, rather than waiting to match the flambouyance and outstanding nature of the book that won her a pulitzer. I however agree with this quote below but still doesn’t make done better than good for me.

“No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it (There are people out there who still consider Beethoveen’s symphonies a little bit too you know, loud.)”

I concur with her notion that higher education may not necessarily be needed to be creative. This is not to say though that people shouldn’t go get a Masters in painting or creative writing if they wanted it. But if we’ll be honest, at the end of it all, the consistency of an artist is what earns him a place at the table. So yes it may give you the upper hand to meet and make connections with professors, mentors and maybe even publishing agents, but if you are not consistent and don’t put work into your art, you simply may just have the upper hand to publish crap.
Instead, get good at all the other things you find yourself doing, hone your craft by using experiences from things you have gotten yourself busy with, like your last summer job or internship, even your current job no matter how crapy.

This book also got me at the tail end, because she discussed something that my mind had always rambled on. How many artists/creatives and even non artists have come to somehow agree that anguish is the only true emotional experience. In short, if you are creating music, your best work is when you create from a place of pain or depression. If you are a painter your best works are the ones that reflect that dark time of your life when you abused drugs. I struggled with this concept for a while because it seemed to be generally accepted, as a matter of fact one of my most read works with astronomical feedback is one where I discussed dealing with depression. So I’m glad she reinforced that although rock bottom is a good place to create from, we cannot authenticate tribulation as though it were the only place creativity can flow from. A happy mind can also create equally as good.

“You are a creative artist, despite your pain not because of it.”

I like Gilbert’s writing style, it’s easy, the whole book reads like a long conversation with a dear aunt or mentor.
There’s a whole lot of name dropping in the pages though. For all cited anecdotes, ok not all but most, Gilbert seems to know only famous people. I definitely want to be like her when I grow up. I mean…

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