Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I've already written about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, a couple times, and I didn't think I'd have much more to say about it than, "I found it inspiring" and "I highly recommend it to those in need of a bit of hope, particularly if you feel your creative life is floundering." So, I've written down the half-dozen quotes that I marked as I was reading the book and added a few thoughts at the end, rather than writing a formal review.

Note: There will be no Monday Malarkey post, this week. Yesterday, we had storms with heavy lightning, so I opted to unplug my computer, and while I was unplugged I realized that last week was so uneventful that I probably ought to just skip the malarkey. Next week's malarkey will include two weeks' worth of reads, arrivals, and posts.

Quotes from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert:

I have many times been approached by ideas that I know are not right for me, and I've politely said to them: "I'm honored by your visitation, but I'm not your girl. May I respectfully suggest that you call upon, say, Barbara Kingsolver?" (I always try to use my most gracious manners when sending an idea away; you don't want word getting around the universe that you're difficult to work with.)

~p. 37

If you are older, trust that the world has been educating you all along. You already know so much more than you think you know. You are not finished; you are merely ready. After a certain age, no matter how you've been spending your time, you have very likely earned a doctorate in living. If you're still here--if you have survived this long--it is because you know things. We need you to reveal to us what you know, what you have learned, what you have seen and felt. If you are older, chances are strong that you may already possess absolutely everything you need to possess in order to live a more creative life--except the confidence to actually do your work. But we need you to do your work.

Whether you are young or old, we need your work in order to enrich and inform our own lives.

~p. 108

The paradox that you need to comfortably inhabit, if you wish to live a contented creative life, goes something like this: "My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter all all (if I am to live sanely)."

~p. 135

Meanwhile, putting forth work that is far from perfect rarely stops men from participating in the global cultural conversation. Just sayin'. And I don't say this as a criticism of men, by the way. I like that feature in men--their absurd overconfidence, the way they will casually decide, "Well, I'm 41 percent qualified for this task, so give me the job!"  Yes, sometimes the results are ridiculous and disastrous, but sometimes, strangely enough, it works--a man who seems not ready for the task, not good enough for the task, somehow grows immediately into his potential throug the wild leap of faith itself.

I only wish more women would risk these same kinds of wild leaps.

~p. 168

An abiding stereotype of creativity is that it turns people crazy. I disagree: Not expressing creativity turns people crazy. ("If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don't bring forth what is within you, what you don't bring forth will destroy you."--Gospel of Thomas.) Bring forth what is within you, then, whether it succeeds or fails. Do it whether the final product (your souvenir) is crap or gold.  Do it whether the critics have never heard of you and perhaps never will hear of you. Do it whether people get it or don't get it.

~p. 173

During my own periods of misery and instability, I've noticed that my creative spirit becomes cramped and suffocated. I've found that it's nearly impossible for me to write when I am unhappy, and it is definitely impossible for me to write fiction when I am unhappy. (In other words: I can either live a drama or I can invent a drama--but I do not have the capacity to do both at the same time.)

~p. unknown - returned the book to the library without writing that final page number down, oops!

Final notes:

Big Magic is quirky in the way of Marie Kondo's original book about tidying, in that Elizabeth Gilbert really does believe there's a bit of magic at work in the universe when it comes to creativity. I read a particularly whimsical section to my husband aloud and while I found it fascinating and even probable (having had similar experiences of my own), he just shook his head; he couldn't understand or relate to the thought that an idea, left to stagnate, might move on to someone else. I liked her whimsical way of looking at the magic of ideas, so it was a 5-star book for me. But, that aspect is something that might not resonate for everyone.

It's also notable that that quote about male confidence is one that I wrote down because it's exactly how my husband reacted when a job opportunity came up, last year. When I read that paragraph, I realized the truth in what she was saying -- that it really is a typically male characteristic to dive into something for which you're not entirely qualified intending to figure it out once you're on the job, while women often tend to take the safe route. That can apply, of course, to creative pursuits. I was completely confident in my creative side as a youngster, but now that I've returned to painting after 25 years of letting my creative side sleep, I realize that sometimes I'm completely paralyzed by fear. The funny thing is . . . what have I got to fear? I'm only painting for myself. I only write for myself. I'm not being paid and the worst I can do is ruin a canvas or waste paper printing out a terrible story. It's all still good.

At any rate, there's plenty of food for thought in Big Magic and I highly recommend it to those in need of inspiration. I'll probably end up buying a copy and highlighting it to death. I needed to hear those words.

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  1. Those quotes remind me of a favorite I have in my handmade Poem book- "Beast" by Alice Walker. It's about creativity, and how the lack of it can be so stifling.

    1. I'll have to look up "Beast" and see if I can read it online. I think they've definitely put a finger on something. I'm much happier when I'm letting my creative side run wild, I've found. It doesn't matter if you make or write anything brilliant -- it's the doing that counts.

    2. I would type it out for you here, but not sure if that's against some kind of copyright law...?

    3. I have no idea. I think I'd avoid doing that. I couldn't find it online but I'll keep looking.

  2. One of these days I need to read one of Gilbert's books. I have, Eat, Pray, Love on my shelf.

    1. Yes, you do. :) I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love but like most people there were certain sections I liked better than others. Big Magic is wonderful.


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