What I’m Reading: Big Magic

I won’t lie to you: 2016 was one of the least creative years of my life.

I wrote less, read less, and created less than I have in years. There were a lot of factors as to why but I’m trying to shed some of that baggage and make 2017 my most creative year yet.

So I decided to start the year off with Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2016 hit, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. It’s been an easy, if not surprising, read.

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Maybe I did not read enough reviews but the book is (or feels) much more metaphysical and otherworldly than I expected. Gilbert’s view is that creativity and inspiration and ideas are all things that are out of our control. They exist outside us and find us whether or not the time is right. We cannot control what artistic thought finds us – just how or when we run with it.

It’s in discussing creative practice and craft where I enjoy Gilbert’s advice the most. She felt like my wise older sister who had survived  overbearing parents, bad boyfriends, and friendship break-ups, and was ensuring you didn’t make the same mistakes. Gilbert offers a lovely anecdote about a famous poet named Jack Gilbert (no relation) who asked all his students to be brave in the pursuit of their poetry.

To one student who told Jack Gilbert that she wanted to be a writer, he said:

“Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

Isn’t that just lovely?

Despite the sometimes quasi-spiritual tone, there have been a few moments when I felt myself completely on-board myself with Gilbert’s philosophy. One was when she was describing the way to stay sane while pursuing and living a creative life: to deeply care about your work while also not caring about it at all. Gilbert writes:

 It matters./It doesn’t matter.

Build space in your head for this paradox. Build as much space for it as you can.

Build even more space. 

You will need it. 

I don’t think I realized how uptight I’ve been about my lack of creative living lately; how much pressure I’ve been putting on my creation (or lack there of). I have to build more space for myself and that’s a major goal for this year.

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