Creative Living Beyond Fear
Elizabeth Gilbert | Non-fiction
I decided to wait to write my blog on Big Magic until after book club, and I am really glad I did! My perspectives and insights are now much broader.
Some members of book club, including one well-trained and highly competent artist, loved Big Magic. They found it inspiring, intriguing, and useful. One member was going to read it a third time!
Others of us found the content to be valuable; we took exception to Gilbert's writing. Much like our reaction to Eat, Pray, Love, we experienced the style of her writing as shallow or condescending --- different assessments from different ones of us.
I did appreciate her passion and commitment to the entire creative process... The ENTIRE process.... All the failed attempts, the trials and tribulations, as well as the occasional winning success. I thought of my students at The Coaches Training Institute frequently, and how her words could inspire them in the early and difficult stages of building a business. For example, she writes on page 118, “I started telling myself that I enjoyed every aspect of my work. I proclaimed that I enjoyed every single aspect of my creative endeavors – the agony and the ecstasy, the success and the failure, the joy and the embarrassment, the dry spells and the grind and the stumble and the confusion and the stupidity of it all. I even dared to say this aloud.”
On the other hand, I thought Gilbert did a very poor job of translating her learning about creativity as a writer to other modalities, such as painting, performance art, music, or the creativity with which we do our work. I find that to be the major shortcoming of this book. The creative reader has to do all the translation themselves.
Gilbert tells a very intriguing story about her belief that ideas come to visit, and if you are ready, willing and able, you will be inspired by the idea and you get to develop it. And if you are not ready, the idea will go visit someone else, to take up its cause. If you read nothing else, read her story about her new friendship with the writer Ann Patchett, pages 47-54.
All in all, while I will not rave about Big Magic nor Elizabeth Gilbert, I find this book to be worth reading. You will likely glean at least a few new perspectives for yourself ... And maybe, like Jan and Louise in book club, many of Gilbert’s words will inspire you.