If you’re looking for a book to help you get into the right mindset for writing, I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Notice that Gilbert doesn’t promise us “creative living without fear.” No, dealing with our fear is an important part of the process, according to Gilbert (22-24). In six thematic sections divided into short, quickly readable chapters, Gilbert shares what she’s learned about living a more creative and fulfilling existence, even in the presence of obstacles.
Gilbert uses her signature casual, humorous, and sometimes sarcastic tone to both encourage us and get us to pay attention to some truths we probably want to avoid. She empowers readers with her intuitive approach to how inspiration works. She also makes us face things about ourselves that could use work. As I took notes in preparation for this book review, I wrote the word “complaining,” drew a circle around it, and then drew a diagonal line through the word. Gilbert is not a fan of complaining, and this book made me realize I could stand to complain a lot less. She has convinced this reader that the right frame of mind matters; when creating and just generally when existing. Wow, that got a bit heavy. For a dose of comic relief, be sure to check out the last two sentences (Gilbert 125) of the “Fun House Mirrors” chapter.
Though a lot of Big Magic focuses on mental, emotional, and spiritual advice, there are practical recommendations to be found. I tried out Gilbert’s advice in “Entitlement” (94-95) and it felt a bit awkward, but I will keep at it because I can see the value in verbalizing what I am and what I am doing creatively. Big Magic is such a worthwhile read because Elizabeth Gilbert so cleverly combines these really mystical ideas about inspiration with totally rational topics you might not expect (education, finances) but need to consider in your pursuit of a creative lifestyle, whatever that means for you.
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Riverhead Books, 2015.