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World Book Day – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

In celebration of World Book Day, Hannah & Caro wished to share their thoughts about a book that’s deeply inspired them. One that they felt helped them develop a better understanding of their own patterns and mechanisms as “creative beings”, and one they believe is definitely worth a read!

Caro’s take

Aaaah the ever-so-slightly controversial Liz Gilbert – people either love her or hate her,  and when I first came across Big Magic, less than a year ago, I thought: “really?”.

Like many people, all that name evoked was the over-debated, over-monetised Eat, Pray, Love and, although I had never read Gilbert’s work, twenty minutes of the novel’s shoot-me-now film adaptation was enough to put me off for life. Or so I thought*.

I was going through a whole reassessment of my working life when, in all Gilbert style, I quit, bought the book, and took a plane to Mauritius where I’d take the time to figure things out**. Although my trip away was more on the lines of “Eat, Drink, Drink” than “Eat, Pray, Love”, Big Magic turned out to be the kick up the arse and confidence boost I was in need of.

Eight months down the line, I cannot pretend that I remember every line of the book, but I know it deeply helped me taking things back to a simpler level. It opened my mind to the whole new concept of respecting my own ideas, of taking the time to hear them, instead of instantly judging them – I know, right??- and gave me a brand new perspective on creativity and ideas themselves***.

One of the few with a guaranteed permanent place on my shelf, Big Magic is a book I know I will keep coming back to again and again. A surreal reality check that brings me back to basics whenever I feel I’m losing grip of who I am and what I love to do.

*[I’m currently reading Eat, Pray, Love. And I’m enjoying it. Yep.]

**[that holiday was booked 10 months in advance, it simply makes a better story to make it sound like I just bought a flippin’ ticket to Mauritius on a whim.]

***[Gilbert describes ideas as living entities that travel from mind to mind, looking for a vessel ready to embody it, despite any threat of fear.]

Hannah’s take

This is by far one of my most favourite books EVER…It is a series of beautifully written stories and anecdotes about being a creative and the obstacles we all put in our way to stop us realising our fullest potential.

The book is broken into a number of chapters with powerful titles. I have summarised each chapter, but please do read this book for yourself, as Gilbert’s writing is so wonderful and my words don’t do her musings justice.

1. Courage

In a nutshell – it takes courage to find your talent and pursue it. You don’t have to be world class successful at something to be successful. “Creative living is a path for the brave”. Your internal voice will throw negativity at you…there are a million reasons to be afraid, but if you live in a state of fear you will always get the same outcome.

Fear is OK, to protect us from real threats like sharks and stuff…but it is not OK for creativity…Gilbert writes an amazing letter to Fear on page 25 “Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously.” Trust me you need to read the whole thing to see how well she kicks fear’s butt!


2. Enchantment

This chapter covers how ideas and inspirations are given freely to us all, but if the ‘Big magic’ gives you an idea, and you don’t work on it, trust me, someone else will. Ideas travel to people, like the wind, Gilbert explains, far more eloquently than I can. So again, read her book. Trust me…This chapter has a great story about the weird stuff that happens in the world called co-incidence…


3. Permission

Now this chapter really resonated with me…because before I started Love Inc, I waited so long, too long, to get permission from someone to start it…I just wanted someone to say ‘You’re really good at that, you should do it’. Gilbert explains you don’t need anyone’s permission to be creative, it is wound up in our history to BE creative. You need to find a personal entitlement, a good kind of arrogance.

She explains on page 93 “I believe that this good kind of arrogance – this simple entitlement to exist, and therefore to express yourself – is the only weapon with which to combat the nasty dialogue that may automatically arise within your head whenever you get an artistic impulse.” Whilst discussing originality vs. authenticity she explains, “Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done – but they have not yet been done by you”


4. Persistence

Gilbert’s writing is so beautiful, we all know that if you do something long enough, you become an expert, and she illustrates her point perfectly with a 90 year old expert, who only started studying her passion ten years ago, and is now an international expert on ‘Mesopotamia’ (Like I said, READ IT).

But persistence is really the art of dealing with the inevitable highs and lows on a creative project. She gives a great story about a ‘shit sandwich’. You’re going to have to read it to find out more on that one. How you deal with staying persistent is to fall in love with your creative pursuit. Dress up for inspiration to find you, feel amazing, invite it into your life. Don’t let perfectionism stop you. “I think perfectionism is just a high-end haute couture version of fear” Gilbert eloquently writes. She ends this chapter with a mantra that her Mum taught her, ”Done is better than good”. Or as Nike said, Just do it.


5. Trust

You need to trust that your creative pursuit loves you in return. A tortured artist, is not the way to go. No one wins. Gilbert explains that if you are struggling with creativity, sometimes you just have to trick the process. After all, it’s only art in its many forms that any of us are creating. Lighten up! Passion comes and goes but curiosity will always remain. “Your ego is a wonderful servant, but it’s a terrible master-because the only thing your ego ever wants is reward, reward, reward and more reward”. So don’t let it destroy your work. Trust that it IS good enough.”

“So how do you shake off failure and shame in order to keep living a creative life? First of all, forgive yourself. If you made something and it didn’t work out, let it go” implores Gilbert. If you are struggling with creativity, then do something completely different that’s creative. If you are a song writer, take up painting and vice versa. It’s what Einstein did after all…She concludes with “You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome.”

On page 260, she tells a story that made me snort out loud, it’s so funny. It involves a lobster costume! Did I mention how much I love this book!


6. Divinity

Finally, Gilbert writes beautifully and briefly about Bali and the sacred dances they enact and how they please both tourists and priests by tricking creativity. Who gets to define what is divine, she questions.


In summary this book is just amazing with anyone struggling in the pursuit of being a creative. There is no formula, but Gilbert helps to get you going, by unravelling all of the stumbling blocks we put in our own way and offering some great solutions to these problems. Her anecdotes and stories are all relatable and funny and it is in my top 10 business books of all time. A real game changer for me.


Ever read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? We’d love to know your thoughts!

Whether you liked it or not, do leave us a comment below!

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