When most of the books you read are borrowed from the library via your Kindle, you don’t know always know when you’re going to read what. On occasion, the book you’re interested in is available right away (for example, I recently enjoyed The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry on demand), but often, you don’t know when you’ll be reading any given book.
Then one day you get an email saying that the digital item you placed on hold is now available—or, even better, has been automatically checked out to you. It gives your reading life a certain delightful unpredictability.
But when Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert appeared in my inbox a few weeks ago, my first thought was, wait, didn’t I vow to stop reading self help books? As in, “if you’ve read one self help book, you’ve read them all.” I thought back and remembered some of the reasons I’d originally wanted to read the book:
- Big Magic had been in my face all over Facebook (no pun intended),
- I love Gilbert’s other books (I’ve read three),
- and I adore reading about the creative lives of successful writers…
So with lukewarm enthusiasm and slightly above average expectations, I clicked the “Download” button—and started in on the magic.
The joke was on me. This is not your typical self help book. It is full of surprises and, yes—delightfully unpredictable. If I had preconceived notions about the content, they were wrong. Big Magic made me question some long-held beliefs in a gentle, light way. It inspired. And it made me say “yes!” more than once.
My first “yes!” moment came in Part II: Enchantment, where things got really interesting—and magical. The notion that ideas are floating around in the universe and when an idea graces you with its presence, it’s your choice to say yes or say no. If you say no, the idea will leave you and find a different creator. Gilbert had to say no once to “the best novel she never wrote” due to pressing family matters. And in this context she said something most profound (regarding writing about her family matters, rather than the great novel):
And because I must always be writing about something or else I will go mad, I decided to write about that—that is, to chronicle what was going on in my real life, as a way of sorting through its complications and revelations.
I’ve shared what happens when I’m not writing, and it was comforting to hear another writer express a similar sentiment. And a subsequent quote by Joan Didion summed it up perfectly: “I don’t know what I think until I write about it.”
I also enjoyed Gilbert’s discussion about makers—and that all of us, if we go back far enough in our family history, are decedents of makers.
Go back far enough and you will find people who were not consumers, people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things.
“…who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them.” Wow. What a powerful reminder to take charge of your life—to make something, anything! It’s in our DNA, so why not?
There are many other nuggets to share, but I don’t want to give the entire book away—and you have other things to do, I’m sure. So I’ll leave you with this last bold statement:
You are not required to save the world with your creativity.
Gilbert believes that creativity has intrinsic value. The result doesn’t have to be good—and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect. We don’t even have to save the world with our creativity. Whew!
This is a book for all creatives—and according to Gilbert, that’s all people. I recommend you give it a shot, even if you, like me, have vowed not to read another self help book.
Big Magic is so much more.
News and Events
- Currently reading: The Spirit Level by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Swedish author Katarina Bivald
- Taking a week of (unplugged) vacation starting right about now.
- Completed my Yoga Calm for Kids certification!
- Speaking at Northeast Iowa UU Fellowship on June 26 @ 10 a.m.
Her Lost Year
We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the publication of Her Lost Year. Our goal is to reach 1,000 copies in circulation. Help us by spreading the word!