What I learned from Big Magic

(This post is adapted from one I wrote for The Brave Art Lab last month. Apologies for the repetition if you already read it over there!)

big magic for TBAL postIn Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to embrace our creativity and let go of any fears we might have about doing so: the fear that it might be a waste of time, or that someone will question why we’re doing it, or ridicule us for our creative attempts.


In December I wrote about my five favourite books on writing. Big Magic is less a how-to book for writers, and more a go-do-it book for anyone with a creative bone in their body.

Be creative, live creatively, and don’t let anything or anyone stop you!

Early in the book she lists all the fears one might have about living a creative life, and somehow, seeing them all listed for a page and a half makes it easier to dismiss them en masse and just get on with being creative.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”

The book is called “Big Magic” based on Gilbert’s premise that ideas float around, magically independent of people, and that they latch onto a person who is ready to use the idea. It’s up to us to be open to ideas and to forge ahead, developing those ideas into something concrete, whether it’s a poem or a painting or a photograph or a film. If we aren’t open to the idea, it will flit off and find someone else.

Gilbert tells an anecdote about an idea that came to her about a story set in the Amazon, and how, when she didn’t follow through with it, the idea latched on to Ann Patchett instead, who went on to write State of Wonder.

You can believe in this philosophy or not. It doesn’t really matter to your creativity or to your enjoyment of the book, because the point Gilbert makes throughout is:  just do something creative. Anything. Write, draw, paint, sing, play an instrument, make something, build something, cook something… It’s not the ‘what’ that’s important, it’s the ‘doing.’

Two chapters in particular resonated with me.

My favourite chapter might be “Nobody’s Thinking About You,” because it’s true. Everybody’s thinking about themselves. It’s a freeing thought that, really, nobody gives a shit about what you’re doing, so just do it and enjoy it and forget about other people’s opinions. I love this. My own workspace is filled with stuff I’ve made or written, and none of it is perfect, but all of it makes me happy. My kids might roll their eyes and my husband might think I’m cracked, but whatevs.

I also like her belief that “Done is Better Than Good.” Whether it’s a novel or a drawing, finish what you started. Pushing through to the end is how you learn, regardless of whether the finished product is crap. The point is that it’s finished, and the knowledge that you can actually finish something is hugely empowering. The process improves you, and your next project will be even better because you finished the first one.

The Fire starter sessions by Danielle LaporteI love to read a good inspirational creative-self-help book every so often. Next on my list is The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle Laporte… I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, let me know what’s inspiring you these days!


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