Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #39 for 2016
Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A book from the library
PopSugar Challenge: A self-improvement book

This is probably a strange book to read as my introduction to Elizabeth Gilbert. I always thought the book and film of Eat, Pray, Love both sounded pretentious and self-indulgent, and while I bought a copy of Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage on a strong recommendation, I never felt compelled to read it. After reading this book, however, I may just go back and read both of those. (Though I sincerely doubt I will ever watch that movie. It truly sounds horrible.)

It’s hard to explain how I feel about this book. A lot of it really resonated with me. Unfortunately, it did so much in the way that Felicia Day‘s memoir resonated with me, in that it achieved the exact opposite of what it ostensibly set out to do. It made me feel like worthless crap. Am I the exception that proves the rule? I don’t know. I just know that I’d find a passage very inspiring and at the same time know that it was meant for everybody in the world but me.

On the other hand, I have personally experienced some of this magic Gilbert writes about. A few years ago, I had this brilliant idea for a story about the race for POTUS being turned into a reality TV show. I devoted the next NaNoWriMo to the concept, and about halfway through the month I realized that I was precisely the wrong person to take on this project. I don’t watch reality TV (heck, I barely watch any TV at all), and thinking about politics makes me feel all squicky inside. Well, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who my disappointed muse’s next customer was. So in addition to being a failure at writing political satire, I am now personally responsible for the freak show that is the race for the American Presidency. Go, me.

I did very much appreciate how Gilbert kept the magic real. She didn’t cloak it in a bunch of pseudoscientific bullshit. (I’m looking at you, The Secret and You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.) And she didn’t try to over-explain it or force it into some sort of system or dogma. I don’t think of myself as a very “spiritual” person; quite the contrary, I consider myself a science-oriented skeptic. However, I feel like Gilbert and I have very similar outlooks on creative energy and its role in the universe.

I did very much take exception to some of what Gilbert wrote about higher education in the arts. I think I understand what she was getting at, and to some extent I agree with that, but it seemed to me that she expressed it very poorly. So that’s the main reason I consider this a 4-star book instead of a 5-star book. I still wouldn’t recommend this book to everybody who wants to improve their creative output, but if any of what I’ve said here strikes a chord with you, this book is worth checking out.

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