Each year I set a theme for my reading life. Previous themes include feminist reads, diverse reads, and reads focusing on beauty.
2019 is the year of reading about creativity, and Big Magic was the perfect book to start the journey. Big Magic has creative tips, inspiration, myths dispelled, and many fun stories of surprising creativity. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to hit the ground running into a year of creative endeavors.
Since finishing, I have been in an exponentially better mood and heightened creative mindset. I feel more confident in my writing and in pursuing new outlets like painting, cross stitching, and dancing. I’ve, of course, already had moments of doubt in regard to my creative calling. Bad blog stats and paragraphs that don’t read easily make me second guess why I want to share my words at all. That’s more my deeply ingrained habit of negative self-talk than anything Liz Gilbert, creative goddess though she is, could eliminate instantly.
Thoughts like this are fewer and farther between now, and that’s a credit to this book.
Big Magic is a book full to the brim with sound, logical advice. The gentle way this advice is passed from creative teacher to student is where the true beauty of Gilbert’s writing is. The points of wisdom that resonated so deeply were not earth-shattering revelations, not by a long-shot. Gilbert doesn’t tell us much that we don’t already know, and it’s not any advice that she’s invented. Tid-bits like: do not complain, work daily to perfect your chosen method, and focus on creating because of a genuine love for the creative process, are no-brainers. These were cover to cover themes. All this advice was well-received not because I knew it, but because I knew it and still wasn’t doing it. Gilbert didn’t make me feel bad for that though; that’s key. Anytime you get guidance, it can feel like a call out; especially if it’s accurate.
I didn’t feel defensive or insulted though. I didn’t feel attacked because Gilbert has a wonderful way of giving advice that’s not high and mighty and doesn’t make the reader feel stupid for not thinking of it themselves. I didn’t practice daily. I did complain a lot. This book made me want to chuck those bad habits because Gilbert’s tone this entire book is so gently and understanding.
I always felt like Gilbert was giving advice straight to me, but I felt seen to my core when Gilbert laid out some commonly held beliefs and dismantled them in front of me.
The first was that creativity is a product of booze-fueled depression. This is how I’ve lived my writing life since I was old enough to drink. Write drunk and edit sober is the advice I’ve been following for ages. For no real reason other than I thought that’s how it worked. Forever using wine or a cosmopolitan to fuel the process, eternally angry to make sure my life was interesting enough to write about. I even have an old poem that begins with the line “Must I be broken to write well.” That’s a rhetorical question, of course, because until recently I was sure the answer was yes.
Gilberts puts this idea in a different perspective and says more often than not people are talented despite their torture, not because of it. She asks us to remove the drugs and booze because they cloud our judgment. She tells us to get rid of toxic relationships because they only serve to produce anxiety and are not actually good fodder for creating. Creating through anxiety as a means of coping is fine, but it is never the anxiety’s presence that makes us give the world beautiful art.
Gilbert says, “Your demons were never the ones doing the creating anyhow.” It is us. Our talent.
I don’t get smashed to write anymore. I don’t need to. That downward spiral into pain isn’t what makes me interesting. The tortured artist is a romantic character, not a real person; and it is certainly not me nor who I think I should be.
My favorite quote of the book is the dialogue Gilbert gives us for talking to that negative voice that says if you’re not the best, you don’t deserve to be here at all:
Being a person is all the permission or talent we need in order to create. We may not get money, fame, or praise, but that’s not really the point anyway. To live artistically, we simply must create from a place of love.
This whole book was a wakeup call, a guide, a friend, a map, and an escape. This should be necessary reading for any creative person. You will learn something, maybe a small tip on persistence, or how to get a desperately needed attitude adjustment. You will laugh at stories about figure skating and reclusive poets. Mostly you will be seen as a creative person. Take comfort in these pages and go make art.
About Dimery Michaels
Dimery Michaels is a 9 to 5 desk-dweller, blogging about books after hours. Reader, daydreamer, and adventure-seeker. Oxford comma advocate. Journaling and painting to pass the time. You can read her latest blog posts on Green Light Philosophy