Every once in a while, you come across a book that you know nothing about and then, it astonishes you. This is what happened to me when I picked up Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am not a fan of Eat Pray Love; I neither enjoyed the book nor the movie. The reason is my unfamiliarity of the genre and doesn’t have anything to do with the author. I bought this book on an impulse. I heard a few good reviews and I loved the bright pink splotches on the cover. I didn’t know she had given a TED talk on creativity. I watched that video after reading the book. Now, I will remain her devoted fan forever.
Yes. The book blew me away. It came at a time when I needed it. It made me rethink my approach to writing. Everything mentioned within those pages apply to any creative field. The book is not just practical and helpful, it is also inspiring and comforting. You will keep referring to it again and again, especially on those days when you wonder the purpose behind it all. The author does away with the notion of a suffering artist and challenges us to embrace our curiosity, face down our fear and make our life more vivid and rewarding.
It would be impossible to condense all the insights from the book into an article. I’m highlighting just a few points here:
- Believe in the muse; the muse is a spiritual entity that is looking for a hard-working creative partner to bring forth its ideas.
- The Romans didn’t believe an exceptionally gifted person was a genius; they believed that an exceptionally gifted person had a genius.
- Stop complaining; you are scaring away inspiration.
- Human artistic expression is blessedly and refreshingly non-essential. Maybe a person won’t always be successful at creativity, but the world won’t end because of that. Failure and criticism may bruise the precious ego but the fate of nations does not depend upon that ego. ‘There is never going to be “an arts emergency.”’
- Fall in love with your creativity and have an affair with it. Don’t think of it as burdensome; think of it as sexy.
- ‘A good-enough novel violently written now is better than a perfect novel meticulously written never.’
- ‘If the art legitimates cruelty, I think the art is not worth having.’ (Personally, I love this last line. I can never sympathise with an artist who blames creativity for his vices. How can an artist touch the heart of an unknown receiver when he shatters the lives of the persons surrounding him?)
The anecdotes, autobiographical nuggets, metaphors and philosophical musings in the book will hold you captive right from the beginning. My copy had me underlining every other line. How can you not with chunks like these below?
“Recognising that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
“So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”
“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
“But to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”