Big Magic – a Book Review

A lot has been said about “Big Magic”, written by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love”. I found the book so compelling, I HAD to share all the things I learnt as I read it…. 

Big Magic is a book about a touch of Magic and a ton of hard work. I wonder why it is called by that name, then.It isn’t as if a creative process is all that magical! The magical soul she writes about, yup, she tells us it is a living entity just like you and I, only disembodied, whom we call Genius or Muse or Inspiration doesn’t just swish her wand over you as you sit idle. She visits you (mostly) when you least expect her to and sits beside, as you slog, day in and day out. Basically, you do all the work and she gets the credit. So, it should have been called “Get to Work” or something of that sort, right?

Let me warn you, if you are too scientifically-inclined and look for statistics and numbers to show how people can and should go on “making” stuff, this book may seem a bit too hokey, a tad too whimsical to you. It doesn’t have facts in it, only stories of inspiring people, who have gone on living a “Creative” life despite their circumstances.

Now what is Creative living? It is a life driven more by curiosity than fear, is what she tells us. It need not be just about becoming a writer, an artist or an actor, but it is about “(Doing) whatever brings you to life. (Following) your own fascinations, obsessions and compulsions. (Trusting) them. (Creating) whatever causes a revolution in your heart”. Like learning all you can about something you love, helping others etc. Do that, and “the rest will take care of itself”. Isn’t that what we are all supposed to do? Chase every dream? Follow every passion? After all, we don’t live forever, do we?

She says each one of us is blessed with strange jewels “deep within us and uncovering them, a big feat, is creative living. And that search separates a mundane existence from a more magical one”. As I read this, I realized, “teaching” and “Writing” are the jewels hidden within me. They aren’t sparkly and polished, mind you. Just raw and special, unique to me. You might have something else buried deep within you. Now to bring it forth into the world is creative living…

How can you brush off the dullness in your gems, let their brilliance emerge?- by practice, of course, by working on your “art” (no matter what it is- writing, gardening, cooking…) relentlessly, despite the blocks and failures and shortage of time. When the author is too troubled to work on her story, she just writes down her troubles, because, if she isn’t actively creating something, then she’s actively destroying something else, like herself, her relationships etc. How heart-breakingly true for so many of us!

So why not keep creating?

By the way, what you create, need not earn you any money or fame. You know what made me feel like a big sack of rocks was gently lifted off me? That feeling of lightness? Reading that we are not required to save the world with our creativity. That my writing need not be important or life-saving or useful or even inspiring! Phew! I can go on doing what pleases me, excites me and it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or not…. Ultimately, it only matters that I’ve lived a rich life, having grabbed every opportunity to nurture my curiosity.

And if you feel stuck or frustrated, do something else that lights you up. Maybe it is playing a musical instrument or stamp collecting or whatever. For me, it is doing projects with my little ones. Sometimes, I take a really (really) long break from writing, but I never let my creative juices drain out. I use them to make something fun with the kids. I know if I give myself some time, I’ll eventually get back to writing, to being who I really am.

“Is there anything you are interested in? Anything? Even a tiny bit? No matter how mundane or small?” Chase it. You’ll never know where it will lead you, and that’s so exciting!

Like Inspiration, fear too will sit beside you on your creative journey. Let him. Just don’t allow him to read the directions to you or take over the steering wheel from you!

Finally.. you made it. You made something that you think is your best BEST work. You put it out there for everyone to see, and…. nobody does. Or even if they do, they don’t show it the appreciation you think it deserves. Then what?

“Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time you were given. You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that. They might throw you out- but then again, they might not.”

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. And, remember to keep “making”, no matter what the outcome…

And I also hope you share what you “make”.

(That was one long post, wasn’t it?)

Love and a sprinkle of Magic,

Manasa.

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