I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic.
But I do disagree with her on her statement that “human artistic expression is blessedly, refreshingly nonessential.” Her point of view that writers are not as valuable as other professions and that the arts, creativity and the “luxuries of imagination and beauty and emotion” are useless except for one’s own delight is in my opinion a sad and unfair characterization of creative art and writing and it’s importance to our existence.
Creative expression is not simply a luxury. It can be inspiring, life-changing, therapeutic and so much more. It contributes to our well-being. It transforms us. It can actually shift our consciousness and raise our vibration whether we are the creator or the observer. Creative art makes our world more beautiful and sacred. If this is not essential in the world we live in then I don’t know what is.
She is right is saying that for most of us art has low stakes, in that if someone’s book gets rejected or a bad review no one is going to die over it and the world won’t end. But I would venture to say that the effects of art, in its many forms, has saved lives, countless times. It has kept people from going down dark paths. It has allowed others to feed their families. It has shed new light on one’s dire circumstances. It has inspired change and encouraged many to follow their dreams and passions. It has made us laugh and feel empathy. Again, all of which, in my opinion is essential to a better world.
I get that she is trying to encourage us creators not to take ourselves so seriously or let the pressure of our own self-importance stop us from creating, which I agree with wholeheartedly but then just say that and leave it at that. Downplaying the necessity and essentialness of creative pursuit and making is seem frivolous is just taking things too far.
Mild criticism aside my favorite parts of Big Magic include:
- Her welcoming speech to FEAR she has on the ready whenever she embarks on a new creative project or adventure.
- Her recall of a friend of hers writing to German director, Werner Herzog, to complain about how badly his career was going and Herzog essentially telling him to stop his whining and get back to work. Great advice.
- Admitting that she is committed to her creative life simply because she enjoys it and for no other reason. How honest is that?!
- And I love her quote, “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.” YES!!!
- Elizabeth’s commentary on perfectionism is spot on. Perfectionism is evil and particularly plaques women and not only stops us from completing our work but also stops us from starting in the first place, from taking leaps of faith even when we know we’re not completely ready or qualified.
- Finally we share the same devotion to CURIOSITY. Be curious. Follow the clues and see where it leads you is some of the best advice she shares.
I could go on and on about the many gems of wisdom Liz shares in this honest book about her own creative process and life. If you in anyway want more creativity in your own life then read this book.