Book Review: Big Magic

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Goodreads Summary:
From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

I would like to preface this review by saying that I wasn’t going to read this book. I did not like Eat, Pray, Love, so I was very leery of reading another book by Elizabeth Gilbert. I also don’t consider myself a creative person, nor do I really have the desire to lead a creative life, even though I’d maybe like to write a book some day. I think that desire stems more from seeing whether I could do it rather than feeling like I have creative energy that needs to flow out of me. And it would be more of a scientific study – a melding of all of the best things I like about novels.

My friend, Jamie, convinced me that the message of this book can be applied beyond creativity, so I decided to give it a chance. I listened to the audiobook because I find it easier to listen to nonfiction than to read it. This book was read by the author.

My Review:
I was not the target audience for this book, and while I can see how it might speak to other people, it did not speak to me. This book is part memoir and part self help. Primarily it’s a pep talk to inspire those who would like to be leading a more creative life, whether that means writing or figure skating or painting or something else. Gilbert shares interesting stories to match her points, which did impress and occasionally entertain me.

I did not find anything particularly profound in this book. The general message is to create because you love doing it and not to worry about what other people think. I do not struggle with fear when it comes to doing the things that interest me. In my early 20s I decided to stop caring what people think, and it was a very liberating decision.

I did appreciate Gilbert’s messages about not expecting your art to pay for your existence and not using your creativity as an excuse to be a horrible human being (i.e. a tortured artist). I think her message to young artists is good. Basically…don’t quit your day job and don’t complain about your art because no one is forcing you to be an artist.

I found her concept of the mystical personification of the “idea” to be a little too out there for me.

Listening to this book, read by Gilbert herself, I found the tone to be a bit preachy and condescending. Maybe I should have read the print version after all. I understand that this may seem ridiculous because this review is also a bit condescending, but this book just didn’t work for me.

The writing was good, and the message will speak to many others I know. But I should have passed on reading this book.

My Rating: 2 Stars
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