Book Review: "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert, E. (2015). Big magic: Creative living beyond fear. Riverhead Books.


“Are you considering being a creative person? Too late, you already are one,” Gilbert asserts. In Big Magic, living a creative life means living a life driven by curiosity over fear and this life is accessible to all who seek it. She breaks down creativity into five essential ingredients: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust. Whether readers believe in a magical world or not, her description of ideas, why they choose us, and when and why they leave is inspiring to no end and her roadmap through the twists, turns, and potential pitfalls of creativity are applicable to all who dare to venture on their own creative journey.


Gilbert tackles our biggest creative fears and inner demons head-on with delicious humor, wit, and grace. She allows fear a spacious spot in the car on our creative road trip, but never allows it to give us directions and certainly not take the driver’s seat. Time and again, she effectively and effortlessly silences our inner critic on such universal experiences as: worrying about what others think of us and our creations, bowing to perfectionism instead of completion, evaluating our art as low or high, as brilliant or a disaster, the struggle to declare ourselves worthy of living a creative life, the desire to be fearless or passionate when all we need is courage and curiosity, and much more. She also explores various paradoxes of creativity: the desire for permission and the fact that we never needed it to begin with, that creativity takes persistent hard work on our part and also moments of divine inspiration that come from something else entirely, that no creation is entirely original and yet authentic expressions are always original, and the ultimate paradox: that our creative expression must be the most important thing in the world and it also must not matter at all.


Written in easy to digest, bite-size chapters, readers will feel as if they’re chatting over a glass of wine with their amusing and insightful bestie, Liz, as she masterfully weaves together numerous stories from her personal and professional life with hard-earned creative wisdom, always with an endearing self-awareness that at times borders on self-deprecation, and with a charm that is nearly flirtatious. The lessons are so powerful and relatable that if one were to learn this much about their creative life in a year of therapy, they could consider it a great investment. Big Magic ultimately provides readers with the necessary courage and inspiration to live bigger, happier, and more interesting lives, coaxing out of us our own unique hidden treasures.


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