book reviews

Big Magic

My subscription to Audible is my new best friend. I have long commutes to work and school and sometimes radio music makes me angry (How can someone bite their own shoulder? Come on!). I was looking for something to listen to in the car that was not the soundtrack to Hamilton, which I had listened to every day for almost a year. I came across Audible. (And by “came across” I mean it was literally all over my Amazon account and in my emails and commercials on the radio and TV). I gave it a go. And I have never looked back. I started with Harry Potter. I listened to all 7 during my commutes in less than a year. I had a small break when the Audible app wasn’t working, but once it was fixed I got right back into it. Listening to a book is something you can do anytime, anywhere.

The first book I listened to after Harry Potter part 7 was “Big Magic: Creative Living Without Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had never read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert before this so I have zero frame of reference on her writing style. From what I could tell by listening to her narrate her book, i like her writing style. It’s straight forward when needed but also has a good amount of flare and wit. As a whole, I liked the meaning of this book. However, I had some issues.


big-magicMy issues seem to be the same as many other people: It was a bit too preachy. Gilbert spent a lot of time on herself and her famous friends. There was a lot about living a creative life, which is good because that’s the point of the book, but most of her anecdotes were about people who were already famous and had the means to live this creative life. There were very few (if any) anecdotes about people who had to work 3 jobs to put food on their table and were still able to paint their heart and soul onto a canvas. All of her stories basically started with “I have this famous friend, maybe you’ve heard of them…” I respond better to stories that start out with “This single mother of 5 works 2 full times jobs and still manages to write beautiful poetry and enters them in local contests. Here’s how she does it…”

Also! Her views on higher education in a creative life. Gilbert does say that she’s not against higher education, she just feels like it’s not necessary. And no, sometimes it’s not. You can get your masters in creative writing and still not sell a book, but there are more ways to live creatively that require a higher degree. FOR EXAMPLE, I think teaching is a very creative job. You have to come up with lesson plans, fun ways to keep kids engaged, and creative things to write in emails with parents. Teaching is one of the most creative professions out there and yes I am totally biased because it’s what I want to do with the rest of my life. However, with that being said, I need a masters degree within 5 years of getting my license. Gilbert had a very specific view of “creative living” and even though her profession is creative I don’t think that is what she meant. In my opinion, she did not consider things that paid your bills creative. She did, however, consider what paid HER bills creative.

And now, the good stuff. I love the steps to living creatively and I love hearing about processes and how others approach creativity. I like hearing about other people, so all of her personal anecdotes were my jam. I like how she described creativity as a living thing floating through space trying to find a corporeal being to occupy. Trying to find an open soul to attach itself to and if it gets tired of waiting, it moves on. That explains so much about my plans and the lack of getting anything done. Personally, I get splendid ideas of creative endeavors that never became anything and I now understand that creativity knew I wasn’t going to do anything about it, so it moved on to find someone who would (Hopefully, my new little creativity ghost pet is sticking around!). I enjoyed hearing these new views on creativity that show it, in my mind, as a cute little patronous flitting around trying to find someone willing to do something about it, finding that person, realizing that they are all talk, and flying off to find another open mind. Yes I now see creativity as a patronous. I feel like Gilbert would be cool with this because she had two Harry Potter references within the first half hour of her book. If she cut out half of her “famous friend rants” then I think I would have liked it more. I give this a 6.5/10.



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