Big Magic

2023, Nov 20

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a good read for people who enjoy simple writing. The language of the book is such that it almost seems like a transcription of a speech. The topics flow from one to the next so smoothly that you might not be able to put down the book if you plan to pause after the present topic is completed. There were a few simple but very interesting ideas in the book that I would like to remember. In other words, the next section has spoilers.

E. Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love, which was a huge hit. However, she has been writing from a very young age. She says that she was very clear with her intention that she wants to live as a writer, famous or not. To be able to do that, she has worked a number of odd jobs to pay her bills and has ensured to never put pressure on her writing to bring her income. This idea has been making rounds on social media recently. The idea of working a 9-to-5 job and hustling over the weekend is being encouraged by every other influencer on Instagram. Even though the idea is not new to me, I very much liked the way it has been communicated in the book with real life examples from the author. Not once did it feel like the author is boasting about herself.

One new-to-me idea in the book for me is to consider ideas as living beings. Imagine a world where ideas already exist. They enter a person and try to form a symbiotic relation. If the person nurtures the idea, it stays. Otherwise, it moves on to find another person who will nurture it. I want to remember this concept everytime I see a product advertisement about an idea I had years ago and never acted on it.

She also cautions about ever-consuming creativity that drives people mad. To live a creative life, she says, one need not burn in the act of creativity. You are allowed to have a normal, social life while being creative. Creativity should fuel your energy but not burn you.

My take-away from the book comes at the very end. Gilbert tries to explain the paradox of creative life. One should take creativity seriously but not too seriously. One's creative work is very important (should be given full attention) but not too important (do not chase perfection). One is alone in the path of creativity but has assistance as well. If I re-read the book, I will definitely pause at this stage of the book and introspect. I think these paradoxes are worth pondering over.

The Romans didn’t believe that an exceptionally gifted person was a genius; they believed that an exceptionally gifted person had a genius.