I’m in a little in love with Elizabeth Gilbert, or Liz, as I like to call her. Because we’re besties, obviously. Or that’s what it feels like after spending the last week reading her book Big Magic.

Liz has such a great style: personal, laugh-out-loud funny, magical and profound. As I was reading the book I felt like she had plucked my emerging ideas on creativity — some of which weren’t even to germinated seed status — and placed them on the page one after another. That’s how closely it aligned with the vision of how I want to live my life.

So, yeah, it blew open my world a bit. Big Magic is about living a creative life without fear. It’s about working hard and seeing the results. It’s about living your dreams in the framework of reality. It’s amazing. Five Stars. A MUST READ for writers, and a seriously-consider-this for other artists.


Big-Magic-Elizabeth-Gilbert
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I’ve pulled out some of my favorite quotes from the book (all bolding & italics mine):

On Creative Living:

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living.”

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels—that’s creative living.” Inspirational quote from Elizabeth Gilbert
“Creative living is a path for the brave. We all know this. And we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.”

On Ideas:

“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.”

“I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist—while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums—is sitting quietly in a corner of the studio, buffing its fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work.”
“I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist—while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums—is sitting quietly in a corner of the studio, buffing its fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work.” Elizabeth Gilbert

“What was the idea supposed to do, sit around indefinitely while I ignored it? Maybe. Sometimes they do wait. Some exceedingly patient ideas might wait years, or even decades, for your attention. But others won’t, because each idea has a different nature. Would you sit around in a box for two years while your collaborator blew you off? Probably not.”

“Don’t fret about the irrationality and unpredictability of all this strangeness. Give in to it. Such is the bizarre, unearthly contract of creative living. There is no theft; there is no ownership; there is no tragedy; there is no problem. There is no time or space where inspiration comes from—and also no competition, no ego, no limitations. There is only the stubbornness of the idea itself, refusing to stop searching until it has found an equally stubborn collaborator.”

On Creativity’s Origins:

“The earliest evidence of recognizable human art is forty thousand years old. The earliest evidence of human agriculture, by contrast, is only ten thousand years old. Which means that somewhere in our collective evolutionary story, we decided it was way more important to make attractive, superfluous items than it was to learn how to regularly feed ourselves.”

“Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one. To even call somebody “a creative person” is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species.”
Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one." Elizabeth Gilbert

“Pure creativity is something better than a necessity; it’s a gift.”

On Learning the Craft:

“A particularly elegant commentary on this instinct came from the Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, who said that—when one is learning how to write poetry—one should not expect it to be immediately good. The aspiring poet is constantly lowering a bucket only halfway down a well, coming up time and again with nothing but empty air. The frustration is immense. But you must keep doing it, anyway. After many years of practice, Heaney explained, ‘the chain draws unexpectedly tight and you have dipped into waters that will continue to entice you back. You’ll have broken the skin on the pool of yourself.'”

“If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work—perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process. The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instants are rare. You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living. Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.”

On Seducing Creativity (I love this concept):

“Stop treating your creativity like it’s a tired, old, unhappy marriage (a grind, a drag) and start regarding it with the fresh eyes of a passionate lover. Even if you have only fifteen minutes a day in a stairwell alone with your creativity, take it. Go hide in that stairwell and make out with your art!”

“‘Dress for the novel you want to write’ is another way of saying it. Seduce the Big Magic and it will always come back to you—the same way a raven is captivated by a shiny, spinning thing.

On Perfectionism:

“I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, ‘I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.'”

Perfectionism quote, Elizabeth Gilbert, "Big Magic"
“At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is—if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”

On the Necessity of Doing the Work:

“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.). It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”

“I firmly believe that we all need to find something to do in our lives that stops us from eating the couch. Whether we make a profession out of it or not, we all need an activity that is beyond the mundane and that takes us out of our established and limiting roles in society (mother, employee, neighbor, brother, boss, etc.). We all need something that helps us to forget ourselves for a while—to momentarily forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up. We need something that takes us so far out of ourselves that we forget to eat, forget to pee, forget to mow the lawn, forget to resent our enemies, forget to brood over our insecurities.”

On the Tortured Artist Archetype:

“Far too many creative people have been taught to distrust pleasure and to put their faith in struggle alone. Too many artists still believe that anguish is the only truly authentic emotional experience. They could have picked up this dark idea anywhere; it’s a commonly held belief here in the Western world, what with our weighty emotional heritage of Christian sacrifice and German Romanticism—both of which give excessive credence to the merits of agony.”

“I want to make something perfectly clear here: I do not deny the reality of suffering—not yours, not mine, not humanity’s in general. It is simply that I refuse to fetishize it. I certainly refuse to deliberately seek out suffering in the name of artistic authenticity.”

On the Trickster:

“It’s time to give creativity back to the tricksters, is what I say. The trickster is obviously a charming and subversive figure. But for me, the most wonderful thing about a good trickster is that he trusts. It may seem counterintuitive to suggest this, because he can seem so slippery and shady, but the trickster is full of trust. He trusts himself, obviously. He trusts his own cunning, his own right to be here, his own ability to land on his feet in any situation. To a certain extent, of course, he also trusts other people (in that he trusts them to be marks for his shrewdness). But mostly, the trickster trusts the universe. He trusts in its chaotic, lawless, ever-fascinating ways—and for this reason, he does not suffer from undue anxiety. He trusts that the universe is in constant play and, specifically, that it wants to play with him.”

On Passion:

“If you don’t have a clear passion and somebody blithely tells you to go follow your passion, I think you have the right to give that person the middle finger. Because that’s like somebody telling you that all you need in order to lose weight is to be thin, or all you need in order to have a great sex life is to be multiorgasmic: That doesn’t help!”

On the Ego:

“My saving grace is this, though: I know that I am not only an ego; I am also a soul. And I know that my soul doesn’t care a whit about reward or failure. My soul is not guided by dreams of praise or fears of criticism. My soul doesn’t even have language for such notions. My soul, when I tend to it, is a far more expansive and fascinating source of guidance than my ego will ever be, because my soul desires only one thing: wonder. And since creativity is my most efficient pathway to wonder, I take refuge there, and it feeds my soul, and it quiets the hungry ghost—thereby saving me from the most dangerous aspect of myself.”

“Einstein called this tactic “combinatory play”—the act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another. This is why he would often play the violin when he was having difficulty solving a mathematical puzzle; after a few hours of sonatas, he could usually find the answer he needed. Part of the trick of combinatory play, I think, is that it quiets your ego and your fears by lowering the stakes.”

On Creativity:

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

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