It’s hard to believe that the author of Eat. Pray. Love., the woman who packed up her broken heart and bravely set out on global quest to find nourishment, spiritual fulfillment and love in far off places was a deeply fearful child. As Gilbert tells it, she not only dreaded the dark and other “legitimate childhood dangers,” she was also terrified of a lengthy litany of “benign things” including snow, playgrounds, stairs, the telephone and any new situation. She was a “sensitive and easily traumatized creature” given to fits of weeping. Her father called her “Pitiful Pearl.”
Unlike her father, her mother wasn’t having any of it. She had faith in her child’s abilities and pushed her daughter to face her demons. “At every turn, she made me do exactly what I dreaded most,” writes Gilbert. While her mother’s strategy “wasn’t the most sophisticated,” it eventually prevailed. In adolescence, Gilbert had an epiphany. She realized that she was tired of “defending her weakness” and her self-decreed limitations. In the moment, she asked herself: Why would I want to hold onto my limitations? Why am I allowing fear to dominate my life?
Now, in Big Magic, she asks readers the same question. Why hold onto your limitations? Why not live a creative life, one that’s driven by curiosity rather than fear?
Gilbert doesn’t serve up a laundry list of “dos” and “don’ts.” She takes a kinder, gentler and, appropriately, more creative approach nudging readers to summon courage, faith and put in the work that allows the “hidden treasures” within each of us to surface and blossom. She recognizes that managing fear is an ongoing process that requires practice and persistence. She understands that to live creatively means allowing yourself to be vulnerable and that vulnerability is difficult to tolerate. And she appreciates that creativity waxes and wanes and that inspiration doesn’t arrive on a timetable.
But when creativity, effort and inspiration come together, the “big magic” happens. Happily, Gilbert serves up a smorgasbord of advice and ideas to help readers find that beautiful intersection. For example:
Recognize that you can’t predict or control people’s reactions
If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And if what you create brings out the critics and haters, “smile sweetly and suggest” as politely as possible that they create their own (expletive) art. And then stubbornly continue to make your own.
Entitlement is not a dirty word
You will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try. Creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here and that you are allowed to have a voice and vision of your own.
Permission not required
You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life. If you’re alive you’re a creative person. Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you. You want to decorate pottery, learn a dance, learn to bake, explore a new land or take up fiddling? Do it.
Curiosity is the way
Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times, available only to a select few. But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming and more democratic entity that is accessible to everyone. In fact, curiosity only ever asks one simple question: “Is there anything you’re interested in?” Anything? Even a tiny bit? The answer doesn’t have to set your life on fire, make you quit your job or run off to a villa in France. It may be just a clue that leads to another clue. Trust it. See where it takes you. See what you can learn.
Filled with Gilbert’s sweetness, humor and wisdom, Big Magic is a spirited, motivating and practical exploration of the creative process that manages to inspire, inform and entertain. One read isn’t enough. This is a book you’ll dip into whenever you need a dose of encouragement.