Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert on Living Creatively

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Oh boy. Was I ever excited to read this book: not only is Elizabeth Gilbert one of my (living) literary girl crushes, but I couldn’t believe the amount of people who would come up to me, out of nowhere, and tell me how badly I needed to get my hands on a copy immediately.

Luckily- I found this book to be as advertised- a wonderful, inspirational read for virtually anyone looking to add a little bit of magic and creative whimsy to their otherwise busy, dissatisfying lives. Don’t believe me? Ask a friend of mine- let’s call her Wendy. It had been ages since I had seen Wendy so I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to catch up with her a few months back when she dropped by a local event that I had been hosting.

Things hadn’t been going so well for Wendy. She was one of those lucky girls who landed her dream job practically right out of college and had spent the last five years busy working her butt off climbing the corporate ladder when she swiftly and abruptly lost her job. It wasn’t her fault (the company was downsizing) but it was still a real blow to Wendy. For most of her young career she had worked steadily towards what she thought was a definitive goal she had some control over. Getting laid off made her feel adrift at sea, purposeless and uninspired until she picked up a copy of Big Magic.

What happened next to Wendy wasn’t unusual- after reading Gilbert’s manifesto on being creative and living fearlessly, she found the courage to pursue a passion project of her own and opened up an Etsy store. Although her prior job had been in a creative field, Wendy felt like she never had the freedom to put her own artistic touch on any of her work. Engaging in this kind of activity (making and selling things) was the spark she had been missing in her life, both personally and professionally. Even though when I met up with Wendy she was still unemployed, she confessed to me it was one of the first times she had felt fully satisfied with her life since she was an art student. Plus, she was making a few dollars on the side while she looked for a job. It seemed like a win-win situation, and Wendy was convinced it was thanks to the wisdom imparted in Big Magic.

It would be great to stop right here and tell you that Wendy went on to become a world-famous Etsy artist and made millions of dollars selling her wares because of Big Magic‘s advice, but I think what really happened after I saw Wendy was even more interesting.

Because neither of those things happened- Wendy still lives in the same modest (albeit beautiful) apartment and still lives the life of your average twenty-something. She’s still running her Etsy store, but by no means has she put all of her eggs in one basket because Wendy found a job. It’s less stressful and definitely less demanding than her previous job, and she thinks it’s great- having a steady job helps to pay the bills and the change of pace and environment has given her the breathing room to keep on doing what she loves in her spare time.

And that’s kind of the beauty of Big Magic– it’s not your typical “follow-your-dreams-and-make-your-doohickeys-it-will-make-a-lot-of-money-if-you-just-believe-in-yourself” self-help manual. Instead it’s more of a permission slip for those everywhere afraid to pursue their own interests, or explore what makes them excited or curious. It’s not a manual for how to do something creative with your life but instead a guide on how to live creatively.

Wendy knows this- she’s not interested in manufacturing her wares in a factory and shipping them worldwide. She relishes the slow thrill of her meticulous crafting process and the delight that each new customer brings. She’s happy to take a break from her creative work to focus on her professional work. For her, it’s enough.

Big Magic‘s biggest message, then, is the importance of making the room in your life to live it creatively, in whatever way you wish to interpret what creativity means to you. If it means creating for the sake of creation or exploring new interests, Gilbert wants you to go for it. (I do too, for that matter!) Maybe it won’t lead to your big break or a cushy bank account, but if it’s the only thing stopping you from living a happier, healthier, more satisfied life, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start, like, immediately.

Whatever the change, big or small, Big Magic wants you to make the shift.

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I love to read and I’ve made a promise to myself that every month I’ll read one non-fiction book that relates to my own self-improvement. I wasn’t paid or perked to promote any of these titles, although I do receive a small commission each time you buy a book through my Amazon store. Have a favorite that you’re dying to share? Send suggestions by commenting below. For more reading inspiration check out my Goodreads profile, or click here to read more about what’s on my bookshelves.

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