Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert on Living Creatively

KBB-books-big-magic

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.

KBwB-BFlower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.

The Serial Book Borrower

KBB_the_serial_book_borrowerThere’s something special about borrowing a book from someone in this day and age where so much of what we read comes from a screen. I’ve never really been a fan of e-readers (you can read my full confession here) and lending someone your Kindle doesn’t feel quite the same as having someone pull a volume off of their shelves for you, knowing that it’s something you’ll love.

It’s always interesting to see what someone has put aside for you because they think you’d enjoy it, or because they wanted to gauge your reaction. There’s a lot of books I never would have read had someone else not insisted that I read them. It’s funny how word-of-mouth is still the best form of advertising if you want to get a book read.

Expanding your reading repertoire is easy if other people know how much you love books. It isn’t unusual for me to leave a friend’s apartment without a stack of books in my arms. (I’m a also a bookshelf snoop, which doesn’t help.) I used to be such a serial book borrower that at one point in time the entire top shelf of my bookcase was devoted to stacks of books I had borrowed from friends and family, organized by original owner.

There’s even a few books of my own that I have loaned frequently to other people. They must have been so good that they have yet to be returned.

I’m always insisting that friends and family read the book before seeing the movie, so my copy of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is off floating around somewhere, as well as my copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, although I must admit I haven’t seen the movie yet myself.

I’m bananas about books with interesting narrative structures and reading Jane Austen left me with the taste for epistolary novels (a rare art form these days!). As such, Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer are missing frequently from my shelves.

Sometimes a book has to be recommended to you by multiple people in order for you to bring yourself to read it, like Getting Things Done by David Allen (which I reviewed for the blog here). I had to read it twice before it finally “got it”; I’ve been lending it out ever since to anyone showing the slightest interest in it.

It’s amazing how another person’s perspective can transform you all in the simple act of borrowing a book. It’s fun to watch other people react to your choices, and react to theirs in turn. I end up reading so many things I wouldn’t have touched- books about politics, religion, science- and in some cases these books have inspired me to do more research on my own, or explore new territories I never dreamed would interest me.

If you’re looking for something new to read and you find yourself in a reading rut, I highly recommend adopting the attitude of a serial book borrower (like myself) and start asking people what they love. Join a service like Goodreads (it was life-changing for me, and I didn’t even get paid to say that) or simply start snooping their bookshelves. (Ask before borrowing!)

Who knows? The next book that someone picks for you might turn into something wonderful.

KBwB-BFlower-50Do you love reading as much as I do? Snoop my virtual bookshelves over on Goodreads, or visit the Book Section of my blog where I talk about all the books I’ve been reading- the good, the bad, and the non-fiction (which I read more often than you think!). All of the books I review are available on my Amazon store, where I do receive a small kick-back if you decide to purchase one. It helps keep food in my dog’s bowl, so she says “woof!” which I think means thank-you.

You’re probably far away which means I can’t lend you a book, but we can pretend like we can all the same. Comment below or drop me a line and tell me about the book you borrowed that changed your life.

Summer 2015 Reading List

KBB_summer2015ReadingListOne of the many reasons that summer has always been my favorite time of year is because it represented a freedom for me from the constraints of schools and schedules, where I’d be able to spend hours doing whatever I wanted. And what I wanted, dear readers, was to read. All the time. I’d come home with armloads of books from the local library and read them everywhere- in the car, in the bath, sitting perched in the crook of the ancient tree in my backyard growing up.

My obsession with reading as many books as I could during the summer was usually encouraged by all of the gift cards I would receive for the bookstore for my birthday. I usually love seeing the titles someone picks out for me, but there’s nothing like the feeling of walking into a bookstore with license to buy pretty much whatever you want. It’s enough to make heart start racing.

So with summer looming on the horizon and some vacation time ahead, I’m planning on taking frequent breaks from my laptop to enjoy the sunshine on the patio and treat myself to some new books on my birthday- two new ones from some of my favorite authors, two of my sister’s favorite books that’s she been begging me to read for ages, and one brand new one that’s got everyone talking (so of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon).

1. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (great Canadian author!)

2. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

3. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

5. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

KBwB-Flower-50

Psst- wanna see which books have previously graced my bookshelves? Click here. Want even more fun reading recommendations? I’ve got some for you here. Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads so we can snoop each other’s bookshelves and dish about our favourites.