“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” Elizabeth Gilbert
You’re probably wondering why it’s taken me so long to write about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? After all, I’m clearly a fan! I went back through my blog to find how many times I’d written about her. Only that once? Seems impossible! Why? Because one of my new favorite books of ALL TIME was written by her!
The Signature of All Things was a difficult read the first time… so much so that I put it down. I guess I should say that it’s a novel, not a non-fiction work, and that matters because everything I’d read (of hers) up to then was non-fiction (mostly autobiographical). Even though I have the book on my shelf, I picked up the audiobook from the library and tried again. OMG! It’s lush and beautiful, heartbreaking and breathtaking. When it ended, I remember thinking that I hadn’t had such a satisfying read (of fiction) in… like… EVER. It was perfect. Consider this a recommendation. But I digress.
Big Magic is Gilbert’s stab at actual self-help and it’s a good one! She proves that being an authentic writer with incredible range is possible! Note to self: Yay, I can keep working on my self-help book while I write my children’s books! (Pray for me!)
Now, to get back to why I haven’t written about it yet…
Why? Because of this: I am a HUGE fan of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. To me, it is ***the definitive*** book about creativity. I almost was… mad at Gilbert for daring to broach the subject. How dare she! I know, I get a little personal about stuff like this. (Ya think? lol) But as it turns out… duh!… it is not anything like Cameron’s book. And it’s equally as good. Who knew?
It’s kind of like a TedTalk on paper… a transcript if you will. It’s a little narrative, and conversational… a little educational and a lot of fun! Chapters are short with lots of headings… the kind of thing you can put in your bag and read here and there… on the bus or train, waiting for an appointment, or before bed.
But… be warned… it’s not all fluff and happy thoughts! In fact, some of her thoughts are downright provocative! Like what? Well, how about this? Halfway through the book, she shares that getting higher education – especially in the arts – is simply a “validating pursuit”. Yikes! I wouldn’t want to say that at a graduation ceremony! I get what she means (that you don’t need a writing degree to be a successful author) but ugh… that just kinda rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because of my therapist-mother and engineer-daughter (probably!) but I really, really respect formal education and wish I had more of it!
Hmmm. I can forgive her this… because the rest of the book really is fantastic.
Here’s something I especially liked…
She had some thoughts on something I have already done and am planning to STOP doing right now! I’d forgotten about it until I went through the book this morning, in preparation for this blog post:
“Guys, please don’t mistake your creative work for a human child, okay?”
You’re wondering what in the hell she meant? Well, lemme put it to you this way. I actually said to someone last week:
Be careful, it’s my baby.
It was my current work in progress. I know I’m not the first to say it and in fact, that’s why Gilbert mentions it at all. Lots of people say it. Here’s what she says about it:
“This kind of thinking will only lead you to deep psychic pain. I’m dead serious about this. Because if you honestly believe that your work is your baby, then you will have trouble cutting away 30 percent of it someday — which you may very well need to do. You also won’t be able to handle if somebody criticizes or corrects your baby, or suggests that you might consider completely modifying your baby, or even tries to buy or sell your baby on the open market.”
Very true words there. Living it in real-time over here.