3 Quick Takeaways from Reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
“Creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that—merely by being here—you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”Elizabeth Gilbert, from
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Does self-doubt sabotage your creative projects? Would a mindset shift, from lamenting slow progress to celebrating all progress, boost your mood? Yes, you can restore your relationship with creativity. I view all of the advice I read about productivity and creativity through the “Mom-lens.” Whether you’re starting a business, changing careers or changing the world, creativity is an essential ingredient. If you worry that between drop-offs, pick-ups and carrying the mental load, creativity ‘just isn’t for you’ this book will help! Coincidentally, shortly after reading Big Magic, I saw Elizabeth Gilbert give an amazing keynote at the Massachusetts Women’s Conference.
In the book she blends provocative thinking about the origins of creativity, and how to cultivate it, with examples from her life.
Three quick takeaways from the book:
1. We’re all creative and inspiration stays with those who nurture it.
Elizabeth Gilbert believes brilliant ideas find us and states, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” To illustrate this, she shares a remarkable story, about how she and another author discovered they were writing essentially the same fiction book. The concept was extremely niche, yet they each developed the idea independently. Elizabeth’s perspective on creativity is very spiritual. Whether or not you agree with her views, the practical implication, that moving ideas forward with action keeps positive serendipity and inspiration flowing, echoes sage advice given by countless talented people. We often put clever ideas on indefinite hold. The intensity of parenting seems incompatible with investing in our intentions. Why? In the book Elizabeth explains the many versions of fear that prevent us from inheriting our gifts. Hint, she wisely reminds us, “Done is better than good.”
2. Don’t let fear stifle your creative interests.
She covers the 3 ‘P’s’ that tend to plague Moms: ‘Perfectionism,’ ‘Pleasing’ and misplaced ‘Pragmatism’ (convincing ourselves it’s less disruptive to extend ourselves indefinitely at the expense of our sanity.) In the book she says, “…all too often—women are the ones holding themselves back from participating in the first place. Holding back their ideas, holding back their contributions, holding back their leadership and their talents. Too many women still seem to believe that they are not allowed to put themselves forward at all, until both they and their work are perfect and beyond criticism.” She starts the book opening up about moving past her natural fearfulness as a child to the brave adult we now see. Elizabeth credits her mother for not accepting the limits she tried to impose upon herself.
3. Keep your day job while pursuing your creative vision.
Moms are often reluctant to take professional risks. Which isn’t surprising when women are primary, sole or co-breadwinners in most households. In the book, Elizabeth details how she continued to work full-time, until her Eat, Pray, Love earnings exceeded her income needs. She explains how applying financial pressure to creativity dampens it, “…to yell at your creativity, saying, ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away.” Although finding distraction-free time, between full-time work and full-time Motherhood can feel excruciating, doing what inspires you is delicious. Working while writing (or painting or building a business) can also relieve the anxiety about money that would compete for your creative energy.
If you’re considering this book, read it. I devoured it (in audiobook form) in less than a week during my commute. Honoring creativity in my life makes me happier because how I spend my time feels in sync with my identity. As Elizabeth Gilbert shares in the book, “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”