Motivational Nonfiction Recommendations

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert’s exploration of creativity in her book, Big Magic, is fascinating, inspirational, and – as the title implies – oftentimes, magical. She claims it’s an instructional piece to live a creative life, but I think it would appeal to anyone interested in the artistic process. Filled with delightful anecdotes, the book delves into all aspects of creativity, including the relationship between people and ideas, the value of commitment to your art, and the courage to pursue your creative endeavors.

Gilbert’s explanation of “big magic” is essentially this: when you decide to be brave, chase your dream, and commit to an art form in any capacity – whether it be to ice skate two times a week or write consistently for the rest of your life – the result will be magical. This isn’t about worldly success, but rather your inner creative fulfillment. To achieve magical ends, Gilbert claims, you have to make time for creativity, remain positive, and stay with your art through ups and downs.

Every Friday afternoon I meet up with my friend and fellow writer, Courtney, to work side by side, commiserate over our setbacks, and celebrate each other’s victories. This past Friday I was particularly looking forward to our meeting. I’d just survived my latest writing group’s critique of my work and was looking forward to her encouragement. Because when I say survived, I mean I barely made it out alive. They hated it. One person literally said, “This made me hate the writer.” I think perhaps he’d forgotten the writer was, in fact, sitting right by him.

But I’m a big girl. I can handle criticism and criticism is worth it when it sheds light on weaknesses in my writing. But this wasn’t that. I can sort between the hard-to-hear valuable feedback and the hard-to-hear bullshit. Ninety-five percent of this was the latter.

So halfway through my update with Courtney, an idea hit me. What if we had a critique group? We already meet once a week to write together. What if we threw in a critique session? We’ve known each other for years; I trust her writing, and I trust her compassion. I broached the idea and she loved it, so we set to work on the details. Halfway through, we’d decided to bring in one more trusted individual and Courtney texted him with the plan. Less than a minute had passed before he texted back. Holy shit! his text read, I was about to ask you that. He had included a screen shot of an email he had been composing that very minute, a message to Courtney about starting a writing group.

I’d been carrying Big Magic around with me for a few days and of course it had been sitting by me throughout this entire exchange. The book that had impressed upon me the importance of writing groups, the book that we had just been talking about, the book that contextualized coincidences in terms of creative energy, was, of course, on the bench next to me. I picked it up and slammed it on the table. “That is ‘big magic’!”

I don’t think Elizabeth Gilbert meant to say that every freaky coincidence is an example of “big magic”, but here we were three individual writers in the simultaneous process of making a commitment to our work and then that happens? I believe it was no less than the universe conspiring to help us. And I think that is magical, if only just a little.

So here’s to your own creative endeavors. I hope they bring you joy, happiness, and of course a little bit of magic!

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