Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By: Elizabeth Gilbert

Note: this is a book for people who love to create things, if that's not your jam, I suggest grabbing another book from the Bookshelf.
 

Big Magic is one of those books that brings artists closer to a vital understanding: that money, fame, and "success" are not the rewards we seek from the act of creating, but merely misguided patch-fixes to a deeper hole within ourselves.

The rewards of creating lie in the act of creation itself. Engaging in this process that we love (and often worship), is the reward. Anything else that stems from this wondrous act is "icing on the cake," and not the cake itself.

In many ways, Big Magic challenges our cultural consensus of a successful creative life. It helps us past feelings of doubt and inadequacy that stem from being a writer who hasn't hit a bestseller list, a painter who's art hangs in no galleries, or any sort of artist who supports themselves by other means. Big Magic helps, because it reminds us that those are crappy, external metrics that have nothing, at all, to do with why we chose to make art in the first place.

My 10 Favorite Index Cards:

Students told me he was the most extraordinary man they’d ever encountered. He had seemed not quite of this world, they said. He seemed to live in a state of uninterrupted marvel, and he encouraged them to do the same. He didn’t so much teach them how to write poetry, they said, but why: because of delight. Because of stubborn gladness. He told them that they must live their most creative lives as a means of fighting back against the ruthless furnace of this world.

Most of all, though, he asked his students to be brave. Without bravery, he instructed, they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small—far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
And no, this story does not end with her winning any championship medals. It doesn’t have to. In fact, this story does not end at all, because Susan is still figure skating several mornings a week—simply because skating is still the best way for her to unfold a certain beauty and transcendence within her life that she cannot seem to access in any other manner.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
The Romans didn’t believe that an exceptionally gifted person was a genius; they believed that an exceptionally gifted person had a genius.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
The poet David Whyte calls this sense of creative entitlement “the arrogance of belonging,” and claims that it is an absolutely vital privilege to cultivate if you wish to interact more vividly with life.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).
— Elizabeth Gilbert
Instead, I simply vowed to the universe that I would write forever, regardless of the results. I promised that I would try to be brave about it, and grateful, and uncomplaining as I could possibly be. I also promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it—meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary. I did not ask any external rewards for my devotion; I just wanted to spend my life as near to writing as possible—forever close to that source of all my curiosity and contentment—and so I was willing to make whatever arrangements needed to be made in order to get by.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
Your creative work is not your baby; if anything, you are its baby. Everything I have ever written has brought me into being. Every project has matured me in a different way. I am who I am today precisely because of what I have made and what it has made me into.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
It makes me sad when I fail. It disappoints me. Disappointment can make me feel disgusted with myself, or surly towards others. By this point in my life, though, I’ve learned how to navigate my own disappointment without plummeting too far into death spirals of shame, rage, or inertia. That’s because, by this point in my life, I have come to understand what part of me is suffering when I fail: It’s just my ego.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
My soul, when I tend to it, is a far more expansive and fascinating source of guidance than my ego will ever be, because my soul desires one thing: wonder. And since creativity is my most efficient pathway to wonder, I take refuge there, and it feeds my soul, and it quiets the hungry ghost—thereby saving me from the most dangerous aspect of myself.
— Elizabeth Gilbert

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