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Book Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (2015)
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Book Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (2015)- Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (2015)

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (2015)

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them,” writes Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Riverhead Books, 2015). Gilbert is the author of Eat Pray Love, among other titles, and a two-time TED speaker on the subject of creativity. In this, her most recent book, she asserts that creativity is not the domain only of tortured artists, but a natural characteristic of being human, and that creative ideas don’t come from within us, but they come at us, looking to be brought into reality if only we are willing. She implores the reader to live the creative life with what might seem like a new understanding of what that involves: without fear or agony, but with mischief and a sense of adventure.

Breaking the creative life into the components of courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust, Gilbert walks us through her thesis with a progressive series of very short chapters, some of them only four or five paragraphs long, each with a story or thought to lead you toward seeking and embracing inspiration, not only in traditionally artistic pursuits, but in any “maker” activity we might attempt. These chapters, which resemble entries in religious devotional books in size and structure, can work as thought-of-the-day meditations for self help and journaling, but they also read well in larger bites, segments equipping the reader first with ethereal ruminations on why and how, then with more earthly advice on resilience and attitude, before transcending again in a final chapter on “divinity.”

Gilbert fully believes in the concept of ideas being their own entities, floating around out there in anticipation of being brought to fruition, seeking creators who will embrace them and cooperate with them until they are realized. It’s more than slightly cosmic, this approach, but the reader who resists such new-age thinking won’t have difficulty framing it metaphorically, or even literally within the framework of his or her own spiritual inclinations. Such readers are likely to find the adjustment worthwhile, because there’s something refreshing and encouraging in the author’s deliberate, well-articulated movement away from the concept of the artist who dwells in darkness, flagellating him- or herself to self-destruction in the name of art. Her direction is one of joy, of bouncing off failure, which she assures us is inevitable, and into the next effort. The resilient persistence she prescribes makes more sense anyway, she insists, because “Creative living is a path for the brave … And we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it.”

By many measures, Gilbert is a wildly successful creative person, so her stories of achievement, missteps, and personal growth bring credibility, but she also provides unforgettable anecdotes of other writers, musicians, and artists, which by themselves are inspiring, even taken out of the context of her thesis. Readers who resist Gilbert’s assertions will still find themselves with plenty to think about as they contrast them with their own artistic approach or experience. Big Magic is one of Amazon’s best books of 2015 in the Business and Investment category; it is a unique approach and clear voice in a seemingly endless sea of how-to treatises on creativity. Very highly recommended.

 

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Book Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (2015)- Executive Leadership Articles

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