Big Magic Isn’t Magical for Everyone

Rated “The instant #1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller,” labeled a “Hot Fall Read by USA Today, Vanity Fair, Newsday, O Magazine, the Seattle Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mashable, Pop Sugar, and the San Antonio Express-News,” and called the “Best Book of the Year by Brainpickings and Book Riot”: Here’s my thoughts on Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Do you write or do something else creative (paint, draw, etc.)? Are you fully invested in it and believe you’re a writer/creative person (published or not published, amateur or professional)? Are you a realistic thinker? Then, in my opinion, you don’t need this book.

However: Are you unsure if you should continue, or start, writing? Do you struggle with fear too much and your self-worth as a writer, and need some basic encouragement right now? Do you believe in mystical, intangible things (some might call “woo”)? Did you love the book Eat, Pray Love and want to read more about that author’s writing life? Then, by all means, try this book.

Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) wrote this non fiction, self-help book to encourage writers…which she does, but in a basic, and imaginative, way. She spiritualizes creativity and ideas in ways that I would prefer to look at as metaphors, but it sounds like she really believes there is “magic” there, so the way that you interpret that or choose to look at it will probably also affect your opinion on her beliefs, as well as the book.

I attended a creatives book club meeting recently where we discussed this book, and very few of us enjoyed reading it, or were glad we had read it, and none of us liked the author’s personality too much. From what I’ve heard, it seems most people form strong opinions about her, whether positively or negatively, through the way she represents herself in her writing. (She even says in the book that she’s received a lot of hate mail!)

I am in no means saying that Gilbert is a bad person who deserves hate mail or death threats, but just that she has a style and a manner about her that you cannot ignore, and some cannot get past.

I do appreciate that she has no apologies for being who she is or stating her opinions bluntly, and she has a confidence in herself I believe people, especially feminists, should have and take note of. Also, as a writer, you need to be able to “sell” your opinions as fact, especially in the Self-Help genre. So the fact that she knows who she is and unashamedly reveals it to the reader is admirable to me, even if I don’t agree with how she represents herself, or the opinions she holds.

Had this book been shorter or made into essays format, I think I could have enjoyed it more because I did like the first chapter at least. (In full disclosure: I wasn’t even able to completely finish the book, first of all because I did not have enough time to before our discussion, and second, because I just don’t feel like finishing it now.)

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