What one book taught me about creativity

Big Magic book by Elizabeth Gilbert

Last year I was introduced to the book “Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear” and have found it to be so full of gems that I thought I would share some here.

It’s sort of a cross between an autobiography and a self-help book where the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, uses stories from her life as a writer to share her thoughts and insights on creativity and the strange and mysterious nature of inspiration.

The book is split into five main sections, entitled “Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, and Trust” with a smaller section called “Divinity” at the end. Through each one, Gilbert explores different aspects of inspiration. I thought I’d focus here on a quote from each section of the book that really resonated with me.

“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”

Whether you’re writing a blog, drawing a picture, singing in front of someone, acting for an audience, cooking for guests – you name it, whatever form of creativity you’re putting effort into, it can be scary. Taking something of you and putting it out there can sometimes feel so terrifying that we back out of it altogether. Gilbert goes on to talk about tackling this fear, but it stood out to me that in fact, we should expect fear to come with creativity. And in understanding why, we can manage it better.

“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.”

Some of Gilbert’s concepts are admittedly quite far out, but I like the way she explains things. She believes that ideas are living beings, which need humans to be open and willing to receive them. I found the notion that ideas don’t actually belong to us really refreshing, and that if we aren’t careful, spending too much time being distracted by other things can mean ideas pass us by.

“Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one. To even call somebody “a creative person” is laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species.”

Creativity isn’t the preserve of a few, but as Gilbert says, the hallmark of being human. Though you might not always feel like it, you have incredible creative potential within you, we all do.

“People don’t have time to worry about what you’re doing, or how well you’re doing it, because they’re all caught up in their own dramas. People’s attention may be drawn to you for a moment (if you succeed or fail spectacularly and publicly, for instance), but that attention will soon enough revert right back to where it’s always been – on themselves.”

Gilbert points out that whilst it might seem like a lonely realisation at first, the fact that people are generally focused on themselves and their own dramas is wonderfully freeing. We spend so much of our lives worrying about what other people think, when in fact they aren’t even looking.

“What you produce is not necessarily always sacred…What is sacred is the time that you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life.”

Possibly my favourite quote of the whole book. Our society puts so much emphasis on results – how many readers did you get, or how many people bought your work? At a really simple level, how many people liked your post on social media? These are all things that we can put too much focus on, especially when a lot of effort has gone into the work in question. But what Gilbert points out is that actually it’s not all about the end product or the results it gets – but what you gained from producing it. Using our minds to create truly does transform the way we think and the way we live.

All in all, Big Magic is a thoroughly good read and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for some inspiration. What books have inspired you lately?

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