Welcome to another edition of Ms. Lu’s Library!
I’m back to share my thoughts and favorite passages from another recent read. This time I’m reviewing a book that’s been on my “must read” list for about a year – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.
“And you have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”
From Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (Pg. 27 in Part I – “Courage”)
And, as you can see from the first share of so many nuggets I gleaned from this quick read, Gilbert does NOT disappoint! Nor did patience… or Barnes & Noble, for that matter, which had this book on sale in September for a bargain – roughly 70% off the listed price.
As one of the thousands who read Gilbert’s standout memoir Eat, Pray, Love, I’ve often wondered how her life of charting new paths, embracing love’s fluidity, and living creatively has changed or remained the same since the onslaught of fame and notoriety from that singular book and its subsequent film. I mean, I couldn’t imagine how she could live any way but differently in habit, work, play, running errands, or possibly seeking a retreat following such a bestseller as that. But then again, does it even matter whether her life has stayed the same or not if she’s doing what she loves?
Nope, not at all.
And, I believe that’s exactly the point she makes throughout each of the six parts in her book Big Magic – the choice to live creatively is entirely yours to make:
“All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.”
(Pg. 78 in Part II – “Enchantment”)
So, for those of us wondering (or tip-toeing around) whether to wholeheartedly enter into or perhaps continue to maintain a “contract” with what she refers to as “Big Magic” – a creative energy that searches for human partners to bring forth its ideas, to make them (whether artistic, mathematical, scientific, spiritual, or natural) reality, the answer is simple. Creativity is in all of us as humans, whether we choose to tap into it, utilize it, profit from it, share it, build upon it…or not:
“If you’re alive, you’re a creative person. You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers, and embellishers – these are our common ancestors.
… We are all makers by design. Even if you grew up watching cartoons in a sugar stupor from dawn to dusk, creativity still lurks within you. Your creativity is way older than you are, way older than any of us. Your very body and your very being are perfectly designed to live in collaboration with inspiration, and inspiration is still trying to find you – the same way it hunted down your ancestors.”
(Pg. 89 in Part III – “Permission”)
Wow! Just, wow!
Even after rereading this passage for myself and for editing purposes, I am still amazed at Gilbert’s concept of creativity having genetic longevity and pre-existence in the world.
But, it makes perfect sense – as does the serendipity of me settling on “Lucretia By Design” as a name for all my creative endeavors in life. It’s my way of saying this is who I am, what I’m predestined to be. So, when you put this book passage I’ve shared within the framework of humanity’s development on earth over our collective lifespan, we are all at our core absolutely as she said – makers and crafters and creators.
However, being a self-identified creative person who quietly fears fame and all its pressures and pitfalls (not that I imagine ever seeing myself at a level of fame close to hers), I also longed to read Big Magic for its promise of answering how I could move beyond that fear (among others like fear of failure, for example) in order to embrace the “creative life” I’ve chosen to live – one that has so far been full of professional ups and downs, emotional highs and lows, career path detours and set-backs, along with artistic challenges and feelings of accomplishment.
Here is where the book’s heart – parts titled “Permission,” “Persistence,” and “Trust” – bring it all home. And, I believe Gilbert’s genuine voice and frank writing style shine brightest when conveying to readers why allowing yourself permission to be is vital to creative living:
“Defending yourself as a creative person begins by defining yourself. It begins when you declare your intent. Stand up tall and say it aloud, whatever it is:
I’m a writer.
I’m a singer.
I’m an actor.
I’m a gardener.
I am this, and I am that, and I am also this other thing, too!
I don’t yet know exactly what I am, but I’m curious enough to go find out!
Speak it. Let it know you’re there. Hell, let you know you’re there – because this statement of intent is just as much an announcement to yourself as it is an announcement to the universe or anybody else. Hearing this announcement, your soul will mobilize accordingly.”
(Pgs. 94-95 in Part III – “Permission”)
Though I’m about a cup of coffee away (more than enough time in drinking terms to polish off 30 pages) from completing the last two parts in Big Magic – “Trust” and “Divinity,” I haven’t.
Why the slow down in pace for such a quick read?
Timing… of self-doubts. Of wondering if I’m brave enough to keep my “contract” with creativity, to put myself and my thoughts totally “out there” on display, to rely on my creativity help generate additional income, to restart the writing process of my own memoir before inspiration passes me by…
However, Gilbert insists that we not think of creativity as something to add conditions onto. Instead, we should just simply accept it for what it is, enjoy the ride of pursuing our interests (whether it adds fame or fortune or just another day of random pleasure in our lives like any other day before), and continue to live life in honesty however we choose to live it.
There are so many beautifully encouraging passages in Big Magic for anyone struggling to define or defend their lifestyle, that I know I will complete the book (especially now that my latest bout with self-doubt has come and gone). Then, as someone in search of constant reassurance, I will give Gilbert’s book another full read to help continually remind myself of why I keep circling back – year after year – to taking this side path towards my creative dreams in the first place!
Then, hopefully, my “Big Magic” will see how committed I am to this long-term agreement to collaborate with her on turning our shared ideas into reality. Hopefully, she will stick around for life, continuing to nudge me forward… or just wait patiently for me to get my guts together, squeeze my eyes shut, and take one shaky next step of faith at a time forward on this road less traveled.
And, for those of you wanting to tap into your own creative life force, I highly suggest you grab a copy of this book to read when searching for that ounce of encouragement to make any time the right time for you to make your move. However, if you’d like a visual Cliff’s Notes version of Big Magic first, please check out Gilbert’s interview with Marie Forleo on fear, authenticity, and her latest written creation:
Enjoy… And happy creative living!