Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Since this week is about creativity, there is no better book to feature than Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is the holy grail, The Secret of creative living. First, I just adore Liz Gilbert’s honesty; there is nothing contrived, artificial, affected or phony in Big Magic. It is very similar to her voice in her successful memoir Eat Pray Love. I deeply admire this honesty; its the “big kid” goal of writers everywhere.

Big Magic is a celebration and exploration of our natural instincts to be curious creatures. Convention tells us that creativity is a skill you are born with, one you either have or do not have, but Liz tells a different story (p.s. I’m going to call her by her first name because this book feels like a personal letter directly to creatives everywhere). Here is the amazing news: we all come from the same place, a place of creating to live, a place where creativity is innate. Liz doesn’t limit creative living to the arts, but casts a broader net to include any exploration that takes you outside of yourself and into the muse.

“Pure Creativity is something better than a necessity; its a gift. Its the frosting.”

It is your mission to cultivate this natural instinct of curiosity, but how you ask? Take the pressure off yourself. Curiosity is something that you just follow- you follow the clues that peak your interest, and you keep following them. You go with it where it guides you, you devote time to exploring these queues deeper, you venture down the rabbit hole. When you get frustrated and feel like you have nothing left to give, Liz reminds us that this frustration is not a distraction from the process, this frustration is the process. Have the dedication and the self-control to persist.

“The courage to go on the hunt in the first place – thats what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”

Her tone is often sharp: quit your bitching and get to work. “What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud?” she asks. “Just smile sweetly and suggest — as politely as you possibly can — that they go make their own f—ing art.” Sharing your voice with the world is a big scary thing, but holding it inside is a bigger scarier thing, because it will eventually eat you alive. Problems are easily available, particularly for artists. Don’t focus on the problems. Focusing on the problems is distracting. It pulls us farther away from creative forces not towards them. Choose to focus on the work. Argue for your limitations, she says, and guess what…you get to keep them.

I love that Liz stresses that creativity and discipline go hand in hand. Creativity is wild, but it is also tame. To embrace creative living, we need to learn how to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time. Talents are granted, but need to be crafted; be strong, so that you can be soft; know the rules well, so you can break them meaningfully; have standards, but be flexible. Find the balance, be the yin and the yang.

“She stopped feeling like she was nothing more than a consumer, nothin more than the sum of her daily obligations and duties. She was making something of herself, making something with herself.”


Here is the bottom line, your roadmap:

  • Have the courage to begin.
  • Find the enchantment.
  • You are good enough, you don’t need permission.
  • Persist.
  • Trust.

I see so much of myself in Liz, which makes me feel amongst friends.  I said more than enough, but I didn’t give away all the goodies. I promise. Come join the tribe!

with grace and salt and magic, kirsten

“We all need something that helps us to forget ourselves for a while- to momentarily forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our titles, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up. We need something that takes us so far out of ourselves that we forget to eat, forget to pee, forget to mow the lawn, forget to resent our enemies, forget to broad over our insecurities.”


“And that would be a pity, because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things wile you’re still here. I know that’s what you want for yourself…and bringing those treasures (hidden within you) to light takes work, and faith, 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”


“Quit your complaining. its not the worlds fault you’re an artist. Nobody wants to hear it. First of all, its annoying. Every artist complains, so its a dead boring topic. Second, of course its difficult to create things, if it wasn’t difficult, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be special or interesting… Try saying this ‘I enjoy my creativity’…Its such a gangster move, because hardly anybody ever dares to speak of creative enjoyment aloud, for fear of not being taken seriously as an artist. So say it, be the weird that dares to enjoy.”


“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. I can not think of a better way to pass my days”

For more on embracing creative living: 5 Best podcasts for the Creative Mind

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2 thoughts on “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

  1. Almost done with this one on audio! Not what I thought, and I didn’t know she was the author of Eat Pray Love (I have yet to read that one), but I absolutely love it! It makes me feel a lot better about not having to be innovative and just being passionate etc. Love the recs!

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! She is such an inspiration! Eat Pray Love is pretty amazing, I wish I had the strength to do what she did. Bali anyone?