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This is a spoiler-free book review of Big Magic, which lists everything you need to know about this self-help/creative nonfiction book, along with key takeaways and aha moments, favorite quotes, frequently asked questions, like-minded books on similar topics, and more!
Big Magic Book Review / Summary
- Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller
- “A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar
Every now and then, I put off reading a book I know I’ll love for some strange, illogical reason. I know I’m not alone in this odd habit; I’ve talked to many other readers who do the same. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of how much a book will change us or how much it will mean to us. Maybe it’s because of the hype—that it won’t live up to our expectations.
Whatever the reason, I put off reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, even though I knew it had the potential to rock. my. world. And let me tell you: It did. Big Magic has completely transformed the way I think about creativity, art, and how to live a life with meaning and purpose.
Here’s what I learned from Big Magic:
Creativity waits in ordinary moments.
Even though I waited, I’m glad I waited to read it until I’m in this season of life, where the ordinary and mundane moments and tasks seem to pile up and slow down and time becomes more precious than ever. It’s this season of motherhood that makes creativity feel out of reach sometimes.
I needed to hear Elizabeth’s words that indicate how creativity is easier to tap into than we might realize.
Fear of creating will squash your creativity.
I can let perfectionism and waiting for “inspiration to strike” get in the way of filling my creative well. I can fall under some kind of paralysis because it all feels too hard, but Elizabeth is quick to encourage her readers to take heart. The worst thing for your creativity is being afraid to be creative. To be fragile or precious with your creativity. We don’t need permission to create. In fact, we were created to create, so stopping the flow of creativity is actually quite damaging. Suffering for your art, in any capacity, is just plain silly.
Curiosity is the antidote to fear.
If you want to write, or act, or paint for a living, there’s a great deal of discipline and self-editing and practice required to reach your goals. This book will help you with these goals, but Elizabeth Gilbert is clear about the challenges of creativity by trade. If you want to make a living off your art, embracing creativity and the simple, pure act of enjoying your art is going to be ten times harder.
Regardless of whether you want to make a living off your art or simply enjoy creativity outside of your job, you must let curiosity—instead of fear—take the wheel. This is where we find satisfaction in our creativity. This is where we find satisfaction in our lives.
Creativity is already waiting for you.
Big Magic is a rambling of musings from a lifelong artist. It’s so intimate and personal yet deeply practical. It’s a kind, generous whisper to nourish what’s already inside of you. It’s an invitation to get your hands messy—to laugh at the notion that there’s even such a label as a “creative person.” People are inherently creative, even if they don’t realize it, and Elizabeth Gilbert proves this point again and again.
Favorite Quotes from Big Magic
“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear
“What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear
“Anyhow, the older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Frequently Asked Questions about Big Magic
What is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert about?
Big Magic is a personal but practical look at how to own your creativity by:
- Acknowledging and pushing past fear
- Getting curious about your art and what lights up your brain (or body!)
- How to grow and learn and be resilient with your art
- How to drown out negative voices and be less precious with your art
- How to make sure failures and imperfection don’t stand in your way of a life of creativity
What genre is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert?
Big Magic is creative nonfiction, but it’s also considered a self-help or self-improvement book.
Is Big Magic nonfiction?
Yes. Big Magic is a self-help book or inspirational guideline for living a life of creativity.
Should I read or listen to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert?
Elizabeth Gilbert narrates the audiobook for Big Magic, so the book feels very conversational and warm when you listen. Some readers may prefer to take notes, highlight quotes, and generally annotate their book to revisit these concepts again and again. It depends on your preference, but I recommend the audiobook if you want to feel like you’re getting coffee with a friend!
Other Books on Creativity and Writing
Other Books by Elizabeth Gilbert
- City of Girls
- Eat, Pray, Love
- The Signature of All Things
- Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It
- Committed: A Love Story
- The Last American Man
- Stern Men
- At Home on the Range
Buy Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I highly recommend Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert if you want to discover and rekindle the creativity already inside you, if you need to take yourself and your art a little less seriously to find freedom, or if you just want a feel-good, inspiring book about living a life of art.