This book review was written by our guest writer Katie Northwood - former editor of the Samantha Wills Foundation and hilarious freelance copywriter. In all my years of knowing Katie, we've been the friends in the group that are constantly switching, swapping, trialling and challenging our workspaces and work flow to be better and bolder at what we do. So take it from me, if Katie is gripped by this book, we should all download it now and get reading!
Making ‘Big Magic’ is a gloriously messy process.
This book changed the way I work.
It also taught me some of the most valuable lessons, at a time when I needed it the most.
In case you’ve read this and haven’t the foggiest on what I’m talking about - Big Magic is the lifeline/ thought provoking book penned by Elizabeth Gilbert - the very same author of Eat Pray Love.
As an author she had gained the kind of success most could only dream of. But as a person, she has collected the kind of insights that can change the life and the career of a creative.
Big Magic is bursting with these insights. So if you are a creative - professionally, recreationally, openly, secretly - read it, please.
As someone who has only recently become comfortable using the term ‘creative’ when describing myself, this book opened my eyes to some ugly, yet beautifully necessary truths around the process, the habits, and the outcomes of any creative pursuit. So in case you don’t get the chance to get your hands on the book; here are my favourite three takeaways:
There’s something creative in all of us.
(If you haven’t found your creativity - keep digging.)
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.
If you pick up my copy of the book, you’ll find the page with this quote page dog-eared, covered in asterisks, arrows, underlines and ‘THIS! READ OVER AND OVER”
I chose to read this as a challenge —
Go forth and find yourself.
Make a mess.
Grow in weird and wonderful ways.
Try things, and be prepared to suck at them at first! Pick it up - give it a go - repeat.
And finally, something that serves as a great reminder for all - be prepared for this to be a lifelong hunt, you’re in this for the long haul.
One person’s ‘failure’ is another person’s answer to a creative block.
This one really struck a cord, as when the shift came for me to stop writing for a business and to start writing for myself I was terrified. I’d been doing it for years, but suddenly when left to my own devices, I was convinced that when I put my fingers to the keys, the result would be a big stinking pile of crap.
By way of remedying this common creative block, Gilbert includes a story about one of my alllllllll time favourite authors - Harper Lee (the Pulitzer Prize winning writer of To Kill A Mockingbird). She talks not about the cosmic success of this novel, but the struggle that Lee faced in her creativity after (and in fact, because) of the book’s success. She now faced the struggle to create something that would be on par with, or even better than her best.
Gilbert addressed this with some groundbreaking advice: create something terrible. Something broken. Something god-awful. Get it out of the way, so the ‘first thing since the great thing’ is done and dusted, and you can just let go of the hangup, and get into creating again.
I now try to create something first thing in the morning (a poem, a page of ramblings) - anything - just to get that creative lactic acid build up out of my system, so I can get going.
Success and fame shouldn’t be the ultimate goal for your creativity.
To continue on from the above point - if the only reason you’re pursuing this creative road is for fame and success, then you’re setting yourself up for a life of disappointment.
If you seek to create, purely to satisfy your inner calling to create, then you are already there. You are a creative. Creativity is likened to a muscle - use it, and it gets stronger.
Since reading this book, I have a number of post its around my room, but the most important one to me is the one that just says “I am creative”
Regardless of possible future ventures, successes, failures, knock-backs or accolades, I wake up every day thinking “I am creative”
and I thank Elizabeth Gilbert daily for reminding me.
So go forth, get messy, find your creative and make Big Magic.