Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big MagicSo I have a confession to make. I didn’t want to like this book. Why you might ask? Because I associate author Elizabeth Gilbert with the Oprah empire and despite how much I respect Oprah as an individual, I generally rebel against being spoon fed book recommendations to the masses. There is just something about it that I find so plebeian and patronizing at the same time… and so typically when Oprah recommends a book I run the other way. Of course everybody by now is familiar with Gilbert’s literary success EAT PRAY LOVE. Did I read it? No. But I saw the movie. Does that count?

I am however really, really into podcasts when I paint in my studio, particularly those dealing with painting or creativity. I stumbled upon Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcast (which I think was meant to be an appetizer for the release of Big Magic) and was kinda intrigued. In one of the first podcasts I listened to, Gilbert advises listeners to create a contract with Creativity. To agree to show up everyday to work but to not agree to take all the responsibility for whether or not your work will turn into anything masterful. Because Creativity doesn’t care if you win some big award with your work, it just wants to EXIST in some particular form. It wants to come into being through you the Creator. “It just wants to play” as Gilbert says. My ears perked up at this unusual advice despite its Age of Aquarius vibe. Now that is one unique thought I had never entertained before so I ordered her book and found myself taking lots of notes on other things she recommended.

On Creativity

Gilbert believes that the Universe buries creative treasure deep within all of us and then stands back to see if we can find them. She calls the hunt for these creative gems, Big Magic. She advises keeping yourself open to inspiration. That often one thought or clue will lead to another and so on and so forth. That is when Big Magic happens.

On Getting Your Work Out There

Gilbert recommends that you consider rejections as part of a great big cosmic Ping Pong game. The universe lobs a rejection your way be it from a competition, a gallery, a publisher -whatever and it just means it is your turn to lob something back over the Ping Pong net. Send out another application immediately to a different competition, gallery, publisher etc. Whatever you do, don’t take it personally. I was happy to discover on another podcast I listened to, that this is exactly the same strategy Game of Thrones Author, George R R Martin used to build up his career. Cool huh? I will definitely be adding this strategy to my arsenal going forward.

Stuck In A Rut?

Get dressed to go to work. Like really dressed up as if you have an important meeting to attend because you do, you have a serious daily appointment with your work. I’ve heard similar things before like “dressing for the job you want, not the job you have” and it made perfect sense in an office environment but here in my home studio it seemed less appealing because I can wear pajamas to work if I wanted to. Hey- that is just one of the benefits of the job! However, Gilbert has something here. One particular day in the studio I was having difficulty focusing so I took her advice, took a shower put on my dressy jeans and a nice shirt. Even topped it off with a pair of earrings and perfume and magically I was transformed into a new person who gave a $&*! about my work and I got back to it and had no problem sustaining my interest for the rest of the day.

So despite my previous hesitations towards Gilbert, I am going to rate Big Magic a strong B + on my book recommendation list. And maybe now that she has melted my icy heart a little, I may even go pick up a copy of EAT PRAY LOVE.


Big Magic can be purchased from Amazon and qualifies for free Prime  2 day shipping.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

    1. Thanks Eddie! I’ll be sure to check out your post too. If you liked this book you will really like “So good they can’t ignore you” by Cal Newport and the “Accidental Creative” by Todd Henry. Both these books are in the same creativity management genre but they go deeper than Big Magic. And both of them have blogs you can follow but Todd Henry does an excellent podcast I recommend to everyone.


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