There are millions of books out there on writing. They range from the technical how-to type to inspirational tomes aimed at increasing your productivity. Elizabeth Gilbert’s (Eat Pray Love) work, Big Magic, is something entirely different. In a conversational tone which makes you feel as if Gilbert is a good friend or wise older sister imparting her experience, she spins out her observations about Creativity and the life of being a creative person (not just writers!) The subtitle of the book, Creative Living Beyond Fear, says it all. She offers her perspective on the creative experience in anecdotes which lead to pragmatic conclusions. And her advice is not just a dismissive “don’t worry,” but rather she takes the reader by the hand and lets you see how to avoid needless suffering. The topics are addressed in sections entitled: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. In each, she encourages us to shake off the seriousness, perfectionism, self-loathing, and other destructive tendencies of the martyr-artist in order to invite creativity and inspiration into one’s life. Indeed, Gilbert maintains that art, creativity or whatever you want to call it, seeks a home in us in order to find expression. That’s the Big Magic. It will find the right person through whom it can accomplish this, or it will move on, our choice. So it is our job to keep the channels open and inviting to unearth the “jewels” which lie within us. I have to confess, all that spiritualism aside, I felt I’d been given a “get-out-of-jail-free” card while reading this work. It gives one permission to not take art so seriously, to let go of failures and move on, and to use curiosity to seek out and attract fresh ideas. In the end, she points out the mysterious contradiction that is creativity: “What we make matters and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.” I may have to buy my own copy of this book so I can go back, re-read, and highlight certain passages when necessary–to keep it all in perspective. Oh, and by the way, Creativity if you’re out there–I’m ready to invite you in any time.
Tag Archives: creativity
It’s my believe that we should add a new protected class–introverts– to those already afforded protected under the law. I came to this conclusion after reading Susan Cain’s brilliant work “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The book opens with the example of Rosa Parks, a quiet, self-possessed woman who, by one quiet act of defiance touched off a movement which changed society. Cain brings up several introverted heroes in various walks of life: CEOs, inventors, artists, scientists…to whom we owe much for their enormous contributions to society. But the book is much more than this. It serves to challenge the “Extrovert Ideal” which has been held up as the personality model for years, undervaluing the introvert and even making introverts feel somehow damaged or afflicted with something they must “work on to get over.” I felt vindicated after reading this book, especially having learned that much of the introvert/extrovert nature is imbedded in one’s biological makeup. There really isn’t anything wrong with me! Cain explores the neuro-scientific research on sensitivity and convincingly explains the workings of the brain as it affects personality . This physiological component and how it manifests in introverts also explains why they suffer when forced to work in groups, why they need down time alone in order to be creative, and how, unlike extroverts, find large social affairs an energy drain as opposed to a boost. Reading this, I can’t help but think about how most modern workplaces are set up for extroverts–desks crammed together for more “collaboration”–how classrooms force students to engage in group projects more and more, and how the extrovert in a group is often chosen as a leader, regardless of any particular qualifications for the position. You extroverts out there, don’t be turned off by all of this, however! Cain is careful to explain how we in society and in our personal lives need a balance, but that balance must now value the contributions and needs of introverts as well. Her book, which took over seven years to research and write, is filled with compelling stories, carefully researched data, and passionate statements. It is an enjoyable read just at face value, but as an introvert, or the spouse or sibling or parent of one, it is a must read! It will change the way you see the world and others in it.