This “Recent Reads” post is a little late, seeing as I finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear at the end of November. However, I still thought it was important to share my thoughts on this work of hers. Gilbert is best known for her New York Times best selling book Eat Pray Love, which I have to admit I really enjoyed. I was curious to read her take on inspiration and the creative process, mostly because it’s a topic I put thought into on a daily basis.
Gilbert’s approach to this project helped guide an internal debate that I’ve been having for the majority of my life. This is not a “how to” book by any means, but more of a creative living guide. She’s not only speaking to professional writers, artists or dancers, but addresses everyone throughout the book because we as humans are creative in nature. We long to make things because we always have. This is her way of justifying our desire to sculpt, photograph, garden or anything else that requires an ounce of imaginative effort.
I’ve felt impractical and frankly selfish at times for moving away from my family to pursue a creative life in Chicago. I know wholeheartedly that my loved ones supports me, but wouldn’t it have been easier to get an entry level job somewhere utilizing my business degree? Yes, probably, but I wouldn’t be as happy. Gilbert addressed these concerns of mine head on in the section she dedicates to giving oneself permission to be creative. She says, “I recognize that the word entitlement has dreadfully negative connotations, but I’d like to appropriate it here and put it to good use, because you will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try.”
The other half of my debate is covered in the section titled “Persistence”. “There’s no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.” How could Gilbert suddenly make it seem so plain and simple to me?! I’ve struggled with the idea that being a successful dancer and artist in general means that I should be able to be financially supported by it. That’s a hard gig to grab ahold of and maintain. I don’t currently have a Monday through Friday nine to five job, but I work my butt off. In turn I have the flexibility to drop into a morning dance class, paint something to hang on my wall or develop a new recipe that I want to share.
Overall, I think anyone who dwells on the idea of creativity should give this book a shot. Gilbert may offer a fresh perspective. You never know, you could have an “ah hah” moment!
The next book I have to chat about is 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino. Curl up with a blanket and this lighthearted book and read with me this January!