Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

In Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, author Elizabeth Gilbert encourages all creative people to declare their love for what they do.

So I wrote in my journal, “I enjoy my creativity. I love it!”

Inspiration will be grateful to hear those words coming out of your mouth, because inspiration – like all of us – appreciates being appreciated. Inspiration will overhear your pleasure, and it will send ideas to your door as a reward for your enthusiasm and your loyalty.

More ideas than you could ever use.

“Enough ideas for ten lifetimes.”

The author has no equal when it comes to cheer leading for writers. Her lets-be-friends tone envelops readers in a warm-fuzzy glow. As I read, I felt as though I were sitting across from Liz Gilbert at her kitchen table, warming my hands around a cup of hot cocoa.

Gilbert opens the book with a simple question and answer:

Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.

Even the section titles have the whiff of big magic: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is all serious stuff. Big Magic contains plenty of Gilbert’s signature humor.

Early in the book, she tells an incredible story about researching an idea for a novel, abandoning it due to life circumstances, trying to return to the book, then giving up when she realizes the idea has gone cold.

And then

A short time later, she hears novelist Ann Patchett give “one of the most robust and dazzling speeches I’ve ever heard. She rocked that room and she rocked me.”

Afterward, Gilbert introduces herself to Patchett with, “Ann, I realize we’ve only just met, but I have to tell you—you’re extraordinary and I love you!”

She looked at me a bit askanceshe seemed to be deciding something about me. For a moment, I wasn’t sure where I stood. But what she did next was wonderful. She cupped my face in her hands and kissed me. Then she pronounced, ‘And I love you, Liz Gilbert.’

“In that instant, a friendship was ignited.”

The events that follow are, indeed, magical. Maybe even unbelievable. But there’s no denying the truth: the kiss transferred the story idea from one author to the other. Months later, Patchett mentioned the novel she was working on, and Gilbert – surprised – asked her to elaborate.

Guess what? It was basically the same story. There were too many similarities between the unique plots and characters to simply dismiss it as coincidence.

This delightful anecdote supports Gilbert’s theory that ideas are living entities. If you don’t bring that ball of energy into existence, it will find someone who will.

So avoid playing the tortured artist and complaining about how difficult your craft is. If you don’t find joy in your creative pursuits, then you’re saying “no” to the idea that asks, “Do you want to work with me?”

I love how Gilbert addresses being a creative person in the real world. Her day jobs included waitress, bartender, ranch hand, cook, teacher, au pair, flea-marketeer, and bookstore clerk:

I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my lifeI have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills.”

Day jobs – and traveling (funded by those jobs) – also gave Gilbert inspiration for writing, including the short story that landed her a literary agent. She didn’t quit her job until her fourth book was published, the best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love.

She also cautions readers against letting their egos rule. Her first short story, which she worked on for a year and a half, was published because she was willing to cut it by 30 percent. (The magazine was short on space that month.)

“Because let’s be honest. It wasn’t the Magna Carta we were talking about here; it was just a short story about a cowgirl and her boyfriend.

I grabbed a red pencil and I cut that thing down to the bone.

“The initial devastation to the narrative was shockingIt was literary carnage – but that’s when things started to get interestingI realized that the cuts had indeed transformed the entire tone of the story, but not necessarily in a bad way.”

Big Magic is filled with real-life stories like these, stories that comfort and motivate.

Read, laugh, and be inspired.

Katherine Valdez believes in magicand in allowing Klingon words and literary references while playing Scrabble. Follow her @KatValdezWriter on Instagram and Twitter, and


  1. I, too, am a fan of “Big Magic” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s encouraging attitude toward everyone. She’s a gem in every way! Thanks for sharing this, Katherine!

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