If you read this blog you probably already know I’m a pretty big Elizabeth Gilbert fan. What I’m not usually a fan of are inspirational books about creativity — I mean, they have their place, and some people find them great, but when I read books like The Artist’s Way, they mostly seem to be addressing problems I don’t have. Like, yes, I believe in my own creativity and I definitely give myself permission to pursue it, so I don’t really need 300 pages telling me that it’s OK to do that. I’m there, baby.
Yet strangely, I did really enjoy Big Magic, even though it addresses many of these same things. Maybe it’s just because I like Gilbert’s writing and always find her entertaining. I find she’s refreshingly honest about her own writing, about how weird it was to write (after years of toiling away in writerly obscurity with magazine pieces and books that weren’t bestsellers) a memoir that almost accidentally because a huge hit — and then to go on being creative after that. Now, admittedly, that’s another problem I haven’t had — how to follow up on my giant successful bestseller — although I’d like to believe I could carry it off with grace and charm if required. (Give me a chance to prove myself, Universe!!!)
Sometimes Gilbert gets a little “woo-woo” for me — like in her insistence on discussing creativity as if it’s a spiritual force with its own personality and goals, kind of a like a secular artist’s version of the Holy Spirit. But her down-to-earth good sense, her willingness to puncture lots of self-important artists’ stereotypes about “genius,” and her self-deprecating wit, make it a fun read anyway. Even though I have zero problem giving myself permission to be creative, it’s still encouraging to have someone cheering you along from the sidelines when you tackle a big project or try a new direction. As I’m thinking of trying both those things soon, this was an encouraging read.