Book Review: ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’ by Elizabeth Gilbert


Photo by Jenna Febbo

Jenna Febbo, Health and Beauty Editor

Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, wants you to live your best life and she tells you how in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Gilbert’s Big Magic is a self-help book – a guide to living your life creatively. The book is split into six chapters—“Courage,” “Enchantment,” “Permission,” “Persistence,” “Trust,” and “Divinity.” She speaks to the reader casually, like you are sitting across from her at dinner. It’s playful and fun, but she’s not joking around. She’s teaching us a lesson, she wants us to listen, and that conversational style made all the difference.

Gilbert takes experiences from her life, dating back to her childhood and college years, to deliver readers with a challenge. To go on a treasure hunt within ourselves to find the “strange jewels” that lie within us. No, this won’t make you a “creative person” because, she writes, “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.” We are all creative people, we just have to unleash it and that’s what the book is supposed to help us do.

Unleashing it requires us to do something out of the ordinary – something we don’t see as doable because we don’t think we can do it. Something that’s outside of our “established roles in society.” She writes, “You want to write a book? Make a song? Direct a movie? Decorate pottery? Learn a dance? Explore a new land? You want to draw a penis on your wall? Do it. Who cares? It’s your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart. (I mean, take it seriously, sure—but don’t take it seriously.)” Basically, Gilbert’s message here is that living creatively means doing things that will make you happy and are out of your comfort zone. To be creative, you must think outside of the box, right? Well, Gilbert challenges us to think outside of the box and find something we want to do that will bring us happiness. But don’t think about it too much, it doesn’t have to be something outrageous. It can be as little, but as satisfying, as taking a yoga class.

When reading the book, I was antsy to read the chapter on fear. Fear is a problem that I have been dealing with all of my life. It has stopped me from doing things. My fear of flying has limited me from going to a place where the flight is longer than three hours. My fear of heights has stopped me from taking hikes, as trivial as that sounds. I was already feeling so inspired by the book that I was hoping Gilbert’s chapter on fear would inspire me in some way to move past my fears.

Gilbert basically introduces the chapter saying she’s an expert on fear because she’s dealt with it since she was a child. We all had our fears when we were children, whether it was of the dark or monsters under our beds. But as we get older, our fears change. You fear you’re not smart enough. You fear you’re not pretty enough. You fear you’re not good enough. There will always be something standing between you and the things you want. Gilbert wants you to acknowledge that, and then invite the fear along. This excerpt was not only my favorite part of the chapter, but it was my favorite part of the book.

“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life and that you take your job seriously. Apparently, your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting – and may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring…There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way…Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

There’s more where this came from but I wanted to give you a taste because I wouldn’t be doing this book review justice if I didn’t include it. It’s just a small sample of the inspiration and motivation Gilbert gives you throughout this book. The chapter on fear is the most important part of the book because it ties a pretty bow around all of her thoughts. Fear can only affect your life if you allow it to. You are going to be afraid to do things and say things throughout your life but if it’s going to bring you joy and fulfillment and you don’t do it because you’re afraid, you’re not living creatively. You aren’t creating magic in your life.

Living creatively is magical. Do it.

And read this book, too.