BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert

I know I am late to the game with this one. Published in 2015 and just discovered by me in 2021… Nevertheless, I am so thankful that I found it when I did. In fact, I would say that I discovered it at just the right time for me. If it had presented itself to me 3 years ago, it would have passed right by me – I was otherwise engaged in grief and loss – my mind was not open to what was to come for me. I hope that this is presenting itself to you now at just the right time. The author writes in depth about timing in life – I am a believer!
At a time in my life when I knew intuitively that I wanted – needed – something more, this book appeared on my screen late one night. Thankfully I was listening to my intuitive voice. I had read Eat, Pray, Love years prior and liked the author and her writing style so I assumed that this book would have a similar flavor. I appreciate humor, approachable language, and friendly advice when it comes to heavy issues like stepping into a big life change. I had no idea at the time that this has been a staple for many others looking for ‘permission’ to allow creativity in their lives. Now I get it – this book spoke the language I was searching for the past 2-3 years. I read the book in 3 nights. Here is why:

“Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration”
(this was page 0 of the book – so far, so good).


The author organizes the book into parts rather than chapters. Part one, Courage, asks all the questions that I had been asking myself quietly:

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden with you?”

Good question… I was not sure about the “treasures” part, but I was curious enough to want to read more of what she was speaking of. Farther down the page she explains:

“The hunt to uncover those [treasures] – that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt – that’s what I call Big Magic”.

I was pretty sure that I was in the right place early on with the book – as mundane living was not cutting it for me any longer (a simple life, yes – but with more color and an outlet for my creative side). I am happily married and have an amazing career as a mental health therapist, but it was time to stretch my creative legs a bit. I just didn’t know where or how to start. This book immediately offered questions and thoughts to consider as I embarked on this creative quest.
Part one of the book continues with themes of how to manage the fears many of us share when trying something new – especially later in life: the fear of not being taken seriously; feeling embarrassed to express a creative interest; and being afraid of not doing as well as others who have started earlier. She reached the doubts in my mind and offered encouragement and examples of how she has dealt with similar fears.
The book continues with the process of exploring the basics of creating an artistic life – opening one’s mind to enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity. The essay in the ‘permission’ part that I found most helpful at the time was Originality vs. Authenticity – a concern of mine as I ventured into a renewed interest of mine – writing. I have sought to live an authentic life – using the phrase “walking the walk” as a guide in my career and yoga practice for many years. I asked myself, “how can I be authentic if I am afraid of sharing who I am through expressing my creative side?”. Gilbert speaks to this common fear – that if an idea has already been done before , then what’s the point of adding my voice? Gilbert honestly answers, “…it probably HAS been done. Most things have already been done – but they have not yet been done by you.” Throughout the book, Gilbert offers her straightforward take on persistence – here she talks about where the “real work” lies in creative endeavors.


“What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work? People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.”

Other than quoting this entire book, there is really not much more I can say about it except for this: I deeply believe that we need to find our own version of meaning and purpose if we are to be satisfied and content in life. The renowned psychiatrist and author Viktor Frankel expounds this theory in his masterpiece work, Man’s Search for Meaning (it was written in 1959 so don’t let the title dissuade you!).
If you are someone who feels as though you are missing something in your life – maybe you’re sure of what it is. Or maybe, (like it was for me), it is unclear, and yet persistent. Please consider asking yourself if you have left a creative part of your “self” in the rear-view mirror. Perhaps it is something you enjoyed doing when you were younger or there is something that gives you that fluttery feeling in your belly when you see/hear/taste/feel it. But if you have that stubborn feeling, and you need reassurance and guidance to get started, this book may offer what you need. Her questions and encouragement may present clarity for your vision and a path to get started. It did for me and I am relieved that I did not wait before starting the first step into my own version of a creative life. Of course, like millions of others, I wish I could thank Elizabeth Gilbert personally. Hopefully sharing this book will offer the tools and inspiration to help you find your purpose and meaning through creative expression.

Riverhead Books, New York (276 pages). Personal copy purchased through Bookshop.org