Review of Big Magic By Elizabeth Gilbert

Do you have the desire to create something? Is there a novel, short story, poem, play, or script on your mind and in your heart but not on paper? Would you like to make a quilt, a painting, a clay pot, or a pair of mittens? If something is holding you back, you have come to the right place. This is a review of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I recommend Big Magic

Maybe I should correct that. This is less of a review of Big Magic and more of a recommendation to read Big Magic. I LOVED this book. It was entertaining, enlightening, and encouraging. Gilbert introduced me to ideas so far out of my realm of experience that I could feel my brain stretching. For example:

I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.


Inspiration is still sitting there right beside me, and it is trying. Inspiration is trying to send me messages in every form it can—through dreams, through portents, through clues, through coincidences, through déjà vu, through kismet, through surprising waves of attraction and reaction, through the chills that run up my arms, through the hair that stands up on the back of my neck, through the pleasure of something new and surprising, through stubborn ideas that keep me awake all night long . . . whatever works. Inspiration is always trying to work with me.”

That  pumps me up! I have never experienced inspiration coming to me the way she describes poems coming to Ruth Stone, rushing across the landscape at her, like a galloping horse. Do I believe it happens? I believe she believes.

But I have experienced inspiration frequently enough to know it is a wonderful, delightful mystery, however it arrives.

Practical advice from Gilbert

While some of her ideas are so far-out there they are clinging to the fringes of reality, others are very practical and applicable.

  • If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.
  • It might have been done before, but it hasn’t been done by you!
  • Live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
  • What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant?
  • Always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business.
  • It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.
  • Done is better than good.
  • Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.
  • The older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.

That last one is my favorite. It is an intimidating thing to feel the pressure to be original. But to be authentic? I can do that.


Gilbert relates a delightful story of a man invited to a costume party. Somehow the medieval theme didn’t cross his radar so he made a costume and appeared as a big, red, lobster. Instead of running away in shame, and wouldn’t most of us have run away in shame, he introduced himself, “I am the court lobster.” And they loved him.

Big Magic also entertains with its treatment of the Tormented Artist. A happy, well-adjusted creative life is what I desire, definitely . But I am certainly familiar with the Tormented Artist persona. Beethoven and van Gogh come to mind. Gilbert defends the sane and healthy and stable life for the creative person; she calls it stubborn gladness.


Part self-help, part inspiration, and part motivation, Big Magic encourages us to pursue being creators. Gilbert is a cheerleader, urging us to live the creative life. What it is not is a how-to book. But maybe each of us has to figure out their own how.

Big Magic inspired me. I want to be a more fearless creator.

Read Big Magic!

I strongly encourage you to read Big Magic and let the magic begin in your life! You can purchase the book here.

What do you want to be a create?

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My name is Peggy McGranahan and I started this blog, Shaped By The Waves, to share my experiences and life lessons as I navigate the waves of change in my middle-aged life. I love reading, chocolate, geocaching with my hubby, and Jesus. I am actively battling my weight, and sometimes I win the battle! Now that all 5 of our homeschooled chicks have left home, my nest may be empty but my life is full. So welcome to Shaped By The Waves. Come ride the waves of change with me.