• Alan Pepin

Design Reads: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Why it's so good: Big Magic breaks through illusions and shows us why human creativity is essential to us all.


Norman Rockwell's sarcastic take on modern art and Jackson Pollock, 1962 cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

All of us are creative beings. We might not all be writers, designers and musicians - but inside each of us lives the desire to bring forth our thoughts, feelings and ideas. What I love about this book is that through Gilbert's relatable voice, she breaks down the idea that there are "creatives" and "non-creatives." Some of us make a living professionally centered on the right side of our brains, some don't, but creative living is, as Gilbert says, "amplified living," and open to us all.


"I'm talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear." - Elizabeth Gilbert/Big Magic

Another point I found insightful is the idea that maybe it's not about "following your passion," which has become almost cliche. I appreciate that Gilbert states the obvious in that if you already know your "passion," chances are, you're already pursuing it. She asks a more intriguing question. What about following your curiosity?


Here's another perspective in the book I found enlightening. At it's origin, creativity and the urge to bring into focus our blurry ideas is at it's genesis,  a solitary experience. We receive the whispers of inspirations through all our senses. Exploring these callings is our rite and a noble use of our short and wonderful lives. It also doesn't need to be affirmed by the world in order to be deemed worthwhile. Our pursuit and the experience we have along the way are validation enough.


Check out Paint Your Bicycle, the chapter on playwright Clive James breaking through creative blocks.

There are some moments throughout the book that are quite charming, and easy to relate to. There are even more that ask the baffling questions, like why we associate the act of creating art with suffering and pure torture. And worse yet, the sadistic notion that nothing truly beautiful can be made without great pain.


"Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ideas are constantly trying to get your attention. Let them know you're available." - Elizabeth Gilbert/Big Magic


The chapter ,"Walk Proudly," is all about bravery in light if criticism, and is quite hilarious.

There's so much in this book to strengthen your drive and affirm your creative explorations. Gilbert's writing is clever and insightful, and easily relatable.

Below I have embedded her Ted talk on creative genius, and have also attached a link to her podcast, "Magic Lessons," where she and others guide aspiring creatives to overcome fear and live more fully.

Podcast available at https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/magic-lessons/


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