Books I Give Up On: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


I saw Big Magic on a list of books to read during NaNoWriMo and bought it. Right now I’m really into reading books about writing. I had just read Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir and was excited to get another successful author’s take.

In retrospect, this was probably a bad idea. I have never read anything else by Elizabeth Gilbert. I think I watched Eat, Pray, Love in college and did not feel like it was “for me.” I never read the book because my mom didn’t like it, and I generally trust her judgment.

I quickly realized that Liz Gilbert has a penchant for the abstract. She has a long passage about how in the road trip of her life, she’s not going to let fear take the wheel. Feels a bit like a Dove wrapper, but I’ll read on.

One of her first examples of “creative living beyond fear” is a friend who is middle-aged who took up ice skating again to “unfold a certain beauty or transcendence in her life.” To her, everything is like a rare prism worthy of oohs and ahs. The Daria in me struggles to operate at this speed.

Elizabeth Gilbert believe that ideas are their own beings, outside of people, floating around waiting for a host. That’s the magic in the title. Ideas come knocking at our doors, hoping we are ready, and if we’re not, they go to someone else. She proves this with an anecdote about how she and Ann Patchett were both writing books about Minnesotan ladies going to the Amazon. Liz had given hers up, and Ann had rolled with it. (I might go check that book, State of Wonder out, since it sounds good.)

Gilbert’s metaphysical interpretation of creativity is interesting, but I found the whole shebang hard to read. If only life were as magical and zesty as it is to Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m looking for more grounded advice right now, but for those who want to take an abstract ride into life and creativity, this book might be for you.


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