It’s Gabbie here and I have a confession. I never read Eat Pray Love. I had a friend who absolutely adored it and urged me to read it. I can still remember her well-thumbed, dog-eared, bookmarked paperback kicking around on her coffee table way back in 2006. My friend explained the premise and even read some passages out loud, but I didn’t feel moved to buy the book and read it for myself.
When the movie came out in 2010, I didn’t rush to see it at the movies. But I break my rule of ‘always read the book before you watch the film’ and watched it on DVD in 2011. Big disappointment. I thought Oh Boo Hoo You Elizabeth Gilbert with your beige marriage and your ridiculous coming of age travelogue which is only thinly veiling your mid-life crisis. Probably important to note that I was pregnant, completing my Masters, had a two year old and a brand new business. Wouldn’t we all like to eat gelato in Italy? I raged.
Fast forward to 2015 when I enrolled in a Virtual Writers Course with Charlotte Wood and Alison Manning. Can you imagine my shock when Wood recommended a TED talk on creativity by none other than Eat, Pray, Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert?
Well, I watched the talk.
And I fell in love.
I had misjudged this woman. I had misjudged a fellow author. I had mistaken an author’s story for their personality. I was humbled and humiliated. But the worst part is… she’s such a nice gal I reckon she’d forgive me.
Elizabeth Gilbert has in fact published several books. She’s not a one hit wonder. She’s a determined, creative, dogged and likeable lady who has been rejected by publishers (just like me), surprised by her own creativity (just like me), determined to succeed (just like me) and finds magic in storytelling (just like me).
So after developing this girl crush, I was looking forward to getting my hands on her book Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear. And I wasn’t disappointed. Gilbert’s conversational style, self-deprecating manner and commitment to creativity made this book a delightful reading experience. Of course, I demanded that the rest of The Posse add it to their mandatory Summer Reading list.
Now the Big Magic needs to spread even further – I think all of you Devoted Readers should grab yourself a copy and read it for yourself. Even if you’re not a writer, Big Magic has something for everyone.
Need more convincing?
Fiona’s thoughts on Big Magic:
What I enjoyed the most about Gilbert’s work was her approach to rejection and the giving up on the writing or publication dream. She doesn’t gloss over the pain. She doesn’t promise roses and champagne and a major deal if you just keep trying.
Rejection is inevitable for writers. Even many published ones.
Her realistic attitude is what struck a chord with me. The concept of knowing you will be rejected but understanding that it has to happen and you have to let it happen if you are to have any chance of literary success. You can’t give up after the, ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails send us plummeting into a coma of wine and chocolate.
“Somebody would send me a rejection, and I would knock it right back over the net, sending out another query that same afternoon. My policy was: You hit it to me, I’m going to hit it straight back out into the universe.”
Gilbert also asserts the importance of taking control of our self doubt, of not feeding the monster and allowing it to overwhelm the passion to write.
“Speak to your darkest and most negative interior voices the way a hostage negotiator speaks to a violent psychopath: calmly, but firmly. Most of all, never back down.”
I will embrace these ideas for my writing year ahead. Who knows? Maybe some big magic will come my way.
Yanicke’s thoughts on Big Magic:
Over the summer break (or winter, if you live in the northern hemisphere), I had the opportunity to catch up on my reading. After finishing Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (which I loved, by the way – thanks Lorelle for buying me a copy and not allowing me any more excuses), I asked the Print Posse gals what they thought I should read next. Gabbie shouted two words at me – BIG MAGIC! Well, she didn’t exactly shout, as we were chatting on Facebook, but she might as well have been, because after our conversation I felt I had no choice but to order a digital copy of Big Magic on Amazon.com, then and there, and start reading.
And I’m so glad I did.
Granted, for the first half of the book I was mostly thinking “Hmmm, this is nice read, but I don’t really think I need it. I’ve already past this stage in my writing life.” You see, Big Magic is organised into six sections: (i) Courage; (ii) Enchantment; (iii) Permission; (iv) Persistence; (v) Trust; and (vi) Divinity.
And when it comes to the first few topics, namely, overcoming fear and giving myself permission to embrace a creative life, I’ve sort of already faced that struggle back in 2009. With fear and excitement bubbling in my veins, I jumped ship and dived into an ocean of uncertainty, leaving my legal career behind and pursuing my dream of being a writer – a dream I’d long considered an impossibility until a close friend of mine simply said “If you wanna write, stop whining about all the things standing in your way and do it.” Not life changing words on the face of them, I know. But for some reason, whether it was the right time or I was in the right frame of mind, they made so much sense. And so I did.
But then (getting back to Big Magic), about half way through the book, things changed. I starting feeling “Now this is something I need to read.” I need to read that it’s okay to write stuff that is simply fun. Writing doesn’t have to save the world or be intellectual. Writing to entertain is just as worthwhile as writing to teach or writing to heal. It has its place. It is justified.
I also needed to read that I shouldn’t apologize for my work. So what if my first novel is a teen vampire romance? So what if it isn’t The Goldfinch or To Kill a Mockingbird? I shouldn’t feel self-conscious about that. I shouldn’t doubt my work’s worth or feel ashamed. I should be proud. This is me. This is what I love and what inspires me. This is who I am, at this time in my life.
These points totally resonate with me, as I struggle with both of these insecurities, these worries. So thank you Ms Gilbert, I totally hear you. And from this moment on, I fully intend to embrace my uniqueness and be the court lobster 🙂
There were also countless cool anecdotes throughout Big Magic – several of which I absolutely adored. Like the story of Winifred, the 90-year-old expert on ancient Mesopotamia, and Elizabeth’s own tale of not letting lack of inspiration get her down, but instead allowing her curiosity to guide her on a journey of discovery through botanical history that began in her own garden.
So I have to say, no matter where you are on your journey of pursuing a creative life, Big Magic has something for you.
I’ll finish off with my favourite quote from the book – it relates to Elizabeth’s inspirational attitude to receiving rejections. Instead of taking them to heart and giving up, she viewed her journey to publication in terms of an entire lifetime, and upon receiving one of those dreaded no’s would mutter to herself:
“You think you can scare me off? I’ve got another eighty years to wear you down! There are people who haven’t even been born yet who are gonna reject me someday—that’s how long I plan to stick around.”
I love it! 😀
Gabbie’s Thoughts on Big Magic:
Gilbert explains through paradoxical chapters that creativity is a riddle: a divine endowment that we are never meant to fully understand. Big Magic helped me to appreciate the contradictory nature of creativity.
I quote for you her conclusion:
Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.
We are terrified, and we are brave.
Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.
Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.
Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise – you can make anything.
So please calm down and get back to work, okay?
The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.
18th February, Theatre Royal in Hobart
25th February, Griffith University Conservatorium Theatre in Brisbane
4th March, Seymour Centre in Sydney