27 October 2015 | Adult Non-Fiction

Big Magic book review


Big magic
Elizabeth Gilbert
Riverhead Books

It’s a little difficult to know where to begin when reviewing Liz Gilbert’s book. She’s almost Liz in the literary world, like Oprah and Madonna in all worlds. Her own words are the best way to describe her work.

Whether you loved or hated Eat, pray, love, Big magic is a book all creative types need to not only read, but have on a bookshelf to refer to over and over again. And if you don’t think you’re the creative type, allow me to quote Liz: ‘when I refer to “creative living,” I am speaking more broadly. I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.’ Because … ‘a creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.’

If we thought deeply about what we wanted for our children or partners, our friends or sisters, we might say that a ‘bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life’ is something we would wish for them. Let’s wish it for ourselves as well.

This non-fiction book of Liz’s is divided into chapters with titles such as Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, Divinity. The titles say it all – this is what you are going to need. Courage through the not-so good times, plus persistence. Permission – this is Liz Gilbert on permission. ‘You do not need a permission slip from the principal’s office to live a creative life. Or if you do worry that you need a permission slip – THERE, I just gave it to you. I just wrote it on the back of an old shopping list. Consider yourself fully accredited. Now go make something.’

She tells us stories and anecdotes about her own writing and life experiences, as well as people she knows. People like Eileen who acquires new tattoos constantly or her friend Susan, a forty-year-old woman who goes to an ice-skating rink three times a week before her day job to skate.

And of course, failure is a big topic. ‘So how do you shake off failure and shame in order to keep living a creative life? First of all, forgive yourself. If you made something and it didn’t work out, let it go … Forget about the last project and go searching with an open heart for the next one.’

What I love most about Big magic is the way it shines a light on the paradoxes of creativity and illuminates these truths –

‘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.’

Thanks, Liz. Off to write now.



Thanks for this review, Karen. Everyone who’s read it seems to love it. I would have to agree with her about the richness of a creative life. I certainly feel that my life is much expanded since I have dared to allow myself to be more creative and to share that creativity with others. Will pop it on the list of ‘to reads’!

November 1, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Karen Comer

You will love it, Carolyn – can’t wait to read your book reveiw.

November 2, 2015 at 1:26 pm

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