If you are a creator of any kind, Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Big Magic is a must-read.
I’m kicking myself that I had not read this book earlier, way earlier when it first came out in 2015. It could have saved me so much time, anguish, and tears, ah, so many tears, but anyway, water under the bridge. Moving on.
Here are some of the golden nuggets that I got from this gem of a book:
#1. Writing is a gamble
Writing is not an exact science, and every time you are shipping something, you are at a casino, playing a one-arm bandit, hoping, and praying to win big. Gilbert, of course, is better with words than me, so here is how she eloquently described the creators’ gamble:
“Artists, by nature, are gamblers. Gambling is a dangerous habit. But whenever you make art, you’re always gambling. You’re rolling the dice on the slim odds that your investment of time, energy, and resources now might pay off later in a big way—that somebody might buy your work, and that you might become successful.”.
#2. Dealing with negative feedback
I’m someone who struggles with negative feedback. Although my skin gets thicker as I get older (literally and figuratively), I still get heart palpitations when someone trashes my writing. Here is what Gilbert says about that:
“What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go make their own fucking art.”
#3. Dealing with frustration
Being a writer is not for the faint-hearted. Do you know how many times I wanted to shred my manuscripts into one million pieces and toss them in the Potomac river?
“I remember thinking that learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work—perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.”
#4 Having a creative mind is like caring for a dog
Yes, if you ignore your dog and don’t take it for a walk, it will trash your house.
“Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.).
It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”
#5 Dealing with failure
I’m someone who keeps picking at the stab. Analyze, rethink, revisit. What if, what if, what it. I should not have. I should have. I could have. I would have. Vicious circle. Gilbert addresses this corundum:
“Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means. Remember: The gods of creativity are not obliged to explain anything to us.”
Do yourself a favor and get Big Magic by Elizabeth’s Gilbert.