I can say with almost full certainty that if you are a creative person, you have dealt with fear, imposter syndrome, failure, and self doubt. I’ve experienced all of these in the last few years. Fear, failure, and the fear of failure have held me back and kept me from creating. At the recommendation of a YouTuber I like, I picked up the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert in hopes of squishing that fear and simply allowing myself to make things. I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough, whether you consider yourself creative or not. Gilbert’s definition of “big magic” and “creativity” go far beyond art, extending into personal expression, freedom, inspiration, and curiosity. The book was split into a few different sections, and while I’ve combined some, here are my top takeaways.
Courage & Enchantment
Part of inspiration and creativity is courage. It can be scary to try new things and push your limits, but you have to be brave enough to do it and know both the world and your capabilities. Fear is just a reflex, and while it serves a purpose, there’s no room for it in creativity because it keeps you from exploring and trying new things. There can also be fears of peaking, of never reaching fame or notoriety, of not being able to continue success after hitting it once. But that’s not the goal of creating, is it? Gilbert mentions that creation is its own goal. Make and share things you love, regardless of the outcome. If it’s something you genuinely enjoy, there doesn’t have to be pressure to succeed.
There’s also an element of enchantment. You can enjoy your work, you can look forward to it. You don’t have to live as a ‘tortured artist’ to create things. You can support other people, you can give into inspiration and curiosity and see where it takes you. There doesn’t have to be some heavily structured routine you follow. Take risks, make changes, embrace failures, and experience unique things, or as Gilbert puts it, “live a vivid life.” Find joy and magic in the process of creativity!
One of the things I needed to hear most was that I don’t need permission to live a creative life. You don’t need to label yourself as an artistic genius or a musical prodigy to be able to make art. The earliest human art is dated at 40,000 years old— do you think they had to ask for permission? Of course not! They wanted to make something beautiful and imaginative, so they did. Creativity is an entirely personal expression, on your own terms, and the only person who needs to give you clearance is yourself. And no, you don’t need permission from other people or their labels. Their reactions to your creativity don’t belong to you. If someone ignores, misinterprets, or hates your art, they can make their own art. You can keep making yours.
Persistence & Trust
By far, these were the most real, raw, down-to-earth sections of the book. My favorite section of these chapters is entitled “In Praise of Crooked Houses” - in other words, learning to love and praise and accept projects that aren’t perfect. What matters is that it’s done, you accomplished something you wanted to do, and you can move onto the next project. Gilbert describes this concept of “stubborn gladness” - creating won’t always be easy, but you have to be thankful for it and happy with where you are currently. Be open to new ideas and pursuits, and work through the periods where inspiration runs dry. She also advises to find something that you love enough to where it makes up for the bad parts. Even if you do face rejection, failure, or a dry spell, you love what you’re doing enough to keep going. It’s important, too, that you trust in both the process and yourself. Remember that despite the outcome, you are worthy of being here and creating things. You have the capability to create wonderful things, and the world needs to see them, too.
by Allison Killinger