Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” lit a fire under my ass

I’ve reviewed a lot of books in the past few years, but never has an author seemed to look inside me and shine a light on the web of ego and dreams tangled up in there.

Big Magic cover on carpoolcandy.com

The book came from the publisher “creatively” wrapped in paper with pretty ribbon

That’s what I felt like while reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new non-fiction book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, which is out this week. I jumped at the chance to review her new book because I’m a big fan of her writing.

Her best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray Love, sparked both lovers and haters of her work, although, being on the love side, I don’t really understand the hate. Sure, it was self-indulgent, but aren’t most memoirs? Whether you bought into the journey, you can’t deny Gilbert’s talent. Her writing is personal, insightful, honest and funny.

Gilbert is able to see a situation, turn it over in her mind a few thousand times and then write about it so honestly and specifically,that even if the situation doesn’t apply completely, you can’t help but recognize yourself.

Elizabeth Gilbert on carpoolcandy.com

Big Magic is a must-read for writers, as it speaks to why we subject ourselves to the uncertainty, rejection, and criticism that comes with sharing your thoughts in public. Not to mention the love of art in lieu of a fat paycheck.

But it’s also for anyone who has creative desires of any kind and isn’t fulfilling them.

She uses an example of a friend who skated as a child and loved it, but quit when she became a teenager and realized she wasn’t going to the Olympics. She went on to become a successful businesswoman who was happily married with kids, but started to feel down and in a rut. After some soul-searching she remembered how skating used to make her feel and decided to get back on the ice.

She could have been intimidated by her age, by taking lessons with a bunch of 9-year-olds watching, by the cold, by lack of personal time….by what others would think. But none of that was enough to prevent her from getting up early to skate for an hour before work a few times a week. The feeling she got from being on the ice again carried over into the rest of her life and she felt joy and ease she hadn’t felt in years.

She hasn’t won any medals, and she’s still skating.

So what are you afraid of doing? What activity have you always wanted to try or tried once and left behind? There are a million excuses not to pick it up, and Gilbert lists them all in the book. But those excuses are hiding fear.

I’ll admit something I haven’t out loud much before: I have an idea for a screenplay.

Just writing this is making me queasy. I don’t feel comfortable sharing my dreams so publicly.

I’ve had the idea for about 10 years and have created characters, scenes and even dialog in my mind, but haven’t been able to commit to it because I’m afraid.

Afraid of failure and success. Afraid it won’t be as good as I want it to be. Afraid I have no business writing a screenplay. I’m no Brooklyn hipster or Hollywood phenom. I’m just a working mom driving carpool.

But Liz told me I have a voice and it needs to be heard. She hasn’t promised my work will be read, liked, produced and released. She just says I have to write it. For me. Because every year that goes by that I don’t write it, I feel like I’ve failed myself.

It would feel really good to get it all out of my head and onto paper (or a PDF file, you get the point.) I’ve spent more time in the last year on it than ever before and I actually have most of Act 1 down and an outline for Acts 2 and 3.

Writing desk on carpoolcandy.com

I spent a weekend alone in NYC last spring working on the screenplay.

But now I need to fully commit. To make room for this project, instead of waiting for free time to work on it. I’m a busy gal so there are lots of great reasons not to work on my story. Helping kids, cooking dinner, volunteering at school, reading for my book club and work. And how about just being dog tired after a busy week and preferring to lay on the couch eating cookies while watching Orange is the New Black?

But Liz has made me realize it’s fear keeping me from the page. And I can’t let fear win.

Big Magic has great stories and tips on how to tap into whatever creative gig you’re into. I gave the book a great review, which you can read here.  I’m not alone in feeling the power of this book, it just hit number one on the NY Times bestseller list.

What are you afraid of?  Be brave and tell me in the comments.  Then commit to punching fear in the face and getting started on your journey to a more creative life!

8 responses to “Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” lit a fire under my ass

  1. Thank you for posting this! Will definitely read.
    So true with many of my “projects” I stop before I finish because of that last step…fear of what will happen or how it will turn out.
    1. Playing my violin. Last played 20ish years ago.
    2. Finishing a book of children’s poetry I started two years ago.
    3. Taking piano lessons, the last time was fifth grade.
    I want to enjoy these things and not think of the ‘gold medal’ at the end.

  2. My biggest fear? That my mentor will become bored with me. If you don’t get to that screenplay soon I’m going to be angry.

  3. You’ve convinced me! I wasn’t going to get this book, but now I am. Thank you! Wishing you much fun, energy and happiness in getting that screenplay out to the world.

  4. I truly need someone to set my butt on fire. And you and your screenplay. Girl, you are always full of surprises.😉

  5. I am afraid to think of myself again as an artist. Is that because I have spent a lifetime re-imagining myself as a businesswoman? Will one cancel the other out? Or is it because I think that I can never match the promise I had… or thought that I had… as a young woman? Or is it because I just won’t be any good? Wow, I think that this book is for me.