Put a group of writers together to talk about creativity and sparks will fly, sparks of inspiration that is. Such was the case at the last Writers as Readers (WaR) Book Club meeting as we discussed Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book on creativity, Big Magic (http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/).
Gilbert’s approach is a fresh one, based on the concepts in her famous TED talk “Your Elusive Creative Genius”, and her popular Facebook posts. She speaks of creativity being serious business but that it should also be taken lightly; “art is absolutely meaningless,” writes Gilbert. “It is, however, also deeply meaningful” (pg 134). The idea being that, to live artistically, your creativity must be one of the most important things in the world to you, however, don’t take yourself so seriously that you scare yourself into not creating or not sharing your work with the world. “You have to make a lot of room in your head for her paradoxes,” remarked Mary Lamphere.
Gilbert gave voice to my own feelings that we are all creators. She views her creativity as a universal energy force that yearns for expression; one that beckons us to play, invent, engage, and explore this magnificent existence that we happen to be experiencing together.
Does your writing love you was a worldview posited by Gilbert that several members found very powerful. In the section entitled “Trust”, Gilbert shared an anecdote about an environmental teacher who started each new class by asking his students if they loved nature. All hands naturally went up. Then he asked them if they felt that nature loved them and all hands went down.
Gilbert feels that this is a problem not only of environmentalists but of artists, and people in general, as well. We have lost the sense of being in a “reciprocal emotional relationship” with the universe. Gilbert views her creativity as a conversation with the universe, “giving a spiritual quality to creativity,” Deborah Lucas noted.
Although there were complaints of redundancies throughout the book, most agreed that it was an easy read. “It felt like you were having a conversation, like you were eavesdropping. And I like eavesdropping,” commented Cindy Kremer. And what are we as writers but eavesdroppers.
Gilbert is not an advocate of advanced degrees for writers, believing that they are superfluous. A few WaR members were offended feeling that her opinion was a bit extreme. Gilbert’s recommendation is to become a student of life; travel, follow your curiosity, surround yourself with other creative people, live, or as Mary Lamphere put it “life should be general education”.
The most important take aways for me from Big Magic were to let go of perfection, “done is better than good” (pg 175) and to view my need to create as a collaboration between myself and the universe. If those sentiments speak to you as well, then I recommend you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.