Review: ‘Big Magic’


Review: ‘Big Magic’ advice relatable to creators and collegiates alike


They say not to judge a book by its cover, but Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” looks like a piece of art, and reads like one too.

Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love,” released “Big Magic” last year as a motivational tome for anyone wishing to live a more creative life. This includes those driven by an interest in fine arts or writing as well as anyone who wants to put curiosity at the forefront of decision making. While Gilbert seems to regard creativity as a religion at times, the “Big Magic” was both beautiful and inspiring on the inside and out.

The book is geared toward typically creative types, especially writers, but has lessons applicable to any college student. Here’s what stuck with me most:

Make space for healthy fear: “You do not need fear in the realm of creative expression,” Gilbert writes. It will always be there, she adds, but it should not be in the driver’s seat. Learn to coexist with fear, and understand that it can be a good thing. Sure, taking a hard class outside your major may be scary, but it might also illuminate your interest in another field. Or, it might reassure you that you picked the right major in the first place. Either way, you’ll gain perspective and knowledge.

Let curiosity drive you: Gilbert calls curiosity the “alpha and omega” of creative living. When your excitement starts to wane, ask yourself ‘what’s something I’m interested in?’ It can be big, small, relevant to school or seemingly random. Follow those questions that arise throughout your day, even if they seem insignificant. Watch a TED talk that looks interesting, and see where it takes you. One of Gilbert’s best-selling books came out of a slight interest in gardening. There is so much to learn outside the classroom (and off Snapchat) if you just take time to listen to your own thoughts and questions.

Make time for the things you like, and don’t think you have to be the best at them: Millennials live in a resume-driven world. Since high school or even before, each extra-curricular, internship and job has been decided based on how it will fit into the *plan.* It’s crucial to allow yourself time to find and enjoy activities you like, not just ones you love or that fit into the aforementioned plan. Am I ever going to be Roger Federer? Not a chance. Will I write an article about tennis for a future job? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy an afternoon playing tennis from time to time. Doing this can help sharpen your mind, too. Gilbert says Albert Einstein used to play the violin when he was having a hard time solving a math puzzle. Apparently he called this strategy “combinatory play.” Einstein isn’t remembered for his violin skills, but it helped him out — and if it worked for Einstein, it can work for us.

Embrace the sh*t sandwich: Basically, there are always going to be disappointments and frustrations in life. When it comes to making a living, decide what you enjoy enough to make the bad parts worthwhile. Gilbert put it this way: “If you truly want to be a minister, you don’t mind listening to other people’s problems. If you truly want to see the world, you’ll risk getting pickpocketed on a train. If you truly want to practice figure skating, you’ll get up before dawn on cold mornings to go to the ice rink and skate.” If you really want something, the occasional (or frequent) sh*t sandwich it comes with will be worth it. And finally, stop asking permission: We’re not in grade school; we no longer have to raise our hands to leave class. However, college students tend to continue asking permission, sometimes silently, for our actions. When choosing a major, we ask, will my parents approve? Society? How about my friends? When deciding what to do over the weekend, we again ask, what are other people doing? Am I “college-ing” enough? Breathe. You don’t need permission to pursue an “impractical career,” if it’s what will make you happy. You are an adult now, you get to decide what is permissible in your own life.

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