I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book called Big Magic, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a book that resonated with me as much as this one.
I started reading it as I went through CPY teacher training/extensions, and so much of it was exactly what I needed to hear. Do you ever read a book and feel more like it’s a conversation with a friend than anything else? That’s how I felt as I read this… my copy is highlighted like crazy and I’ve already given it out as a gift a few times. If you have even an ounce of a creative spirit (which I believe all of us do), the lessons in here are invaluable. So let’s talk about them!
1) Be Brave.
“Most of all, though, he asked his students to be brave. Without bravery, he instructed, they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities.”
This quote is in the context of a larger story that she uses to kick off the book, but I love how it applies to all of us. It takes bravery to look within ourselves, figure out what we want, go for it, explore, grow, discover new things, love, change directions… and on that note…
“I want to live the most vividly decorated temporary life that I can. I don’t just mean physically; I mean emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. I don’t want to be afraid of bright colors, or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavors, or sudden changes, or even failure.”
Yes yes yes yes yes! There’s a big world out there, and we can choose to live from a place of fear and comfort and guardedness, or we can choose to live from a place of optimism and adventure and joy because we GET to be here.
2) Be curious.
“I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
It’s great to be brave, but what does that even mean if you aren’t also curious about the world around you – and more importantly, yourself? A lot of people don’t take the time to really look inward, but I’ve learned (and seen) how transforming that can be. It’s not always easy to uncover all of the unique things that makes you you, but possibilities will start to open up around you when you take the time to acknowledge “whatever causes a revolution in your heart” – including your interests, obsessions, compulsions, and talents.
“I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The courage to go on that hunt – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”
When I first read this, a huge smile came across my face. I’m drawn to a lot of different things and I’ve had a lot of jobs throughout my twenties, but after reading this, I’m proud of myself for exploring all of those options, because it has helped me find those “strange jewels” that are buried within me. And I believe there are way more for me to find – isn’t that such a lovely thought?
3) Be proud of yourself. Even when you fail.
“You can dare to be pleased sometimes with what you have created. (And if a project doesn’t work out, you can always think of it as having been a worthwhile and constructive experiment.)”
This one is huge. A lot of us, especially women, want to be seen as humble – but why shouldn’t we celebrate our accomplishments?! What’s so wrong with that? I was on the freaking Today Show this year! Damn right, I’m going to be proud of that! At the same time, I love how she acknowledges “failure,” as well. Just because something doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean that it didn’t help you get to where you are today. I was so self conscious about my lack of a career when I was pursuing acting, and now I realize how much I learned during that time. Perseverance, hard work, patience, developing a thick skin, etc. It also taught me that life is too short to suffer, which leads me to the next lesson…
4) Don’t suffer.
There is a whole section in the book about this that you need to read, but I love that she calls out the fact that disappointment and frustration are parts of creative living. That is something that people can have trouble understanding, but it’s true.
“Creative living is stranger than other, more worldly pursuits. The usual rules do not apply. In normal life, if you’re good at something and you work hard at it, you will likely succeed. In creative endeavors, maybe not. Or maybe you will succeed for a spell, and then never succeed again.”
That seems unfair, right? Well, yes… but it also depends what you’re doing and how you feel about it. A few years ago, it was beyond discouraging to me that working hard didn’t correlate at all with success. Why even TRY then? Well, it turns out that I didn’t love what I was doing anymore. I didn’t love the industry, I didn’t love the people, I didn’t love the audition process, and I didn’t even love it when I did book a job. All in all, I lost the LOVE. There was so much pressure around making money (another major point she discusses in the book), that I forgot why I was choosing to suffer so much.
There is a weird line between “life is short, so you should do what you want” and “life is short, so you shouldn’t be miserable in the name of doing what you want.” Trust me, this is something I’ve struggled with like WOAH, and it’s just one of the many reasons why yoga has been so great for me. Coming to my mat gives me the time to reflect and really ask myself these questions:
“So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?”
And yes, I know – if I didn’t want to even come close to “suffering” then wouldn’t I just avoid all of these creative endeavors, stick to my day job, and be done with it?! I hear where you’re coming from, and when I’m really overwhelmed, I wish I could do that too. Trust me 😉 And yet for some reason, I can’t! I know, I know, call me crazy… but creating content and connecting with all of you through this blog, and now also through yoga, is what keeps me present and open, instead of merely going through the motions.
“Against all sound advice, people will stubbornly keep trying to make pleasing things for no particularly good reason, as we always have done.Is it sometimes a difficult path? Sure. Does it make for an interesting life? The most.”
5) Be supportive.
”You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging the truth that there’s plenty of room for everyone.”
Oh baby, this one is important. I didn’t feel this as much when I was in the auditioning zone because it’s naturally so competitive – but in the blogging world, and even the yoga world, I am drawn to the people who feel this way. When it comes to creative efforts, there really IS room for everyone because everyone brings something different to the table. If you are staying true to who you are, there will be someone out there in the world that resonates with what you’re saying. I’ve also learned to take a step back from those who are very competitive or who will do whatever it takes for them to get ahead. Not because I think they are bad people, but because I know that isn’t the kind of energy I personally relate to. It all comes down to being kind, and taking a step forward or a step back from friendships in order to find a place that allows you to do that. Who wants animosity involved when it feels so good to tell a brand that you aren’t the right fit for their project, but you know who is; or when someone does the same for you? Find those kinds of people and be that kind of person. There’s room for everyone.
6) Trust the process.
”Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.”
I’m convinced that this is the hardest lesson of them all. A few years ago, I kept saying “I just want to get to the good part!” And compared to that time, I’m pretty much living the good part right now! That being said, I still find myself struggling to keep my head above water and constantly feel like I’m falling behind. Luckily, this book helped me realize that it’s all about perspective. All of those times that I wanted to fast forward, were actually the moments that helped me realize I needed to make changes in my life. And when I made those changes, good things followed. So as I sit here, finishing a post in the early hours of the morning, I realize I shouldn’t wish away this crazy time of “doing too much”. I’m doing it to myself because I’m choosing to follow my own compulsions. I can breathe through the overwhelm and work hard to get to the next phase. Because at the end of the day, I’m trusting that the work I’m doing now will lead me to another level. And that would be pretty cool.
Have you guys read Big Magic? What stood out to you the most?
Share the post "6 Lessons I Learned from Big Magic"
July 27, 2016 @ 4:15 pm
It's such a great book. That and anything by Brene Brown!
July 27, 2016 @ 8:28 pm
Yes yes yes I loved big magic–need to read it again already! And again and again! I loved it so much–my career is a creative one and my side hustle is as well! It definitely gave me some new energy especially going into review season at work (helped me to ask "the big questions" of myself in terms of what I want and need out of my career) and it gave me new perspective on what I want to get out of all my creative pursuits and others I have a need to pursue that I didn't realize! Thanks for sharing your thoughts–put a smile on my face reading these excerpts again and hearing what you got out of it! Xo!
July 28, 2016 @ 5:59 pm
What a great post. I have yet to read Big Magic but have heard nothing but amazing things! I'm for sure going to have to pick up this one soon – I could use the extra reminders and motivation 🙂
Blair Culwell Staky
July 28, 2016 @ 6:14 pm
Totally going to buy this book now! Sounds like something I would love 🙂
August 3, 2016 @ 2:50 pm
Great post! I can't wait to read Big Magic – I keep hearing great things.
August 4, 2016 @ 2:10 am
Yes! I love this book, and these are such great takeaways. Especially be curious. 🙂 That's the motto of my life, and my blog!
Laura (bright and beautiful)
September 15, 2016 @ 4:27 pm
These are all wonderful takeaways to keep in mind!