5 Lessons I’ve Learnt From Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

Whenever I’m in a major transition (such as now, having moved to New York a couple of months ago), I find myself reading more personal development books. I’ve just finished Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman and already started on Be Your Future Self Now by Dr. Benjamin Hardy, both of which are fantastic.


From a writing perspective, the closest book to self-help for writers I’ve found is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I must have read it at least five times and still come away learning something new each time. Gilbert shares her wisdom and unique perspective on creativity offering potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration.


If you haven’t read it, I recommend it for anyone who is working on an artistic endeavor. In the meantime, I thought I would share the top five lessons I’ve learnt from this book, along with some excerpts, in the hope they will provide some encouragement and inspiration for you.


Lesson 1: You can’t control what people think of your work


“Recognizing that people's reactions don't belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you've created, terrific. If people ignore what you've created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you've created, don't sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you've created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest - as politely as you possibly can - that they go make their own f****** art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”


Lesson 2: You art will never be perfect


“We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.) At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is—if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”


Lesson 3: Focus more on the process than the outcome


“You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don't understand the outcome.”


Lesson 4: Trust your own intuition


“The hairs on my neck stood up for an instant, and I felt like I was falling in love, or had just heard alarming news, or was looking over a precipice at something beautiful and mesmerizing, but dangerous. I’d experienced these symptoms before, so I knew immediately what was going on. Such an intense emotional and physiological reaction doesn’t strike me often, but it happens enough (and is consistent enough with symptoms reported by people all over the world, all throughout history) that I believe I can confidently call it by its name: inspiration.This is what it feels like when an idea comes to you.”


Lesson 5: Write regularly whether you feel like it or not


“I work either way, you see - assisted or unassisted - because that is what you must do in order to live a fully creative life. I work steadily, and I always thank the process. Whether I am touched by grace or not, I thank creativity for allowing me to engage with it at all.”


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