Monday, January 25, 2016

Reads for Writers: The Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Provides a Masterclass

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

        Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don't generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.

          In The Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity. Under these categories, she shares her own stories as well as stories told to her by friends and strangers. One of my favorites is about a costume party that could have gone badly awry, but courage and trust saved the evening. (“Walk Proudly” on page 260.)

          I saw Gilbert discussing this book on Well Read on PBS. During the interview, Gilbert was funny, warm, and encouraging anyone who wanted to live a creative life to live one. She states: I’m talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear. (page 9)

          Gilbert who travels the world, speaks in front of crowds, and publishes books about her life, discusses how many fears she had while growing up—some legitimate and some hilarious—and how she decided to get over many of them thanks to her parents and the examples they set.

          She gives us words of wisdom like:

“…you have treasures hidden within you—extraordinary treasures—and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing these treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.” (page 27)

“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your success or failures. You can battle your demons…instead of battling your gifts… You can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting—its partner…” (page 41)

          I love Gilbert’s theory of ideas showcased in “How Ideas Work” on page 34, “An Idea Goes Away” on page 47 and “The Tiger’s Tale” on page 64. Her advice on finding ideas: “…Trust in the miraculous truth that new and marvelous ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day…Let them know you are available.” (page 49)

          She tells an enchanted tale of friendship with author Ann Patchett starting with “Wizardry” on page 49 through “Multiple Discovery” on page 61. It will amaze you.

          The Big Magic is not just for writers. It’s meant for anyone who wants to be creative, to follow their gifts, to find joy in their work and life.

“An Amplified Existence” on page 9 tells the story of a woman who loved ice skating as a girl, but gave it up when she wasn’t talented enough to be a champion. At 40, she took up skating again. “It was a revolution. A literal revolution, as she spun to life again on the ice.” (page 11)

“And while paths and outcomes of creative living will vary wildly from person to person, I can guarantee you this: A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.” (page 12)

Any creative person will find The Big Magic a tour de force.

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