Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a great way to get my New Year off to creative start! Join me for a Read Along. Last week, we discussed Part I, Courage. This week, we’re talking about Part II, Enchantment. We’re still only 78 pages into this short book, so there’s plenty of time for you to join the Read Along — we’re taking the whole month of January.

Share your thoughts on your blog and post it on the link list below, or on tomorrow’s list that’s about progress on the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge. Or, simply share your experience in the comments.

The reading guide (pdf) on Elizabeth Gilbert’s website suggested that we draw a picture of our “daemon” or external genius as a reflection on the Enchantment section of Big Magic. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to draw and I feared a revolt among Read Along participants, so I came up with a couple of traditional discussion questions.

In the Enchantment section of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her fanciful notion that ideas are life-forms looking for human collaborators to help them manifest. What ideas have been knocking on your door recently, asking to partner with you to be made real?

When I’m open to the notion of ideas knocking on my door, I get a swarm of them:

  • Give photo-rich presentations about Cuba at local libraries
  • Start doing the Dreaming of France meme again in preparation for another trip there
  • Put up more potential itineraries for the England portion of that trip in the British Isles Friday meme
  • Write travel articles about Cuba, England, and France
  • Include photographs with those articles
  • Write a book (or two or three) about Cuba, England, and France
  • Start an e-book business
  • Host a year-long Compassionate Sundays series to work through the book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
  • Learn in Public about any or all of the above

I’m open to opinion on all of these ideas. Are there any in particular that you would like to see me implement?

Another of Elizabeth Gilbert’s magical notions is that our genius is something that sits outside of us, not within us, and we aren’t entirely responsible for its behavior. When we do well, we owe some of the credit to our genius. When we don’t, some of the failure can be attributed to the absent genius. I’ve loved this idea since she talked about it in her TED talk. How does externalizing your genius help you take a less angst-filled approach to your creativity?

I’m often of the opinion that I’m doing it wrong, or doing the wrong thing. By thinking of my creativity as a daemon or genius that exists outside of myself, I increase the trust in the process. I’m less inclined to think that my externalized genius is doing the wrong thing, so if she is pushing me on a certain path, then it’s the right thing to do right now. In actuality, it matters much less what I do than that I do something (besides Facebook and computer games), so this little bit of trust is enough to keep me from getting stuck.

In the end, I did draw my daemon. I decided that she’s a cross between Joy (of Inside Out), Jeeves (of Jeeves and Wooster), and a flower fairy.

Joy's Daemon


My “Genius” Inspired by Big Magic #ReadAlong — 14 Comments

  1. I will have to add Big Magic to my list for later in the year. I already tried one readalong this year and it didn’t work so I don’t think I’ll try this one, but at least I have a book to add to my TBR.

    Compassionate Sunday series: we all need more compassion. I’m not familiar with the book but it sounds good. The British Isles Friday meme: more itineraries for England since it fits well with the theme. Those are my votes.

  2. Hmm, read-alongs have never worked for me before…and I probably wouldn’t start with this author’s book.

    Okay, I really hated Eat Pray Love…LOL. Not the movie as much as the book, so I’ve pretty much dismissed her other books.

    But I could be wrong. So I’ll withhold judgment until I learn more. Thanks for sharing. Love your cartoon.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    • The Signature of all Things is a really great novel, ok not the same as reading nonfiction, but I believe it’s her best work yet. If you like historical fiction, you might wish to give it a try. Big Magic is a book to read si a filter, like most books on writing, inspiration, creativity, some of its messages will be for us, others really won’t.

  3. I found the concept of ideas being external to the mind an interesting one and it reminded me of an interview I read in The Sun by the scientist/thinker Rupert Sheldrake, who theorises about a similar concept in relation to memory, given we do not have evidence yet of where exactly memory actually resides. he supports the notion that it exists outside of us, in places and locations and that those places trigger memory.

    I liked the concept that ideas might exist like this, but I was also concerned about my literary projects that have not had any attention for quite a while, her theory suggests I may have to abandon them, as they’ve moved on elsewhere! But I also get, that that does happen, once we’ve been out of that zone of inspiration and momentum for a while, it can be every hard, if not impossible to pick it back up.

  4. I downloaded the ebook from the library to try and join in the readalong but haven’t read that far into it yet, so I didn’t know about the drawing exercise. I love your daemon! I have a lot of ideas swarming me all the time, and most never come to fruition. All of your ideas sound intriguing. Now, combining Big Magic with Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which ones “bring you joy” when you see them? 😉

  5. Oh my goodness, I can’t think that deeply this early in the morning! I liked Eat, Pray, Love but have not read her other books. Seems to me to be so able to explore your outside creativity and such, one must have a great deal of financial independence. Unfortunately, that is not the case in my world. Lately, my creativity has been embarking on a 91 Day De-Clutter challenge. But on a more positive note, I like the idea of Compassionate Sunday.

  6. Joy, I love all your ideas and I can’t wait to see what you decide to do. But, I especially hope you’ll start playing along with Dreaming of France again.
    I’m not crazy about the idea of creativity being a separate entity. I think it’s inside our brains and we need to unlock it.

  7. I love it! Very creative (and adorable, too). I’m like you – have trouble letting go & being creative. I like how you put it – always afraid I’m doing it wrong! I can be too analytical for my own good 🙂

    Hope you are enjoying the weekend –


    Book By Book

  8. I’ve been considering reading “Big Magic.” Let’s just say I’m not a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, but this one sounds interesting enough that I might read it anyway.

  9. Pingback: Persistence for Creative Big Magic #ReadAlong | Joy's Book Blog

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