Join us for the final discussion of our latest book club pick: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The world is full of opinions. This is not news. Opinions of what’s good, what’s bad, what’s worthy and unworthy of our attention. Humans everywhere just love to state their thoughts on pretty much everything, whether they have cause to or not — nowhere is this more apparent than the Internet. Just look at any comments section anywhere, it’s a fact of life. Everyone’s right… everyone’s wrong. In Divinity, the final section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling book Big Magic, she shares an anecdote about Balinese dancers. Essentially (and please forgive my gross abbreviation), the dancers — whose dances were considered holy in Balinese culture — and the priests noticed how much western visitors enjoyed watching the dances being performed in the temples, and so decided to make things easy and more comfortable (and profitable) by bringing the dancing to the westerners, performing right at the resorts. Some of these westerners, out of perhaps guilt and/or highmindedness, were appalled and insisted that the dancing be performed in the temples and not the hotels. After bit of run-around, the dances that were once holy became workaday, and the dances that were created especially for the occasion of performing for visitors took their place as the most sacred. Some people were happy, some were not. Opinions were likely stated. Everyone’s right… everyone’s wrong. So basically, do your thing as long as it’s not hurting anyone or anything, and ignore what everyone else thinks. You’re good.
And really, that’s my takeaway from this book. Just do your thing. Everything is cyclical. Art is both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult. Often, our expectations get the better of us, or our own perceptions of ourselves and what we think we should do or be. It can be painful to be a creator — whether you’re a writer, painter, photographer, a whatever — but we should not strive to make it so, or consider ourselves more worthy if our art is particularly hard. Many artists stop working entirely, their spark dying out before they get to the good stuff. I didn’t want to be one of those artists, which is what lead me to pick up this book in the first place. But I’m not sure my own creativity — or thoughts thereof — was particularly shifted after reading it. Gilbert is undeniably inspiring in her prose, but for me, I believe immersion to be more inspiring. I love reading, but in a way, Big Magic was just another opinion thrown into the mix. I found the stories sprinkled throughout — Herzog, Waits, the Balinese dancers — to be more interesting. For me, being surrounded by art, in a museum or gallery, or observing the past iterations of an influential artist — Bowie, as a sorrowful example — inspires within me a far stronger desire to GO MAKE. To put my own two hands to work.
That’s not to say this book is not worth reading. Would I recommend Big Magic? Yes, definitely. If you are struggling creatively or meditating on your own artistic practice, it is absolutely worth your time. It provides a healthy reminder that our creativity is ours, something to be exercised and valued. We must put it to use, otherwise, our lives will be far less colorful and far more drab. Our art may not be shown in a museum, you may choose to keep it entirely to yourself even, but it must be made. But don’t depend on this one book to give you all the answers or solve the riddle of your own artistic ventures, that’s up to you. But that’s just my opinion.
+ What did you think of Big Magic? What makes you feel most inspired to create?