Big Magic and the Creative Urge

When I was about half way through reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I realized that I wanted to remember the important parts of this book. The book called out to me: Pay close attention! So I started at the beginning again and took notes this time, consciously gathering the gold nuggets.

Liz introduces us to Jack Gilbert (no relation to her), a poet who just happened to have taught at the same University a few years before she landed there taking over his teaching position. She quotes him: “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world” (p. 6). Jack encouraged his students to be brave and to bring forth their innate treasures. The “ruthless furnace” of the world; that expression really stuck with me. The world is churning, moving at a relentless pace, burning, flooding, and we are just such tiny cogs in the monster wheel of life. We can easily get crushed by the ruthlessness of this wheel, go up unnoticed in this furnace. That puts things into perspective, doesn’t it!?

frog and red vase

So why don’t we all follow our creative urges and bring forth what’s inside of us?
Because of fear, that’s why. Liz lists all the possible fears – fear of not having talent, being rejected, criticized, being compared to others, of not being good enough. She mentioned that this was a bottomless list and that she had felt all of these fears intimately.

“We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun” (p. 13).

dried persimmon

Fear kills our creative urges. She suggests that, instead of fighting the fear, we allow it and creativity to co-exist. Because we can’t allow the fear to hold us back: “…the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small” (p. 27).


She talks about the need for us to acknowledge what we are: I am a writer, I am a dancer, I am a singer. No such thing as I am trying to be a writer!
She counters the fear of not being original enough, the fear that whatever we have to express has already been done: “…once you put your own expression and passion behind an idea, that idea becomes yours” ( p. 97).

She asks that we don’t do what we are driven to do to save the world. Instead, “….[make] your art in order to save yourself, or to relieve yourself of some great psychic burden, rather than to save or relieve us” (p. 99). That is a relief, isn’t it – do this for me, with all my heart, honoring the need that drives me. If it is helpful to others as well, all the better. It is highly likely that others will relate and understand – after all, any human emotion or experience has already been experienced many times over, right?

two ducks in sparkling water

She addresses the paradox of art being both meaningless and meaningful. After all, art is not necessary for our physical survival. What is necessary is air, water, food, and shelter. The rest is the frosting on the cake. And, yet, our soul can shrivel up if we can’t do our art, so art becomes a meaningful motivator and activity in our life. Creative expression allows us to escape the routines and boredom of our regular life, lifts us into a transcendent space.

green marble

Liz talks about separating the soul’s need from the ego needs. The ego wants successful outcomes – money, fame, adoration, praise. But by allowing the ego to direct our creative impulse, we are stifling it, putting parameters on it that it cannot possibly fit into, even killing it. We must create for the sake of creation rather than the hope of becoming famous and making a lot of money.

bunch of ground cherries on the rock

What this book did for me: it freed me from wondering what will happen to my writings, my photographs, my ideas. It released me from the need to somehow make it amount to something important, something successful. It handed me back the sheer pleasure of self-expression. What does it matter how many blog followers I have by the end of the year, or how many blog posts I publish? The bread and butter of my creative expression is the freedom to play, to allow my spirit to dance and flow, to connect with like-minded souls, and to marvel in the Beauty of it all.

single ground cherry

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert!

About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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54 Responses to Big Magic and the Creative Urge

  1. lollastewart says:

    Oh thank you so much, Annette!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  2. bythebriny says:

    Such wise advice that is always good to be reminded of. Lovely photos too!


  3. Maria F. says:

    I agree. The creative energies must flow out spontaneously, and that means being free from what others think or whether we’re labeled a certain way.


  4. Beautiful photos and reminders to allow and nurture our creative spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. glendanp says:

    You’ve captured the Big Magic so well Annette! Once again your photography is moving and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!


  6. I just recently read an article about this book on brainpickings. I was so moved by it. I simply will have to read the whole book. This in particular spoke volumes to me:
    “Surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you. I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. 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 deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.
    The hunt to uncover those jewels β€” that’s creative living.
    The courage to go on that hunt in the first place β€” that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.
    The often surprising results of that hunt β€” that’s what I call Big Magic.”

    Happy New Year, Annette πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Follow what your spirit tells you with no fears. Thank you, for this post. I will have to look for her book.


  8. Val Boyko says:

    Lovely post. It’s very freeing to acknowledge all of who we are and to share it with the world. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very nicely put Annette, and a great reminder to create for creations sake rather than with thoughts of what will happen to our creations! Like you I use my blog as a creative place to play πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ladysighs says:

    Good thoughts and so well expressed. WP allows us to release those creative ideas etc. It feels good to write my poems and see them published. I hope others might enjoy but the real delight for me is the work and effort that goes into making a post. Finding a graphic, writing and rewriting, arranging and rearranging. Then finally clicking and seeing it appear. πŸ™‚

    The last picture you posted looks like a golden pin to wear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, WP is a great platform for us to play and dance with our creativity.
      That last picture is of a little ground cherry, still in its husk that has gradually deteriorated. It does look like a little jewel. Thank you so much for your comment and support over time, Lady.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    Beautiful photos, Annette. I don’t know that book. I will have to check it out. Thanks.
    Playing and creating! Yes!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Katalina4 says:

    Beautiful! I was reading it then had to take it back to the library…you’ve reminded me to request it again!
    Those photos are so lovely too.


  13. wildsherkin says:

    It’s now on my list! A great reminder now that work and life is squeezing out my creative time again. Thank you for sharing… and your images are beautiful. P


  14. I loved the photos and your post has really pushed me to get the book at read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks, Annette.


  16. Sounds like a very wise book! The way I see it, when we write, it is our chance to do magic!


  17. kim says:

    This sounds like a great read, thank you for sharing these snippets… I especially liked the part about creating for the right reasons… wise words indeed!


  18. I think every writer would be able to relate to this post from the fear regarding self doubts and the pesky inner critic to wanting your work to mean something. I agree with you (and Elizabeth Gilbert) self-expression is why we write. I’d write whether anyone read my work or not but I have to admit it does give me a buzz knowing my work is being read. I’ll have to get the Elizabeth Gilbert book and have a look at it. Sounds good.


  19. The very things I have said, on art and expression. (Which we each say our own way. =) )
    “handed me back the sheer pleasure of self-expression” Love this. Anne Lamott cites a fellow writer who set out to write a short, bad book. Bc she set out with the freedom to “fail” or fall short, she was able to savor the pleasure of the process…and then actually expand it into what became a hit.


  20. I am grateful to have stumbled upon your blog! This post really hit home for me. I tend to wonder at times if my art is enough (more so enough for others), when in reality it is always enough for me as long as I do it. I love your photos and you now have me as a lifer πŸ˜‰ ~ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  21. wvbirder says:

    Very nice. We get to this but once. And how awful it is to not find the freedom to enjoy it. Thank you.


  22. I absolutely adore Big Magic! Such a brilliant book x


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