I hadn’t read any Elizabeth Gilbert before now, but some of my writing friends were reading this book, and it looked intriguing. I’m always up for a nonfiction about the writing process, since that’s the best way to procrastinate from actually writing.
Through a series of loosely connected almost-vignettes, Gilbert talks about her writing process, Inspiration (with a capital I), and whatever blocks our creativity (namely fear). It’s interesting stuff, hearing about how other writers work. They make it sound so magical, you know? Well, except for Anne Lamott, whose Bird by Bird is still the best book on writing that most young writers could read.
Gilbert has some useful ways of looking at creativity and inspiration. She talks about fear like they are old friends. She talks about inviting her fear and anxiety to tea, so they can sit together amicably and still get the work done. I like that.
Sometimes I found the prose a bit too—patronizing. Keep your day job is practical advice, but a little hypocritical, coming from someone who wrote a book that hit the New York Times Bestseller List in such a big way. Not that any big-time author should mislead aspiring authors to believe that it’s always possible for them to hit the big leagues. But it comes across as patronizing when I hear people like Gilbert or Sanderson talk about the “odds.” Writers can be adults and make their own damn decisions. Besides, not everyone is in it for the money and glory. Sure, that’d be great—but most of us write because to not write is to slowly go insane.
Anyway, Big Magic was light, and a fairly quick read. There are some interesting ideas in it, and some cool anecdotes. It’s worth a read if you’re looking to procrastinate a little by reading a book about writing. I would probably go with Pressfield’s The War of Art if you’re looking for something more motivational. Which isn’t to say I didn’t want to write by the time I finished reading Big Magic. That’s the beauty of books about writing. Glamorize the process a little bit, make it feel like magic, and you can inspire a reluctant writer to hit that page again.