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Littler Books cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear Summary

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear Summary and Quotes

Elizabeth Gilbert

2.3 minutes to read • Updated May 22, 2024

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An inspiring must-read guide to living the creative life you were born for.

Bullet Point Summary

  1. Creativity is about living curiously and finding the hidden gifts within you. Your gifts could be anything from painting to karate.
    1. β€œThe universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
  2. Ideas exist like breathing entities waiting to be brought to life. They exist independently of us like animals and plants. When a persistent thought grabs hold of you, pay attention. Don't let distractions and fear stop you from exploring it.
  3. Ideas drift until they find receptive creators ready to realize them.
    1. The author was inspired to write a novel set in the Amazon jungle but abandoned it. Soon another writer began to write a novel with an almost identical concept. To the author, it was clear the neglected idea found a new taker.
  4. Fear often makes us feel hesitant to pursue creative endeavors. Fear is natural and is a reminder of what matters to us. We need to accept them and coexist with them.
    1. β€œIt seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.”
  5. Your inner critic often tries to convince you that you'll fail. To combat this, give yourself confident permission to pursue your art. Declare your creative identity and say out loud β€œI'm a writer/musician/runner/etc.!”
  6. β€œYou can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
  7. Rejection is impersonal. We all will face it before we achieve success.
    1. One of the author's stories was once dismissed by an editor, then years later, after the author became famous, she sent the same story to the editor again, and this time the editor decided it was amazing and special.
  8. Your art is for you, not an audience. Get passionate about sharing what you want to share. It doesn't have to be wholly original, nothing truly is, just be authentic.
  9. Focus on enjoying the creative journey. Let go of goals and desired outcomes. Basing creativity on external validation or fixed aims makes success contingent on forces outside your control. This reliance makes you more likely to give up if goals aren't achieved.
  10. Creativity is born from real world living experiences and an open mind. Many creative people often feel pressure to legitimize their passion with academic credentials, but this isn't required to create.
  11. You can keep your day job to support creative pursuits -- approach creative work like an affair.
    1. Before fame, Toni Morrison and J.K. Rowling stole time from their routine lives to indulge in their writing affairs. These become beloved rituals amid daily grinds.
    2. Keeping your day job removes pressure from your art. Your art suffers and your enjoyment of creating it diminishes when you rely on it to provide financially.
  12. When an idea first comes, work with it cooperatively. Think of the idea as a creative partner deserving dignity and respect. Don't fret, fight it, ignore it, or procrastinate. Give it the attention it deserves by getting more rest to be alert and scheduling uninterrupted work time.
  13. Let yourself feel satisfied with progress.
  14. All creative pursuits have obstacles. Don't avoid them -- accept them as equal parts of the job. Building the ability to cope with obstacles is as integral to creating as the act itself.
  15. β€œIt's a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”
  16. Perfectionism is a major creativity killer. Perfection is impossible -- there will always be flaws you or others see. Striving for perfection is pointless, so create imperfectly.
    1. β€œDone is better than good.”
  17. Perfectionism seems like having high standards but really manifests from the fear of unworthiness or insecurity.
  18. To remain creative long-term:
    1. Hunt for creative time in "between" moments like before bed or commutes.
    2. Cultivate curiosity about everything and notice clues to new creative ideas.
    3. Reframe all work, especially misses, as "interesting" -- an attitude that encourages growth, not giving up.
    4. Never view any of your creative output as sacred or the crowning achievement. You can always create something better (or worse) in the future. It doesn't matter as long as you keep enjoying the process.

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