I’ve been meaning to do a few more book reviews on this here blog. I kind of have a hard time getting around to it most of the time, but since I’m laid up with a maimed ankle…! I’ve got the time!
Big Magic is by Elizabeth Gilbert, and you’ve got to know that she’s not even writing this for YOU. She’s writing this for herself, for FUN, because she likes writing and the creative process in and of itself makes her happy.
I had to remind myself of that when I got to around the “90% done” mark on kindle. It was just kind of like… “how jolly nice, Liz, that you’ve done everything so… very right in your life! Happy for you! But now I’m 42 and you are only 4 years older than me and I’m feeling like a big, fat failure.”
Aside from that little feeling that I got at that particular time, I loved this book. It’s like a great conversation with a funny, wise and successful friend. It is full of good advice, and a lot of the advice is stuff that I think creative young folk should read. So much of this is true and so much of the truth of it I learned the hard way, late. Like the pieces about degrees and validation – that if we are looking for a creative life, nothing is really going to take the place of practice, and we don’t need the validation that a degree provides.
Which is to say, we don’t need someone’s permission to be creative or practice art in whatever form. We need to just do it.
The other thing I really liked was her bit about being a “deeply disciplined half-ass.”
She says that we need to forget about being perfect, that we don’t “have time for perfect” because “perfectionism stops people from completing their work…” She also says that, “the most evil trick about perfectionism though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue” and that “perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear… perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, “I am not good enough and I will never be good enough.”
I liked that part a lot because I get it. I’m not a perfectionist because I know that if I am, I never get it done. I never get that post published, I never get that piece submitted, I never wrap up a painting or share a photo that I took. Because I am (very) aware that everything I create is imperfect; I can see the imperfection even as I share it! But if I hold on to it until it’s totally perfect, I’ll be holding on forever. And that’s a fact.
So, that’s it! I wanted to share this with you because I don’t know if you’ve been like me, kind of searching for something that lights a fire under my ass, creatively-speaking. Something that maybe sort of helps me frame things or understand things better. While I loved this book for the great read it provides, I don’t think it was that (ass-lighting fire) for me.
But I do wish I had read it 20 years ago (and believed what Liz has to say): it would have saved me a lot of time.