7 Takeaways from Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic
Big Magic

I love this book. Read it twice in 2 weeks and am making some serious changes as a result. My key takeaways along with a very impressive illustrative quote from Gilbert:

1. Be your own patron. “To yell at your creativity, saying, ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

2. Chose your shit sandwich. “Every single pursuit–no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem–comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects…The question is ‘What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?”

3. There is no enough. There is only do. “Most individuals have never had enough time, and they’ve never had enough resources, and they’ve never had enough support or patronage or reward…and yet still they persist in creating….They persist because they are called to be makers, by any means necessary.”

4. Give your mind a job. “Possessing a creative mind, after all, is something like having a border collie for a pet: It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.)”

5. Forget about perfect. “Putting forth work that is far from perfect rarely stops men from participating in the global cultural conversation. Just sayin’.”

6. Your ideas need you. “The earth is not indifferent to us, but rather calling for our gifts in return for hers–the reciprocal nature of life and creativity…Nature provides the seed; man provides the garden; each is grateful for the other’s help.” Later “If the only thing an idea wants is to be made manifest, then why would that idea deliberately harm you, when you are the one who might be able to bring it forth?”

7. Work with stubborn gladness. “Inspiration is always trying to work with me. So I sit there and I work, too. That’s the deal. I trust it; it trusts me…..The work wants to be made and it wants to be made through you.”

There’s much more of value in there. There’s the antidote to every wrongheaded though historical concepts that plague artists. Like pain? There’s an antidote in here. Think your art needs to destroy you? There’s an antidote in here. Think it’s all about your genius? There’s an antidote in here. Seriously, if you are an artist or know an artist, this is a must read. It will help you continue to create art in partnership and with stubborn gladness.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I liked EG’s TED talk on this topic and have listened to NPR interviews about it. I should read the book. I should also send you a really long email, because I can’t seem to sit down to write a letter, and I’ve missed your influence, and to say, “a lot has been happening,” is a gross understatement!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Amy! Thank you! I watched her TED talk awhile ago and loved her separation of genius from self. You are an influential force yourself and would LOVE to hear what’s going on with you! We can talk on the phone if that’s easier?


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