Book Review: Big Magic

As someone who considers themselves a creative person, I was curious to see what kind of perspective and advice Big Magic had.  And I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest!

To preface, over the past year or so I’ve come to realize how incredibly important it is to honor your body’s natural rhythms and cycles: the shift of energy we experience with the seasons, the change in appetite or food interests throughout the course of a month or year, the impact of hormone cycles, etc.  Creativity and inspiration are no exception to the concept of cycles, and learning to work with these ebbs and flows rather than against them is crucial.

Creative inspiration can strike anyone at any moment – it just comes in different forms.  Learning to listen to it and see it almost like a separate entity can help you have a better relationship with your creative pursuits.  Whether it’s trying to think of a plot to a book, a color palette to a painting, or a product line for a brand, there’s an infinite number of possibilities to the ideas that can be made manifest.

I’ve experienced this firsthand, and can tell you that sometimes these ideas never come to fruition, sometimes they make it down into a notebook to be fleshed out a bit and then forgotten, and sometimes they’re actually seen through.  The idea for my blog came to me randomly after thinking about ways to combine my interests in wellness and love of documenting things.  Even this blog post is an example of creative inspiration, because the idea of starting book reviews floated into my head while I was sitting watching Netflix.

Here are my two main takeaways from the book:

1. Stop associating your worth with your productive output.

The fluctuating nature of creativity means there will be highs and lows, seasons of massive inspiration and output, seasons of total artistic block and lack of motivation.  Instead of beating yourself up and forcing yourself to have a creative breakthrough, step back and honor the fact that perhaps your next great idea is just making its way through the universe, soon to enter your mind.  Take the time to do more of what makes you naturally happy and inspired – whether it’s going for walks in nature, cooking, reading, try to figure out what your soul is asking for! 

For some reason, society LOVES the ‘hustle & grind’ mentality.  I hate it so much because honestly, not everyone works best that way.  Rest and stagnation are sometimes critical to allow for mental & physical recharge as well as to allow the mental stillness for fresh, new ideas to emerge.  To give an analogy – when you’re looking to build your muscles in the gym, you need rest days! When you work muscles through resistance training, you create micro-tears (that’s when ya feel the good ‘ol muscle burn).  Rest days allow your body to divert its energy towards rebuilding and repairing these muscle tears, which makes the muscle bigger and stronger.  Repeat this process over time, and that’s how you build mass and strength!

Using your ‘creative muscles’ isn’t so different.   Sometimes you can exhaust yourself on a project or endeavour and get close to burning out.  Sometimes you just experience creative blocks.  Taking a break and turning your attention towards activities that promote rest, recharge, and inspiration will help your mind filter through junk, relax, and make room for the next idea to strike.

That being said, if you constantly feel like your work is draining you – you should probably stop and reconsider what you’re doing.  The work/rest cycle should be in balance, and you shouldn’t feel like you need a spa retreat just to compensate from a workday.

2. Choose which ideas you decide to invest your energy into.

In the beginning of the article, I mentioned how creative inspiration can strike at any moment and can take many different forms.  I also mentioned how sometimes these ideas will never see the light of day – and that’s ok!

Your energy is like a currency; you don’t have an infinite amount and you have to choose what to spend it on.  You might have three great ideas, but the energy to fully pursue one.  It’s ok to pivot away from a project in pursuit of another one that feels more aligned with your interests.  You’re essentially re-investing your energy into something that’ll have a much better payoff.

Part of being creative is learning to be ok with the fact that not every project will be a success, and not every idea is necessarily aligned with your deepest passions.  It’s also important to know that it’s ok to do your version of something that’s been done before – because it’s your version of it. Don’t feel like you can’t make a cookbook just because there are thousands of others out there.  Also, don’t feel like you can’t take inspiration from pre-existing work (just obviously don’t plagiarize or copy).

I used to make IGTV videos and run a weekly newsletter – both of these things turned into tasks that I’d dread having to do.  So I stopped wasting my energy on them! Instead, I decided to focus my energy into having a podcast and teaching myself graphic design.  Likewise, way back when, I thought I might like to have a YouTube channel but very quickly realized that it just wasn’t for me.  I felt no inner sense of accomplishment or inspiration while working on it.  That’s not to say that I’ll never have one in the future, but at the time it simply wasn’t a good investment of my energy.

OVERALL…

The concept of “Big Magic” is kind of like the idea that you can use yourself as a channel for creativity.  Your channel has to be open so things can flow through you, and you have to choose which ideas are worth grabbing and spending your energy on.  You shouldn’t be a prisoner to productivity, and you should make sure that your creative efforts are fulfilling you in the long run – not that you finish a project feeling zero sense of satisfaction or joy.

Learn to partner with your creativity rather than let it define you, and learn to honor the cycle of inspiration, work, and rest.

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