The Watering Hole Blog

Beautiful Big Magic – Creativity

Updated Sept 28th, 2017


Beautiful Big Magic – the Book AND the Magic


Big Magic book cover

“Creative living is a path for the brave…we all know that when the courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear

What an image, eh?

I recently read Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray Love. Wow, wow, wow…I absolutely loved it.

Mind you, Gilbert is preaching to the converted when it comes to me and creativity. I really do strive to infuse inspiration and creativity into pretty much every component of my life – work, writing, e-mail management, household responsibilities, de-cluttering, finances, relationships, thank you cards, travel, health, exercise and so on.

In fact, it is when I forget that each day is a gift that, should I so choose, can be treated as a fresh canvas on which to create a mini masterpiece of a larger life well lived, the sometimes challenging creative tasks I usually enjoy – such as, say, working through a difficult rewrite of a screenplay – become dreaded chores of drudgery.

Which is why I really needed to read Big Magic when I did. As it tends to go with books, Big Magic found its way to me when I needed it most (thank you again to WWOW reader Sherri!).

For I was in rather dire need of Gilbert’s reminder that to be creative is to be joyful – and that “frustration is not an interruption of the process; frustration is the process.”

Now, I know that not all days can be gold star days. In fact, sometimes an entire year or two can be pretty much a write-off. But having experienced a year or two like that myself, I do know that taking a creative approach to whatever life has thrown us can be both healing and transformational. You just never know what diamond can be created from all that emotional and psychological friction.

When I was trying to write my book, A Widow’s Awakening, my days in Calgary were pretty chaotic. My phone rang constantly, people would drop by unexpectedly and I had an awful lot of demands placed on my time.

I was trying to grieve my husband, John’s, death and write a book about the experience and work with the police officers who started his memorial fund to try and figure out what the heck to do about the workplace issue that led to his death and try to keep a few dozen people assured that I was going to be okay.

Well, I wasn’t okay. And I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t going to be okay again until I could find some peace and quiet to write what I needed to write – and grieve without constantly being interrupted. So my friends, Deborah and Kevin McInnes, came to the rescue and found for me an unused farmhouse at Camp Evergreen in central Alberta. They arranged it so that I could go there for 3 or 4 days at a time to write. No internet, no phone, no other people.

By that point, I had a good grasp of the basic outline of the story. And I had, thankfully, written down very specific details on the events – and my emotional, psychological and spiritual response to those events – pertaining to John’s fall and the day I spent with him in the ICU as he succumbed to his brain injuries.

But the manuscript was still a long, rambling mixed-up stew of heartbreaking emotion and wishful thinking for the future. Fortunately, I was working with an excellent editor who, line by line, taught me how to show a story versus tell it.

And so it came to pass that it was in that little farmhouse in Sundre, Alberta that I personally experienced the creative connection that Elizabeth Gilbert calls “Big Magic”:

“The effort is worth it, because when at last you do connect, it is an otherworldly delight of the highest order…you make the connection. Out of nowhere it all comes together. You must keep calling out in those dark woods for your own Big Magic…because when it all comes together, it’s amazing. The only thing you can do is bow down in gratitude, as if you have been granted an audience with the divine. Because you have.”

Big Magic came to visit me in those woods and the best way for me to describe how that felt is perhaps how a figure skater, performing at the Olympics, must feel when landing a difficult jump …and then another and then another.

skates landing jump

By the time I was writing at the farmhouse, I’d got the manuscript to a point in its development where I would write a sentence, or make a plot connection, that felt like I’d just landed a triple axle…and then a sow cow and then a back flip. I could almost hear the crowd cheer!

Sable and Soda in snow at farmhouse
L to R: Soda & Sable at farmhouse, Sundre, AB, 2003

I would write for a few hours and then go for long walks in the woods, alongside the river, with my two beautiful Shepherds, Sable and Soda. Sometimes I would cry and cry, as the hurt made its way to the surface without being interrupted by a ringing phone, and then return back to the farmhouse to write some more.

After such sorrow and loss – and grief that just went on and on – I found the creative process of transforming my hurt into an engaging story to be a real gift…even though it was unexpected. But then again, John always said the best gifts are the ones you don’t expect 🙂

Creativity is a gift – one we'd perhaps be wise to use on a more regular basis. Click To Tweet

For contrary to the message being delivered through the constant bombardment from advertisers, we are not just consumers; we are also creators.

“Go back far enough and you will find people who were not consumers, people who were not sitting around passively waiting for stuff to happen to them. You will find people who spent their lives making things.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear

It breaks my heart to see people, teenagers in particular, staring at their phones for vast chunks of their day. Sure, they may be looking at creative images on Pinterest and Instagram – but I suspect that, more often than not, they are consuming other people’s creativity versus creating their own projects.

One of the messages I appreciate the most in Big Magic is that it doesn’t really matter what we create. What matters is that we are creative in some capacity. Click To Tweet

“What you produce is not necessarily always sacred,” explains Gilbert. “What is sacred is the time that you spent working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life.”

Amen, sister.

“The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear

Related blog by Maryanne

Using Creativity to Bring More Joy & Beauty to the World

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here. To subscribe to The Watering Hole e-zine (goes out about every 6 weeks), you can sign up here.

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2 thoughts on “Beautiful Big Magic – Creativity”

  1. Thank you for writing this. I have often thought about the creative process this way. It seems for me that, like you said, the process can sometimes be more magical and rewarding than the product of it.

  2. Hi Heather! Absolutely…the process IS often just as rewarding – or more – as the finished product. The process of creating is where so much of the learning takes place, so I am really trying to embrace every stage of the process…as trying as that can be sometimes 🙂
    Take care and thanks for reading!

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