Why BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert is THE Quarantine Read

Pulling rabbits out of top hats. Santa delivering all the presents in one night. Some kid with a lightning bolt scar and glasses, waving a wand around. When thinking about the concept of magic, these are the images that typically come to mind for me. For Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), it’s a little more complicated than that.

In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert offers a refreshingly uplifting and pragmatic perspective on the interplay of inspiration, curiosity, courage, trust, and, yes — the genuine magic of it all. She challenges readers to follow not their passions, but their curiosities. To approach their creativity with a lightness and a craftiness that is not burdened by the pressure of productivity and intention and heroism.

In the age of quarantine, we as a society have probably never had as much free time as we do now. And there’s been a lot of debate about how to spend it — how to wring out these extra hours to save the world and produce something impactful and make a name for yourself. But the reality Gilbert presents is simple. She says, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to discover those jewels — that’s creative living.”

Or, to put it simply, do whatever the fuck you want. So long as you are “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear,” you are on that hunt, coaxing the jewels out day by day. To Gilbert, big magic doesn’t come from pulling coins out of ears but rather from drawing unexpected jewels out from the soul.

The book ventures into a more surreal, fantastical territory as Gilbert proposes the agency of ideas as conscious, living creatures — immaterial beings who spend a lifetime seeking out a human collaborator to bring them into fruition. Therefore, you do not come up with an idea; you openly receive it. Or you reject it, in which case it will move on to someone else. I’m not sure I’m fully sold on the concept. But being told that having ideas or being a genius is really just being an open-minded person (with a metaphorical welcome mat stationed outside my brain) certainly takes the pressure off.

So far in quarantine, I have attempted to write the next great American novel, start a website, bake a pie, sew a dress from scratch, and become a yogi. But I did not write the next great American novel, I did not get one million visits to my website, I did not make a dress, and I can barely touch my toes. I essentially accomplished zero of my goals (the pie is subjective). So where does that leave me?

Well, I’ve rekindled my love for writing; I can’t wait to find where the pen takes me next. I’ve learned to sew buttons and patch holes; I find a meditative rhythm with every stitch. I have pie; yum. But more importantly, I am still on the hunt. I am doing my best to live a creative life — an amplified life. A “bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.” As we all return home for the holidays, visit family, and take off from work, remember that quarantine doesn’t signify the recovery of lost hours meant to surge you ahead in life. It can be time to eat, Netflix, sleep, and repeat. But if you’re fortunate enough to have the time, spend it in pursuit of your curiosities. Crack open a paint set or try some origami, just because. And if you’re going to read a book, I’d start with this one.

–Keena Du, Content Creator

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