Big Magic book review: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert


Big magic hit the personal development world in an epic way this month when Elizabeth Gilbert released her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I am perhaps one of the only people in the personal development world who was yet to read any of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books (including Eat Pray Love) prior to stumbling across Big Magic. When I heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak about the book in an interview with Marie Forleo, I just knew that I had to get a copy.  

I drove into town, purchased two copies (one for me and one for a client who I suspected would love it also) and took it away on my holiday to Tin Can Bay that weekend. Once I started, I could barely put it down. It was nothing like I had ever written before. It was like she had peered into my heart, read my personal philosophy, and then poetically, articulately, and beautifully transcripted it into a book. Big magic was sure at play.

There was so much magic in this book that it is hard to summarise in this one Big Magic book review, so I have instead chosen ten of my favourite quotes from the book, and have then shared a podcast and a video where Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the book and some of the lessons within. 


  • “I happen to believe that we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. To hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on the hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often surprising results of that hunt – that’s Big Magic.”
  • “Most things have already been done – but they have not yet been done by you.”
  • “Stop treating your creativity like it’s a tired, old, unhappy marriage (a grind, a drag) and start regarding it with the fresh eyes of a passionate lover. Even if you have only fifteen minutes a day in a stairwell alone with your creativity, take it. Go hide in the stairwell and make out with your art!”
  • “I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us – albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way any ideas can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the there and into the realm of the actual. ” 
  • “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true in your soul, and I promise – you can make anything.”
  • “… I simply vowed to the universe that I would write forever, regardless of the result. I promised that I would try to be brave about it, and grateful, and as uncomplaining as I could possibly be. I also promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it – meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary. I did not ask for any external rewards for my devotion; I just wanted to spend my life as near to writing as possible – forever close to that source of all my curiosity and contentment – and so I was willing to make whatever arrangements needed to be made in order to get by.”
  • “I recently read a fabulous blog by a writer named Mark Manson, who said that the secret to finding your purpose in life is to answer this question in total honesty: “What’s your favourite flavour of shit sandwich?” What Manson means is that 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. As Manson writes with profound wisdom: ‘Everything sucks, some of the time.’ You just have to decide which sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with…. Because if you love and want something enough – whatever it is – then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”
  • “You do not need a permission slip from the principal’s office to live a creative life. Or if you do worry that you need a permission slip – THERE, I just gave it to you. I just woke it on the back of an old shopping list. Consider yourself fully accredited. Now go make something.”
  • “I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified. Because underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, ‘I’m not good enough and I will never be good enough.'”
  • “I don’t ever choose to believe that I’ve been completely abandoned in the creative wilderness, or that there’s reason for me to panic about my writing. I choose to trust that inspiration is always nearby, the whole time I’m working, trying its damnedest to impart assistance. It’s just that inspiration comes from another world, you see, and it speaks a language entirely unlike my own, so sometimes we have trouble understanding each other. But inspiration is still sitting there right beside me, and it is trying. Inspiration is trying to send me a message in every form it can… 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.”


Podcast between Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown on creativity:

In this insightful podcast interview between Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown, they explore creativity and fear, and how essential creativity is for healthy and wholehearted living. Access the free episode here.

Video interview between Marie Forleo and Elizabeth Gilbert:

In this fabulous episode of Marie TV, Marie Forleo chats to Elizabeth Gilbert about some of the takeaways from Big Magic. It is a delight to watch and gives you a lot of insight into what you can expect to read in the book. You can watch the video below.

I would love to know – what would you like to curiously explore when it comes to being creative over the next six months?

Let’s soar together,

Naomi x

Please note that if you use any of the links in this blog post to buy this book, I may receive a small commission from Book Depository.

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  • I intend to set up a successful coaching practice and launch a website of your own websites calibre. I love yours and just came across you today. Happy Sunday.

    • Oh Vicki, thank you for the kind words – that means so much to me. All the best with setting up your successful coaching practice and beautiful website. It sounds like you have some exciting times ahead!

  • Beautiful review and thank you for sharing this and the video too – I have been wanting to watch this x Creatively for me, I want to “step up” in many ways over the next 6 months. I certainly don’t want to lose my creative flow again…as that has happened recently….and I am determined to overcome this so it doesn’t hold me back again. I have an ebook I truly hope to create, as well as to have the confidence to submit articles to a couple of online publications and perhaps even more…xx ps. I do love the message you mentioned – Inspiration is trying to work with me. I love those words. And can truly relate to TRUST.

    • Thank you for sharing so openly Katie. This book sounds perfect for what you have been experiencing – and you my dear, are so special and have so very much to offer – I can’t wait to read those articles you submit and have published! Standing in your corner and cheering (VERY LOUDLY). x

  • as Elizabeth said, I want to make a deal with the Universe that I will write everyday no matter the outcome! I was always the one who wrote too much on essays and eventually started getting lower grades as punishment for it.. At that point, I turned off my writing creativity and started writing what was asked and nothing more! It sucked! It drained me mentally and physically, but I got the grades I deserved for work well done.. WELL NO MORE!! I will write as much and as freely as I please!!!! #BigMagic

    • I love this Nadia!!! How exciting that you will be writing openly and freely from your heart – no matter the outcome. That is HUGE, and I suspect highly rewarding.

  • Naomi you’re not the only one who hasn’t read Eat, Pray, Love before Big Magic….I only recently watched the movie! I loved all of your take away quotes and I also watched the Marie Forleo interview and listened to the podcast with Brene Brown before I quickly bought the book on Kindle! In the next 6 months I plan to keep my mind open as to ‘what is creativity’ and exploring my own creative interests. I’m actually going to get my flute out when I return to Australia over Christmas….not sure how I’ll go after not playing it for about 13 years! x

    • Oh wowsers, Ainslie, that’s huge and so exciting to hear – that you are going to reconnect with your flute! I hope you love it 😀 I can’t wait to witness how you explore your creativity over the next six months. How beautiful. x

  • I’m at that delicious point of anticipation with Big Magic – I have my copy, but haven’t yet dived into it. I want to give it credit, and somehow snatching five minutes while the toddler is in the bath doesn’t seem quite right! {that and the fact I might forget she’s in there if I get too into the book…}

    I’ve negotiated a childfree hour this weekend, and I’m so looking forward to it!

    Thanks for sharing your favourite quotes. I love the idea of making out with my art…

    Clare x

    • I love that you are ensuring you have the ‘right’ space ready to read Big Magic, Clare. I hope you had some luck with the childfree hour and that you’ve loved the book as much as I did so far! x

  • I’ve been seeing this book in so many posts on Instagram and a good friend of mine sent me some excerpts from it so I’m interested to check it out when I get the chance. Creatively speaking, I’m looking forward to getting back into life after having a really tough year, expressing myself the way I used to, only bigger, better and more colourfully than before. In the words of Tara Caetano of Feed Me Blog, I’m going to ‘make life my bitch’.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had a rough year Melissa – and am stoked to read that you are going to make a conscious effort to get back into life and expressing yourself. Please keep in touch and let me know how you go. I hope you love Big Magic too – it sounds like it might be right up your ally.

  • I have always been full of ideas, got distracted, stayed something new and not made it to completion.
    I now have my baby website where I am gathering both sides of me: my writer, blogging, story telling and inspiring; my intuitive Empath side, offering readings, healing and guidance for souls And My work as a Communication Coach where I train groups, businesses and families to best communicate as well as working 121 to boast clients self esteem, focus and achievements.
    I’ve been listening to Liz Gilbert’s podcasts Magic Lessons and I’d love to read the book.
    Happy Sunday Naomi.

    • Hope you had a lovely Sunday too Roberta. Thank you for sharing a little about what you do, it sounds like important and inspiring work. And despite what you have said here about not finishing things – it sounds like you have finished many things when it comes to your website and business, so don’t be too hard on yourself 😉 I’m looking forward to hopefully hearing about the other ideas that you bring to reality in the future too 🙂

  • I plan to launch my health/life coaching business. I am currently designing my own website and logo/branding etc – its the first creative thing I have done for myself in a long time!

    • Oh Lauryn, how EXCITING!!! Yes launching a coaching business and website does exercise our creativity muscles, especially since you are doing the design yourself. I wish you could see the smile on my face whilst reading your message here, it brings back beautiful memories of when I was doing the same. All the best with it Lauryn, and please stay in touch.

  • I want to get into painting and expressing myself in that way. I have never painted before but something has been telling me to give it a try, I think it is beautiful that art can be what ever the artist wants.

    • I LOVE this Kylie!!! I too had never been a painter, and recently started to feel a deep desire to learn how to. I enrolled in Nicola Newman’s online Painting & Creativity course (I have a blog about it on my homepage) and it was AMAZING. And you are SO right, art can be whatever the artist wants it to be. I hope to have a sneaky peak at some of your art in the future 😉 x

  • There are so many things I want to curiously explore when it comes to being creative over the next six months! Too many to list really, and as I’ve learnt this year, for the sake of my sanity there are too many to try to achieve all at once! But the main priorities are launching a podcast, promoting my Self-Care E-course and getting some guest posts in some education/health & wellbeing publications. Every day I have so much inspiration and so many ideas, but there is a lot going on in daily life too so I’m working on self-compassion and baby steps!

    • I am so pleased to read that you are working on self-compassion and baby steps Ellen – I believe this is the magic combination required to achieve our goals. You can do it, one step at a time, and I hope you’ll come back and let me know about it when you do 😉

  • I love everything about Creativity but realised earlier this year that while I’ve dappled in recent years (with quilting and craft), life has got so busy that my time has always been put on the backburner. Ive now had an exciting few months where I’m setting up a website and will be starting to blog. Writing is new to me but I have an I incredible urge to express myself with words (something I’ve always squashed). Now I’m making plans for 2016 to find my me-time and explore all aspects of myself through writing, creating programs, sewing, and I’d also love to paint! Again, something that I’ve only mused over in recent times. Creativity is so soothing to the soul and such an integral part of who we are. You’ve inspired me to take the next steps, thanks Naomi xx

    • Ooooohhhhhh Gail, I am so very pleased to read that you have been inspired to take the next steps. And I am VERY excited to read that you are setting up a website and blog, feeling an urge to write, and to create by other means. You’ll LOVE this book, I can feel it in my bones. I can’t wait to hear more about how you are going with progressing these dreams of yours – goosebumps happening here. x PS. If your urge to paint keeps niggling, check out my blog post about Nicola Newman’s online Painting & Creativity course. It’s AMAZING.

  • Having lived a life of thinking I am not creative – arty, crafty or creative. I have admired other teachers rooms, friends scrapbooking projects and a range of beautifully decorated rooms. As a teacher, thinking you have zero creativity was hard. I have begun to think about this though and have realised that creativity is in the eye of who creates it. One what man perceives in creation is not what the other does. I am going to take risks, I am going to have a go. I am going to create, to what I know, in the classroom, kitchen AND garden. I can admire and be inspired by others but I will create where I can see a chance to create. 😛

    • YESSSSSSSS, Vicki!!!! Absolutely!! And YAY – I’m so excited to hear that you are going to create, in the ways that you see and crave to create!!! Just wonderful 😀

  • I will be committing to working on my art and continuing to learn and grow. I have recently found my passion in creating while treating my anxiety and have decided to take a few months off my study to put my heart into my artwork!

    • I am so pleased to hear that you decided to take a break to put your heart into your artwork – and that creating has helped treat your anxiety. That’s wonderful. I’d love if you’d keep in touch and let me know how you go occasionally! What a journey!

  • I’m looking to play the trickster. I want to eat my shit sandwich, and I want it to be the RIGHT shit sandwich. I know that the world is such that I need to support myself and I have enough skills and talents to know I can find something. What I want and need is more insight into the bravery of my trickster self; the part of myself who can get creative with HOW I go about fulfilling my more mundane needs so that all the work there is for me to do (mundane and divine) I can do and enjoy it. I want to do the impossible: make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

    I’ve gorged myself on EG’s Magic Lessons a dozen times, signed up for a 6-month Introductory Herbalism Course (to see if that’s the right shit sandwich for me), and I’m starting a podcast to discuss my herbalism progress (and related interfaith issues because there is no such podcast). I can feel the trickster in me and I know we will be best friends, we just haven’t been properly introduced yet.

    • ha ha ha yes, Rose, eating the wrong shit sandwich doesn’t sound like fun – although it seems like sometimes we have to eat the wrong ones to realise they’re the wrong ones, and to weed them out, before finding the ‘right’ one.

      I love that you seem to be curiously exploring and searching for your inner trickster. You sound like a real Renaissance Woman – someone with many interests and gifts. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you WILL find her.

  • Knitting & crochet are my creative outlets. Over the next 6 months I’d like to change my thinking about them, really own my creations. Believe they are valuable, not hide myself away to create & not leave creating to the end of each to do list. To know that I’m worth the time & money spent on making even when there is no end goal, to accept creating for creatings sake is more than enough of a reason.

    • Oh I love this, Kate – creating for creating’s sake and not focusing on the end goal. I hope this helps you feel more joy in your creative outlets.

  • Arrgh my comment disappeared.
    I just want to believe that creating for myself is OK. There doesn’t need to be any other reason, just because I enjoy to do it and it makes me feel good.

    • YES! Love this Kate. I think you’d love this book, as this is a large component of it’s message.

    • Hi Vicki, the winner was announced on Facebook here. I have lots of other giveaways coming up over the next few months – very excited 🙂