First published by The Big Issue in September 2015
Readers can be snobs when it comes to the work of enormously successful writers. We accuse them of selling out, of joining the mainstream, of abandoning the struggle to make honest work against all odds. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, knows this better than anyone and guess what? She doesn’t give a rat’s.
Her latest offering, Big Magic is a self-helper for creatives and its message, while not entirely original, is helpful and honest. Anyone with a creative bent will benefit from being reminded that martyrdom is destructive, that pragmatism is essential and that your ideas are not your own – much less sacred.
Gilbert’s prose is not inspired but it is inherently readable. She imparts palatable pop wisdom through personal anecdotes and turns to Seamus Heaney, Einstein, scenes from 30 Rock, even fridge magnet clichés to back up her arguments.
Perhaps the most resonant lesson Gilbert offers, is the relationship of creators to their ideas as a collaboration between independent equals; great ideas as sentient beings seeking a human. Less spiritual readers may find some sections a little lofty and far-fetched.