Big Magic: Summary & Review

big magic book cover

Big Magic is a book on creative production and creative living in which the author Elizabeth Gilbert provides both inspiration and advice on how to live creatively and produce creative work.

Bullet Summary

  • Ditch perfectionism: perfectionism is the serial killer of creative endeavors
  • A creative life is a happy life
  • Authenticity first: don’t seek to be different at all costs, seek to be authentic instead
  • Give the gift of your creativity: this world needs you to be as creative as you can be


About the Author:
Elizabeth Gilbert is an American journalist and author. Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love are her two most popular books.

1. Start No Matter What

You might be in a situation where you get excited thinking about something you could do. But if you stop there, then fears will kick in. You will postpone and never do it.

Start no matter what instead.

2. Write To Entertain Yourself, Not To Help Others

This may be contrarian advice and many people won’t like it, BUT if you’re writing creatively, it’s great advice in my opinion.

Says the author:

“Whenever anybody tells me they want to write a book in order to help other people, I always think, Oh, please don’t…I would so much rather you wrote a book in order to entertain yourself than to help me”

Plus, “wanting to help others” is babying and sets up an annoying teacher frame that may rub readers the wrong way.

3. Think of Your Courageous Act

The author acknowledges that starting anything creative is often scary.

The first step to overcoming that fear is thinking of a time you did do something courageous. Think about it. How did you feel? How elated you were soon after? What did it do to your self-esteem?

4. Live With Fear

Fear will always be there when you do something new and creative.

It’s normal, so don’t beat yourself up.
Instead of trying to fully eradicate fear instead, learn to coexist with the fear and let your desire be greater than your fear.

Let your fear and creative spirit feed upon each other.

5. Be Authentic, Not Original

I could relate to this part of Big Magic.

Elizabeth Gilbert says that most people don’t start because they feel their idea has already been done. But everything’s already been done. You don’t have to be unique, you have to be authentic.

Give your own spin to whatever you have in mind.

I personally prefer putting it in a different way. Don’t strive to be unique: strive to be the best.

6. Everything Sucks Sometimes, So Learn to Live With It

No matter what you do, there will be times when your work sucks.

Don’t let that stop you.
That’s further motivation instead to really seek what you’re passionate about, so that the bits you love will always weigh more than the bits you don’t love.

Albeit if you’re doing something really creative, Elizabeth Gilbert says, you should prioritize curiosity over passion.

7. When The Going Gets Tough, Keep Going

There will be times when the creative process will be a bit more difficult than usual.

And times when everything will be more difficult than usual.

Those are the times you need to keep going.

Also read Grit by Angela Duckworth.

big magic book cover

Real Life Applications

  • Start…

Whatever you want to do.. Start it.

  • ... And keep going

And don’t stop.

  • Stop complaining if you want to live a more creative life

Creatives don’t complain, but use their art for change, inspiration, or escape.

  • Don’t quit your day job.

Most artists don’t make a living from their art.

Plus, you want to keep the job to free yourself from the burden of expecting art to pay the bills;

  • Think of success as doing what you love

Don’t think that success looks like money or acclaim.
Instead, if you love what you’re doing, that’s already your success.

  • Get an agent

Because “who you know” matters more than “what you know”.

  • Follow your curiosity when you have no inspiration


  • You may not find anything “new”

Albeit it’s a good book and an easy read, it doesn’t break much new ground (neither in itself nor via an overview of the best perspectives and bits of advice on creativity).

However, as Elizabeth says herself, everything has already been written.

Sometimes it’s about new perspectives.

  • Some woo-woo nonsense

The author says that ideas are like entities with a live of their own, something I don’t agree with but that doesn’t ruin the book in itself.

However, when she says she had “passed the idea” to her friend with a kiss, then it gets a bit too nonsense.

  • Big Magic mostly addresses creative writing

There are many creative endeavors, but the biggest focus in Big Magic is writing.
While some of the topics go well beyond writing, (aspiring) writers might the most out of it.

  • Not an “how to”

Big Magic is more about inspiration, encouragement, and a bit of mindsets. It’s not really a “how to” book.


  • The author may have the credentials

Elizabeth Gilbert may have the credentials to write a book on creative writing.

  • Strikes a good mix of autobiography and self-help

Big Magic mixes self-help with autobiography. Even if you’re not interested in the author’s life, it made the book more entertaining and provided some cases for real-life examples of creative writing.


Big Magic is a good book for beginners and aspiring writers who struggle to push through and go from “aspiring” to “actual writer.

The concept of fear as a creatives’ block reminded me of Linchpin by Seth Godin, but I found Big Magic better as it provides some more practical tips.

Read more summaries or get the book on Amazon.

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