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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear | Elizabeth Gilbert

“Many years ago, my uncle Nick went to see the eminent American writer Richard Ford give a talk at a bookstore in Washington, DC. During the Q&A after the reading, a middle-aged man in the audience stood up and said something like this:

“Mr Ford, you and I have much in common. Just like you, I have been writing short stories and novels my whole life. You and I are about the same age, from the same background, and we write about the same themes. The only difference is that you have become a celebrated man of letters, and I—despite decades of effort—have never been published. This is heartbreaking to me. My spirit has been crushed by all the rejection and disappointment. I wonder if you have any advice for me. But please, sir, whatever you do, don’t just tell me to persevere, because that’s the only thing people ever tell me to do, and hearing that only makes me feel worse.”

Now, I wasn’t there. And I don’t know Richard Ford personally. But according to my uncle, who is a good reporter, Ford replied, “Sir, I am sorry for your disappointment. “Please, believe me, I would never insult you by simply telling you to persevere. I can’t even imagine how discouraging that would be to hear, after all these years of rejection. I will tell you something else—something that may surprise you. I’m going to tell you to quit.”

The audience froze: What kind of encouragement was this?

Ford went on: “I say this to you only because writing is bringing you no pleasure. It is only bringing you pain. Our time on earth is short and should be enjoyed. You should leave this dream behind and go find something else to do with your life. Travel, take up new hobbies, spend time with your family and friends, relax. But don’t write anymore, because it’s killing you.”

There was a long silence.

Then Ford smiled and added, almost as an afterthought: “However, I will say this. If you happen to discover, after a few years away from writing, that you have found nothing that takes its place in your life—nothing that fascinates you, or moves you, or inspires you to the same degree that writing once did . . . well, then, sir, I’m afraid you will have no choice but to persevere.”

Excerpt From | Big Magic | Elizabeth Gilbert | This material may be protected by copyright.


As a creative professional and after a decade dedicating my life to photography, often come across questions that stand against my will to pursue it anymore and the feeling is mutual among many of my colleagues. The scary part is it feels new every time I bump into one. Truth is, no university, no holy book and no detailed study have had ever have complied the answers to all the questions we as a creative professionals live with.

I, Shovona Karmakar, am an advertising commercial photographer and a product stylist based out of Mumbai, India. The book cover was intriguing enough and soon I found myself engrossed in it. To my surprise, I discovered how Holy the book I am holding in my hand and how badly I needed it. I am sure I will be re-reading it in future, that’s the power and the faith I have given to this book, and its because a true mentor is not who spoonfeeds or who solves problems one to one according to me, a true mentor is who guides us to invoke the belief system within to be worth the effort and the feeling of how much we can be in life. A true mentor is simply one who shares it’s experience unfiltered for us to work on our muscles to be self-reliant and persevere what we always dreamt or wished for. I chose to mention the above at the beginning of the article for it is something that haunts me from time to time. I am confident anyone aspiring to lead creative life questions the same to itself. BOOK REVIEW: The book holds the truth and only the truth as much as possible, an honest confession compiled and every page is worth it. It's rare for a professional to be daring enough to share the vulnerability of being a writer or any creative being and let its audience know the price one has to pay to chase the dream.

  1. An easy to understand and read, book with no images or illustrations. Available in all major book sites (I don't earn any commission for recommending anything)

  2. The book uncovers and helps its aspirants to understand various myths many have and practice being a creative soul along with other issues and philosophy in and around. I have read various articles discussing the life of being a fanatic, a dreamer but very few have helped me to understand myself better. One of the facts which often haunted me and even gave me anxiety for years is the desire to have pain, a pain that helped me keep going and the fear to let go of it. It is indeed a myth to abuse self with various substances which gives a guarantee to transfer you to other another dimension, as far as I have seen it only transforms you to be a mere vegetable and very often dead meat. The answer is you need to be alive to cherish the fruit it celebrates you with.

  3. The importance of having a decent and if possible a well-fed bank account and a tummy. The hippie system of starving self to death is not creative living in a rational sense. Holding a job to pay your bills even though it may not be what you want to do at the end of the day is worth the price to live a life one fantasies. To take the best from every aspect of life makes you more resilient than your competitors for the beauty you saw in it is a gift that carves you into a better artist than before.

  4. It's often important to part ways from your passion to truly understand if you're meant to be with it. Re-read the first part of this article to understand better.

  5. The philosophy of visualising ideas and inspiration as a free soul who comes to you as it sees potential for it to be alive and how to work around it or when to let go is fantastic, it's an eye-opening concept and helps anyone to live a better creative life.

  6. Human as a species learnt to be an artist before anything else and cave painting is the perfect example to understand what we are at the core.

  7. Rejection is not meant to be taken personally and it's more about the time and whom you know. Denial of the opportunity and fame you believed it to be yours is temporary and it has more to do with connecting the wrong set of audience or not giving it enough time to mature in itself. Rejection lets you know the loopholes better and gives you enough space to keep working on your experimentations with no expectations and saves you from unwanted embarrassment if any.

To summarise creative living is liberating, empowering, larger than life, a blessing though it comes along its kind of hardships, frustration, depression, confusion and a lot of anxiety. It is not for the faint heart and it is not for those who have no fears at all. A human is meant to discover and refigure the problems and the solutions to attain the very status of survival of the fittest in this ever evolutionary world of art, craft, skill and innovation. I am always eager to meet people like me seeking a creative life until someone is scared to widen its horizons of understanding. It is equally important to gain a decent mastery over the business aspects to support living and I believe they are non-negotiable.

We in India, have our own challenges to pursue a creative career as the personal struggles and friction between our loved ones is what we fear the most. Yet it's high time to seek a creative profession that is nothing very different and follows many similar guidelines alike any entrepreneurial venture. The initial investment is crucial and any expectations of stability asap are subjective and often immature. The art of living with unpredictability is a secret many don't share. immature

If anyone reading this article has questions about your journey feel free to grab a copy of the book BIG MAGIC. It truly feels like being in a therapy session that will genuinely guide you to better understand yourself.

I wish you all the best and believe in yourself!

If you loved reading the above, I am confident you will enjoy the below recommendation too.

  • The subtle art of not giving a F**k (A therapy session for yourself)

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad (Foundation for any financial education)

  • The power of the Subconscious mind (A must for any creative aspirant)




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