The Year of Big Magic

As we close 2021 and look to the new year, I’ve had the benefit of a slowing down, sleeping in, joining the natural world in settling into winter. I picked up Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, which re-kindled a familiar flame within me to dream and create in the new year.

Here are a couple takeaways.

Make the most of the margins

For most of human history, then, the vast majority of people have made their art in stolen moments, using scraps of borrowed time—and often using pilfered or discarded materials, to boot. (The Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh say is marvelously: “See over there / A created splendour / Made by one individual / From things residual.”)

Big and important books have been written in the stolen moments between work, family, and life. I sometimes dream of the idyllic cabin in the woods to simply write, or think, or read, or create, for days on end. But this is far from the world I live in (or would want to live in, if it comes right down to it). Gilbert’s own journey attests to the fact of a creative’s life: get it done in the margins. Only after the wild success of Eat Pray Love (her 3rd book, not that you’ve heard of any other) did she leave her day job. It’s a gift to let your creative outlet not be stuck under the pressure of needing to also pay the bills. Enjoy the freedom.

Don’t quit when it’s about to get interesting

It’s easy to quit these days. And it’s often good to quit something that isn’t working. But sometimes we hit the eject button too soon. Gilbert suggests that sometimes, when the going gets tough, that’s the precisely the point where, if we stick with it, it’s about to get interesting. Maybe this is what Yvon Chouinard is alluding to when he says, “it’s only an adventure once something goes wrong.”

If it’s tough, maybe it’s a sign something’s about to happen.

Follow your curiousity

Gilbert calls the “follow your passion” advice unhelpful. For myself, I have 100 interests that could be called “passions”, but I’d rather not be fully defined or identified by any one of them. How do you follow a trail with 100 forks?

But following curiousity, now that’s something I can work with. And my creative life and even career have been defined by this very thing. Don’t look for a “calling” or a “life passion”, look for the scent of something interesting and see where it leads you.

I hope the next year is good to you. I hope you make something interesting of it, and find some interesting scents to follow. Happy trails.