Editor’s note: Today we’re excited to share an exclusive announcement and cover preview of Elizabeth Gilbert’s next book, Big Magic (September 22, Riverhead Books).
It’s not every day that we get to go behind the curtain with the person responsible for a global phenomenon on the level of the best-selling-memoir-turned-Julia-Roberts-blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s upcoming book Big Magic, debuting this September from Riverhead Books, this self-taught author shares her strategies for bringing joy and delight into artistic pursuits.
Elizabeth knows firsthand that creative work can be fraught with obstacles and anxiety, even when you’ve achieved some success. In Big Magic, she offers insights into the magical nature of creativity; the path to uncovering the “strange jewels” the universe buries within each of us; the courage to tackle what we most love (and fear); and the attitudes, approaches, and habits that will sustain a creative life. Elizabeth believes creative living is available to everyone — artists and non-artists alike.
And now, here’s the cover!
In anticipation of Big Magic’s release, we chatted with Elizabeth via email about what the book has to offer and why she’s so excited to share it with the world.
Big Magic is such an intriguing title. What does it mean — and what prompted you to build a book around this concept?
I’ve always embraced magical thinking when it comes to creativity. I see inspiration as a mysterious external force that comes to us from unknown realms, in order to collaborate with our imaginations. This is how humans saw the artistic process for thousands of years, and it still works for me! I certainly like this fanciful approach to creativity better than the modern notion of the tormented artist, suffering alone in anguish and martyrdom. My book is an effort to lure people back into the “Big Magic” — into a more celebratory and mystical way of being a maker.
Your two TED talks on creativity have logged a combined total of more than 11 million views — and we’re guessing they weren’t all from professional fine artists. So how does one live more creatively as a scientist or accountant or full-time cubicle-dweller?
Creativity does not belong exclusively to professional artists and geniuses; it is the birthright of every single human being. Creativity is our common heritage. You don’t need to quit your job and move to Paris in order to lay claim to this heritage — all you have to do is clear some space in your life for whimsy, invention, sensory pleasure, and play. Most of all, you have to learn how to follow your curiosity more than your fear.
What if you feel unqualified, or if you never had the opportunity to learn certain skills that seem essential to the personal creativity you crave? Is it too late to start?
Yes. If you’re not a professionally trained artist, it’s definitely too late to start now. KIDDING! I’m totally kidding! Let me say it once more: Creativity belongs to everyone. I myself do not have a degree in writing, for instance; I learned my craft by practicing my craft every day — which is how people have always learned their crafts. You have every right in the world to express your creativity however you want to, whenever you want to, regardless of whether you are officially certified or not. Start tomorrow. Better yet, start today.
On Etsy, we have some very busy people, including people with families who also run small businesses or hold down more than one job. How can someone overcome obstacles like a lack of time and money to experience more of what you call “creative living?”
First of all, I love the Etsy community, because it embodies the spirit of everything I believe about creativity. Etsy is a universe filled with self-guided makers, and it inspires me enormously. That said, it’s not always easy for people to find the time or the resources to work on their craft. But all I can tell you is this — it has never been easy. For most of human history, people made their art out of stolen time, using salvaged materials. That’s how art has always been done. Keep in mind that the vast majority of people never have enough time or enough money for their creativity, but somehow folks manage to keep creating, anyhow. People don’t make art because they’ve got all kinds of spare time for it; they make art because they need to make art. They make art because it brings their souls to life in a way that nothing else can match. That’s what I call Big Magic, and it’s well worth the trouble.
The team at Riverhead — led by the award-winning art director Helen Yentus, who also designed the jacket for Eat, Pray, Love — developed this Big Magic video, showing the step-by-step development of the cover you’ll be seeing everywhere this fall. It’s a behind-the-scenes peek exclusively for Etsy.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s portrait by Jennifer Schatten.
Have you ever had a creative awakening that changed your life? Tell us about it in the comments!