Books Magazine

My “Genius” Inspired by Big Magic #ReadAlong

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll
Big Magic by Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a great way to get my New Year off to creative start! Join me for a Read Along. Last week, we discussed Part I, Courage. This week, we’re talking about Part II, Enchantment. We’re still only 78 pages into this short book, so there’s plenty of time for you to join the Read Along — we’re taking the whole month of January.

Share your thoughts on your blog and post it on the link list below, or on tomorrow’s list that’s about progress on the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge. Or, simply share your experience in the comments.

The reading guide (pdf) on Elizabeth Gilbert’s website suggested that we draw a picture of our “daemon” or external genius as a reflection on the Enchantment section of Big Magic. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to draw and I feared a revolt among Read Along participants, so I came up with a couple of traditional discussion questions.

In the Enchantment section of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her fanciful notion that ideas are life-forms looking for human collaborators to help them manifest. What ideas have been knocking on your door recently, asking to partner with you to be made real?

When I’m open to the notion of ideas knocking on my door, I get a swarm of them:

  • Give photo-rich presentations about Cuba at local libraries
  • Start doing the Dreaming of France meme again in preparation for another trip there
  • Put up more potential itineraries for the England portion of that trip in the British Isles Friday meme
  • Write travel articles about Cuba, England, and France
  • Include photographs with those articles
  • Write a book (or two or three) about Cuba, England, and France
  • Start an e-book business
  • Host a year-long Compassionate Sundays series to work through the book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
  • Learn in Public about any or all of the above

I’m open to opinion on all of these ideas. Are there any in particular that you would like to see me implement?

Another of Elizabeth Gilbert’s magical notions is that our genius is something that sits outside of us, not within us, and we aren’t entirely responsible for its behavior. When we do well, we owe some of the credit to our genius. When we don’t, some of the failure can be attributed to the absent genius. I’ve loved this idea since she talked about it in her TED talk. How does externalizing your genius help you take a less angst-filled approach to your creativity?

I’m often of the opinion that I’m doing it wrong, or doing the wrong thing. By thinking of my creativity as a daemon or genius that exists outside of myself, I increase the trust in the process. I’m less inclined to think that my externalized genius is doing the wrong thing, so if she is pushing me on a certain path, then it’s the right thing to do right now. In actuality, it matters much less what I do than that I do something (besides Facebook and computer games), so this little bit of trust is enough to keep me from getting stuck.

In the end, I did draw my daemon. I decided that she’s a cross between Joy (of Inside Out), Jeeves (of Jeeves and Wooster), and a flower fairy.

Joy's Daemon

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