Musings + Essays

Big Magic.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above via Dorset Walled Garden.

I am three quarters of the way through Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. I relate to so much of what she writes, and especially her injunction to (paraphrasing) “just get out there and create something — don’t let anything hold you up. Don’t let good be the enemy of done.” I have exercised this principle daily for decades now, and while I can’t speak to the quality it’s yielded (that measure is in your hands), I can say that writing volubly has given me purpose and at the same time freedom, playfulness. I am not writing across a tightrope, all high stakes and gasps. I’m here in the unbound soil and grass.

I did have trouble swallowing her thesis that ideas exist outside of humans — that they visit with us, inhabit us, and, if we are not ready for them, go find another willing host. At first I thought she was writing metaphorically but over time the writing ran to the literal. I don’t think I can accommodate the premise intellectually but saying that does put pressure on other beliefs I hold that cannot be “proven” in a material way. I’m inclined to just leave that nest alone, but I do have one point I want to make: I have felt throughout her writing a willful — almost steel-minded — distancing of creator from audience that I do not feel accurately represents the dynamic, at least when I am writing. Perhaps that’s because of my medium: personal essays with immediate response from Magpies in my comments, DMs, inbox. Gilbert seems to paint the artist alone, self-absorbed, writing only for herself, with ideas flitting in and out. But I write with readers, and memories, and the sounds of my home in Bethesda in my room. I do not connect to the solipsism she paints. All that said, I applaud her direct inquiry as to where creativity comes from — it is brave to go there, where the earth gives way beneath and we must engage in the metaphysical and the only true way to capture what’s happening is through sorcery-like phrases like “big magic.”

Have you read the book? What do you think?

Next up on audiobook: Katie Couric’s Going There.


+On not fighting what may come.

+In praise of a normal day.

+These words are worth a revisit every so often.

+It’s OK to not know where you’re headed.

+A lot of times, the critics are louder in our minds than they are in real life.

+When my husband gave me an envelope containing the world.

Shopping Break.

+Target nails it again!!! Ulla-esque! (Compare with this.)

+I did end up ordering these raffia loafers, like many of you — and just discovered they are on sale for $70 right now!

+I don’t usually love mini dresses (prefer midi/maxi) but I am really loving this SEA and this Hunter Bell.

+Pam Munson is offering 25% off her site — as you know, I love and have amassed quite a collection of her bags. I have been loving this gingham tote this season in particular.

+Picked up a few spring things for mini at J. Crew including these pretty leggings and this simple sweatshirt (my girl loves blue)

+Pretty $40 beach caftan.

+Solid and Striped also has a ton of cute beach dresses/cover-ups — I love this fun fish print one.

+Weezie is generously sending their adorable terry cover-ups for kids — I can’t wait for them to arrive! Perfect for throwing on after the pool or a run through the sprinkler.

+I just can’t say no to a perfect white dress.

+Also having trouble saying no to this gorgeous Loretta Caponi — wish I was wearing it for Easter.

+Love this boxy oxford in the wide blue and white stripe!

+I have been in bed with a bad bug the past few days (not COVID) and aside from craving oranges, I have been spraying myself incessantly with Caudalie’s Elixir. It just feels SO good on my achey, hot body. This is also fantastic for “setting” makeup — I like to spritz it on to sort of “soften” the overall look. Also great afternoon refresher.

+These woven platforms are a great way to nail the platform trend without breaking the bank.

+Mini has this wee ones bow in the “taupe” color which is actually a pretty gray-lilac color — so unusual and sophisticated!

+This Big Sister sweatshirt would be cute for a new big sis.

+This ruffly white top is just so pretty. Horror Vacui/SEA vibes.

+I love the new neckline style on this smocked dress — so many smocked dresses go for a fluttery neckline or poufy sleeves and this feels fresh.

+These scalloped towels are gorgeous and not as crazy expensive as other similar styles!

+Fun print.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

4 thoughts on “Big Magic.

  1. The first time I read the book, I pretty much dismissed the whole “ideas are living things outside of us” premise, though it did encourage me to read Ann Patchett and for that I am (as you know) enormously grateful. The second time I must admit I was strangely more receptive to it.

    It’s interesting you interpret this approach as solipsism and distancing — I interpret it more as non-attachment. I wonder if it’s a personality thing, not that I claim to know Liz Gilbert’s personality, but my own. I have a very others-focused personality, definitely to a detriment from time to time. Seeking external validation is certainly my kryptonite, so, for me, the message of do it for yourself not other people almost could not possibly be overstated. But I can see how, certainly, taken to an extreme the message could turn into self-absorption.

    Also! I really loved this Elizabeth Gilbert interview on the Bad on Paper podcast:

    1. Interesting! I can absolutely see reading it that way, as a means to encourage/foster a sense of creating for its own sake versus to please others, for commercial/literary success, etc. I think it could be my medium at play here: it just feels to me that writing is rather tightly bound with audience. Food for thought for sure; thanks for sharing the interpretation.


  2. I have read the book, I did so when it first came out. I went into it blindly not knowing what to expect. And I still think of it from time to time. I thought her thesis that ideas exist outside of humans was very interesting.

    1. Definitely provocative. It really made me think, especially in putting pressure on why I believe other things that cannot be “proven.” Thanks for joining the conversation!


Previous Article

Next Article