The Big Magic of Living, Breathing Ideas

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“Tell me about a book you’ve read more than once.”  This is how you can find some of the best books in the world.

If you ask me this question, I’ll tell you about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic.

Big Magic is a book about creative living beyond fear. Fear is boring, and creativity calls you to be brave enough and curious enough to unearth the treasures you were meant to find and create.

I first listened to her audible recording of this book because I love-love-love to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert talk to me, and now I’m going back and reading because I equally (love)3 interacting with the words on the page, drawing margins around block quotes, underlining the keeps and starring the importants. This book has me doing all of the above.

As Liz says (and those of you who know me well will now smile knowingly because of course I now call her not only by her first name but by a nickname since she and I are of course dear friends now after all these cups of coffee and hours together), “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”

So, yes. I want a piece of that.

She presents this set of beliefs about how creativity works, and I have to tell you—it both made me uncomfortable and resonated with me pretty deeply. Stay with me here… it’s a little woo woo.

Liz believes “our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas.” She believes completely that ideas are living things, completely separate from us. She believes they have personalities and consciousness, that they are stubborn and resilient and ever present. They are forever swirling around us, looking to collaborate with an available and interested human partner who will bring it into the world of the actual.JPEG image-71F73CD22525-1

I would disagree with this entirely, except that it seems entirely possible.

My most fertile writing ground has always been on airplanes. When I get on a plane, ideas flood my mind. Without fail. It happens every time. Sometimes I’ve longed to go on a trip just to tap into the ideas hiding on the plane. And there’s a huge movement of artists who love to write on trains, since they’ve found no other space quite so conducive to writing than the Amtrak.

When I let myself daydream about the combination of my own experience, the world of Amtrak writers, and Liz’s hypothesis, I can picture all these ideas that enter airplanes or trains on the shoulders and minds of the unwilling people they thought would corroborate with them, and then they leap into the air while we’re all up in the air, or they jump trains of thought while we’re all sitting together on one, and they tap on my shoulder instead.

I was telling my friend Heather about this a few months ago, and I presented it as any cautious Christian girl will do: as a way of thinking that was fascinating but probably not true.

She said, “Why wouldn’t it be true? That seems like something God could do if he wanted to.”

Well, when you put it that way.

Then she said, “My word for God is any. Any time, any place, anything, anyone. He does anything he wants to do in any way he chooses. So if he wants you to create something, why wouldn’t he let ideas be living things that can tap you on the shoulder?”

And suddenly I didn’t know why I ever questioned it in the first place.

Perhaps it’s because I tend to think too small.

* * *

“Imagine this: the future of humanity could be an idea in someone’s head right now.
Maybe that’s one reason Jesus tells us to come to him like little children.
They have the best imaginations.”
~ Erwin McManus, Wide Awake

* * *

“My word for God is ‘any.'”
~Heather Norten

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Tricia Lott Williford

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