I don’t often read self-help books, because they tend to proffer earnest advice like “think positive!” as a remedy for basically everything, which generally does not work for people with depression and anxiety disorders (namely, me). So when I checked Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert out of the library a few weeks ago, I admit that I didn’t want to like it. I figured it would probably tell me that the cure for writer’s block was to think positive, sit down at my keyboard, and let the words pour forth from my fingers. I was already annoyed by the book before I even opened it. Of course Elizabeth Gilbert believes that creativity is magic! She’s a millionaire who had a book on The New York Times Best Seller list for 4 years. What advice can she possibly have for me?
Why bother, then? A friend had strongly recommended that I read it; also, I am on a quest to make 2017 better than 2016, and seeing as I did not read any self-help books in 2016, maybe this was the place to start. Fine: I would read the book. It deserved a chance.
Of course, as often happens with these things, I loved it. I could not have read Big Magic at a better time. The book is written as a series of tiny chapters (often 1-2 pages long), with titles like “Nobody’s Thinking About You,” “Done is Better Than Good,” and “Do Something Else” — all good advice for someone who writes and often gets tripped up in the editing process before a sentence is even complete. I wrote those three statements down on an index card and committed them to memory, because in order to rid myself of perfectionist tendencies, I really need to learn to believe in the following: when the stakes are low, who cares? Just do it. If it sucks, fine; nobody cares, and you learned something. Now try again.