Book Chat: On Writing vs Big Magic

These are the two books I have read in the last month. I normally just read fiction but this year I am trying to branch out in my reading tastes. These books share some common themes like creativity and work ethic and I was actually surprised by some of the similarities with these two books, however they are very different books. Nevertheless I will address them side by side.

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

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I approached this book with trepidation and hope. I didn’t enjoy Eat Pray Love, in fact I didn’t finish it. I liked the part about Italy but then she lost me when she got to India and went on and on about it. I put the book down midway through that part and never made it to  the final part in Indonesia. It just wasn’t my thing. I did however like her Ted Talk on creativity, so when I saw she had published a book on the topic I got excited and I put it on my to read list.

I liked this book because I liked her message, which is that everyone is creative and that creativity shouldn’t be suffocated by having such big expectations put on it. Some of us expect creativity to be our livelihood and to pay our bills. Gilbert argues that we shouldn’t, that art and the process of creating art should instead be enjoyed and loved. Her message is largely a positive one and it made me feel good. The tone of the book is personal, chatty and easy to read after a long day.

My only issue is that it could have been shorter. I think my problem with the genre of “self help books” is that they tend to have a few themes but manage to drag them out across 270 pages. I think Big Magic could have been 50 pages as it was a little repetitive. Having said that I would recommend it as a light hearted encouraging read for someone who is looking to explore their creative side.

On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

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I had never picked up a Stephen King book until my boyfriend handed me this book and said I had to read it.

He was right, it is a good read. This book is different to Gilbert’s in the sense that it is directed at people that want to write. Part memoir and part writing manual, King reflects back on his life,  his relationship with writing and how he developed his craft. I especially loved the parts about his childhood, they were funny and endearing and show his passion for writing started at a young age.

King gives a lot of advice to aspiring writers in this book but the most important advice I took away is that you must write and read constantly. At one point he mentions he is a slow reader, yet he reads 70 books a year.

The only thing that made me enjoy this book a little less was that it made me feel as though I am quite behind with my writing and reading whereas Big Magic made me feel like it’s all good to go at my own pace. If Big Magic was more like having a chat with a friend then On Writing was like having a chat with your tutor. But it terms of substance there was more to On Writing.

Magic is a theme in both of their books, they both talk about creative magic as well as inspiration. Yet it is not until inspiration is mixed with hard work that magic happens. Gilbert and King were in agreement about one thing for sure: creative magic doesn’t happen if you don’t work hard at your craft.

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