“I never imagined that I’d be married to someone who reads fantasy novels,” I said to my husband last week. We were camping for my birthday on the edge of a lovely river that we’d planned on spending the day swimming in. Sadly when we arrived there were warnings against swimming due to toxic algae floating on the banks of the river. So the day I’d imagined consisting of floating in the river with a backdrop of tall trees became a day sitting next to the RV on a picnic bench reading. My husband loves Stephen King, Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemingway and we have some crossover writers like Henry Miller and James Baldwin but his reading material for the trip was pure fantasy full of invented languages, complex make believe worlds, confusing family lineages and naturally at least one dragon. While my books included Unbroken (a book that I would probably never have bought myself but since a friend gave it to me, I gave it a try and haven’t been able to put it down), Brene Brown’s Rising Strong and Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
“Well I never thought I’d be married to someone who was so into self-help books,” my husband replied. WHHHAAAT? Self-help? I wasn’t one of those lonely/heartbroken/what should I do with my life?/do I really know myself at all? type of people creeping around the I’m Ok-You’re Ok/How to Stop Worrying and Start Living section of the bookstore trying to pick the one book that would make my world shift on its axis so I could finally start living the life that I’d always dreamed of type of person. Or… was I?
I started thinking about some of my favorite books and I had to admit that although Raymond Carver, David Sedaris, and Joan Didion ranked as a few of my favorite authors, I also deeply loved Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird, Grethen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and (although several of my fellow students in my graduate creative writing program frowned upon it, I couldn’t help but love Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love.
One of the things I strive to do in my life is to be grateful for the awesomeness around me while examining my life and taking steps to make it even more awesome. And yet… I’d never really thought of the books that sit on my bedside table as self-help despite the fact that they helped me to be more present, grateful and a better version of myself. I have no desire to lead an unexamined life where complacency and routine trump exploration, growth and creativity. So here I am coming out of the closet as a lover self-help books.
Since now I’m all vulnerable and naked to the world having had just ripped off my creative writing graduate school cloak of literary intelligentsia, let me tell you about my newest favorite personal growth (ahem… self-help) book… Big Magic. Big Magic is straight-up awesome! If you’re a creative or even just a human being who has any desire whatsoever to be more creative this book is a must! I love Gilbert’s natural writing style that almost feels like you’re reading a letter from a dear friend who is giving you the tools, advice and stories you need for your life and creative journey. She doesn’t make any promises about how rad your life will be when you finish the book or tell you that all you have to do is quit your job or to just jump and the net will catch you. Instead she shares stories from her own and other people’s journeys to be the best creative human beings they can be in whatever way makes sense for them. She tells us that we can “live a long life, making and doing really cool things the entire time” and reminds us that “when you say no, nothing happens at all.”
So whether you’re a newly out of the closet self-help lover like I am or a hardcore lover of dragon books like my husband, if you long to live a life during which you experience the world with wonder, curiosity and courage I strongly encourage you to read this book.
We’re also giving away all of the other books except for Big Magic in our creative business + DIY book club this month!
P.S. – If Big Magic sounds like your kind of book, be sure to check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons.
To enter the contest:
If you want to win four of these books How to Crochet, How to Make a Quilt, Flea Market Fabulous, and Handmade Living, just leave a comment on this post telling us about a book that you’ve read that inspired you. Post your comment by October 9th at midnight to be entered to win. Make sure to include your email address so we can get your address if you win and ship you some lovely things to read.
The contest is now closed. Congrats to Christina!