I think it is tremendously hard to write a self-help book about anything WITHOUT coming across as unbearably narcissistic. So kudos to Elizabeth Gilbert for putting herself out there, knowing full well the slings & arrows she would have to endure.
Speaking for myself, I thoroughly enjoying this (short) volume. I loved Ms. Gilbert’s anecdotes (she is a gifted storyteller,) enjoyed her expressive voice, and adored her quirky views, that one must treat inspiration (or “the Muse”) as a trickster, who enjoys playing with (or tormenting) you.
Speaking for myself, I didn’t really need this book, as I am one of the few who actually enjoy playing with creativity. But that is because my very strict mother taught me to play the violin when I was three years old, and insisted that I start performing when I was five, even though I’m a recluse who hates making a spectacle of herself.
For the next 20 years I struggled to play an instrument that I couldn’t reliably play in tune (NOT good for a career in music), shutting myself up in my bedroom for three hours a day during my teenage years. In the process, I learned how to deal with creativity, that elusive trickster, when I was very young. I also learned to develop a thick skin, as I was obliged to hear (well-meaning) adults telling me I was no good on the violin and should do something else. (Painful, but true.)
When I became an adult, I disengaged from the violin in stages. At 25, I decided to start a career in experimental psychology. At 27, I decided to quit being a music teacher. At 40, I finally gave myself permission to stop playing the violin. And what were the benefits? My struggling & suffering disappeared overnight to be replaced by…time, lots of time, time to think. And eventually (after about four years) I began my first novel.
After my experiences of being a failed violinist, writing was an enormous relief. (Of course it helped that I chose to do it myself, rather than trying to please a rather exacting mother.) After lots of therapy, I was finally able to get over my broken past, and forge a new identity as a novelist. Now, I love the times when I am creative. When I create, I see myself as a child playing in a sandbox. When I edit my novels, I see myself kneading bread.
Which I know is very annoying for the rest of you (and probably more about me than you wished to know:)
So what advice do I have for anyone trying to decide whether to buy this book?
If you read the reviews you will see that some people adored this book and some hated it. So first of all, I advise you to decide where you are in your creative journey.
If you need a little inspiration, my advice would be to buy this book, but use it ONLY for dipping into.
If you are looking for something more concrete, like craft, then I would advise you NOT to buy this book, but instead to take (online) classes as they are a great space not only for learning but also for asking questions.
IMHO we need more creative people in this world of ours, not less, so I hope that something (if not this volume) will inspire you to begin and sustain you into continuing.
My very best wishes on your creative endeavors!