TC 278: Cafe Book Club – Big Magic: Persistence

TC 278: Cafe Book Club – Big Magic: Persistence

In this episode we continue our discussion of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. This week Robin, Amy, Michelle, and Gloria discuss the section on Persistence.


This is the longest section so far, which may be telling as to how important persistence is in achieving the “creative life” that we’re seeking. Sometimes it all boils down to just showing up each day, every day.

Key concept

People must be persistent when it comes to creativity in the face of all odds, including negative criticism that they may encounter.  When a person is persistent in spite of the odds, that is when the real work is being done. Persistence is a crucial part of the creative process.

“On bad days, when I felt no inspiration at all, I would set the kitchen timer for thirty minutes and make myself sit there and scribble something, anything. I had read an interview with John Updike where he said that some of the best novels you’ve ever read were written in an hour a day; I figured I could always carve out at least thirty minutes somewhere to dedicate myself to my work…”

Financial demands

One of the points that Elizabeth makes in this section is that you don’t have to quit your day job to be creative. And even if your creativity alone is not enough to support yourself, the work is still worth doing even if it doesn’t cover the rent. “Financial demands can put so much pressure on the delicacies and vagaries of inspiration. You must be smart about providing for yourself. To claim that you are too creative to think about financial questions is to infantilize yourself.” She advocates for us to own our place in the world and be responsible. “This is a world, not a womb. You can look after yourself in this world while looking after your creativity at the same time.”


“Perfectionism stops people form completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.”

This is something that I know all too well. Perfectionism is a trait I have been struggling to overcome – it can be paralyzing. But in the face of looming deadlines I have begun to embrace “perfect is the enemy of  done”. Intellectually I understand that it is impossible to know enough or be skilled enough to make anything “perfect”, but as Michelle says in the podcast, there is honor and value in simply finishing a project, regardless of whether it meets your own (impossible) standards.

When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.


As Gilbert quotes from General George Patton: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”



These are suggestions from Elizabeth Gilbert:

Write down four fiercely creative goals. Put it up on your fridge, tuck it into a book, hang it beside your door—anywhere you’ll be reminded of the Big Magic inside you! Onward!

Questions to consider

  • Think about what it would mean for you to take vows for your creative life. What ceremony could you invent? What promises would you make?
  • What small, sustaining action can you take daily to show your devotion to your creative life? It doesn’t even have to be the same action every day, though rituals are always a lovely way to ground our fears, to call to inspiration and let them know we’re showing up, shining the homing beacon.
  • What things are you so curious about, enjoy so thoroughly, are so interested in that you are willing to eat the shit sandwich that comes along with it? When if you life did you turn away from a pursuit because you just couldn’t stomach the shit sandwich?
  • Practice being a “deeply disciplined half-ass”. What does that term bring up for you? How can you change your approach to your work? What plan can you “violently execute” this week?

Join the Cafe Book Club Forum and share your thoughts with the community!

1 Comment

  1. ALFin
    Nov 24, 2015

    Great write up of the chapter, love the quotes and pictures, and the questions are perfect to anchor in what we learned.

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