There are millions of books out there on writing. They range from the technical how-to type to inspirational tomes aimed at increasing your productivity. Elizabeth Gilbert’s (Eat Pray Love) work, Big Magic, is something entirely different. In a conversational tone which makes you feel as if Gilbert is a good friend or wise older sister imparting her experience, she spins out her observations about Creativity and the life of being a creative person (not just writers!) The subtitle of the book, Creative Living Beyond Fear, says it all. She offers her perspective on the creative experience in anecdotes which lead to pragmatic conclusions. And her advice is not just a dismissive “don’t worry,” but rather she takes the reader by the hand and lets you see how to avoid needless suffering. The topics are addressed in sections entitled: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. In each, she encourages us to shake off the seriousness, perfectionism, self-loathing, and other destructive tendencies of the martyr-artist in order to invite creativity and inspiration into one’s life. Indeed, Gilbert maintains that art, creativity or whatever you want to call it, seeks a home in us in order to find expression. That’s the Big Magic. It will find the right person through whom it can accomplish this, or it will move on, our choice. So it is our job to keep the channels open and inviting to unearth the “jewels” which lie within us. I have to confess, all that spiritualism aside, I felt I’d been given a “get-out-of-jail-free” card while reading this work. It gives one permission to not take art so seriously, to let go of failures and move on, and to use curiosity to seek out and attract fresh ideas. In the end, she points out the mysterious contradiction that is creativity: “What we make matters and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.” I may have to buy my own copy of this book so I can go back, re-read, and highlight certain passages when necessary–to keep it all in perspective. Oh, and by the way, Creativity if you’re out there–I’m ready to invite you in any time.
Tag Archives: writing
What was it Einstein said about the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing the same way but expecting different results? Well, let’s apply this definition of insanity to writers. We keep writing and sending our work out, but not getting published. It is no wonder the iconic image of a writer is a gin-soaked loner, haunting a garrett apartment, tapping out his (or her) masterpiece alone… Writing is a lonely business, but eventually even the most dedicated and successful writer has to engage with others…and that’s the really depressing part of it all. Rejection. No one deals with rejection well no matter what they tell you. Every time you wrap up a story or poem and send it out to the agent, publisher, or editor, a little bubble of hope forms in your chest, buoying you along all the weeks and months you sit waiting by your email for that wondrous message: “We love your work! We’ll publish it right away!” Instead, you receive a tersely worded form letter, informing you that the work just does not fit in with our needs at this time. Or, worse yet, you are told in no uncertain terms, if you don’t hear from us, the answer is no. So, any other reasonable person having met with such rejection of their work time after time would give up, find a new job, take up crocheting or join the French Foreign Legion. They would not keep pouring their souls onto paper for others to judge and dismiss, an experience not dissimilar from a blind date who, upon meeting you and hearing your inner most secrets, declares you boring, unattractive, and without any redeeming value. So, you may be wondering at this point, if you are still reading, what has prompted this scree? Well, today after a long wait of six months, I received a “form note”rejection for some work that I really thought had merit. Note to the wise: do not check your email for such messages before driving home on the beltway. Back to the story… I was disappointed, angry, discouraged, and pitying myself pretty much in that order. I arrived home with the firm resolve to quit. Enough. I’m done; I’m not a masochist after all. I won’t give them my finely crafted words to piss all over! So there! The same thoughts I am sure every writers has had at one time in their career…(except the few freakish ones who write a best seller right out of the gate and are negotiating movie rights along with merchandising tie ins.) Back to reality: But in the midst of my self-pitying wallow, I thought how fitting it was that I had just finished reading Laura Oliver’s work on writing called “The Story Within.” Besides the usual writing craft advice, Oliver explores another side of writing: why we keeping doing it in spite of the lack of rewards, recognition, or whatever it is we think we are seeking. She explores the joy of writing, and how to dig deeper and craft the true story which all people want told. And she is right. It is a book I highly recommend for any writers’ shelf. Also, another little message from the cosmos permeated my bubble of self-pity this evening through another email: a notice that I had won a give-away prize from my comment on a writers’ blog. It was a nice little compensation package for the nasty rejection, and it left me feeling as if the writing world is perhaps not such a cold and heartless wasteland….that there might be some sort of cosmic system of checks and balances that even it all out. So, I vowed to quit writing, and I will… for today.