Big Magic – A Book Review
I choose to trust that inspiration is always nearby, the whole time I’m working, trying its damnedest to impart assistance.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I have always loved to write. I wrote quite a bit when I was young. My sisters, friends and I wrote plays and stories. Our performances came complete with commercials (Pope-a-Pola! It’ll make you drop to your knees and pray!) I wrote angst filled, horrific poetry in high school. I took a creative writing class in college that I really loved.
Then I got pregnant with my son my senior year, and shit got real. I stopped writing. I threw myself into other creative pursuits- crafty, mothery things. I didn’t write anything again until 9/11. I was in a weird place with my faith, and was married to an atheist- so God was not part of our family life. I wrote a secular prayer for my children. Then I wrote a children’s book. I actually sent it out to a publishing house, where it was duly rejected. And I stopped again.
I really didn’t start writing again until I got on Facebook. I found I loved having a medium to express myself- and I loved the immediacy of people interacting with me about what I’d written- whether it was serious, or funny, or nonsensical. I didn’t do anything with it, though. I didn’t seek avenues to write outside of social media, I didn’t submit any work. When someone would say, You’re a good writer! I would laugh it off, but really I had such a hunger.
I was paralyzed though. I’ve always tended to have two gears when it comes to writing. It was either so easy the stuff seemed to write itself, or it was impossible.
I’d entertained the thought of starting a blog, or writing a book for a long time. I felt like I needed to be ready. I kept waiting for inspiration to strike, for the big idea. The thing is, I would never be ready- I have never been ready for anything in my entire life. Most of the wonderful things in my life I went into kicking and screaming. I know, I’m a delight.
If I want to be ready, if I want a fully formed, fleshed out, BIG IDEA handed to me, I can just buy a book that has already been written. Done. When it came to my writing I was unable to apply the credo that I lived by as an art teacher. Process, process, process. Creativity for creativity’s sake. I used to tell my students, if you want Picasso, go buy one. JK, you’ll never be able to afford it. Buy a calendar. If you want to be an artist, pick. up. your. brush.
baBAM. Now you’re an artist.
So, with a lot of encouragement from bossy friends, I picked up my… keyboard? And baBAM, I became a writer.
When I began my blog, I decided the strategy of waiting around for divine inspiration wasn’t going to work so well. I’d likely average 3 posts a year at that rate. I decided to put myself on a schedule. I would post twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays- come hell or high water.
It was HARD. I would frequently find myself on blog-eve with nothing. Then I would force myself to write about something that had been niggling in the back of my head, sometimes for years. Now, this didn’t always yield stellar results, but it taught me an awful lot about my process.
My writing has become more of a discipline, simply because I do it all the time now. It seems easier, because I have learned to harness my flights of fancy. When I am out and about and I have a thought, or I hear something that sends that little frisson down my spine, I email it to myself before I see something shiny and forget about it.
I’ve also learned not to judge my process, or compare it to other people’s.
I remember sitting in my Favorite’s bed one morning, with my laptop. He came in and said, What are you doing? I said, Writing. He looked at my screen, and then at me. He seemed…perplexed-ish. Watching videos of baby goats is writing? he said. Yes, I replied. Yes, it is.
You guys. IT TOTALLY IS.
Here is what I have figured out about myself. Writing is easy. THINKING is hard. Deciding how I feel about things, and what they mean to me in my life and in the bigger picture? Excruciating. And all those times when I cannot write to save my life? It’s because I don’t know what I think. Yet. And fiddling around on FB, and watch baby goats gambol, and taking Harry Potter quizzes on Buzzfeed distract me and free up my brain to do real thinking.
Now we come to the real reason for this post. Let us discuss BIG MAGIC.
Holy shit, guys.
Now, as some of you may know (but only because I might have let it slipped a time or two) I was lucky enough to get a hold of an early copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book on creativity.
I never quite know what to expect when I open one of her books. Eat, Pray, Love changed my life. It really did. When I first read it, it was about my faith. When I next read it, it was about my divorce. When I last read it, it was about falling in love again. I suspect the next time I read it, it may be about pizza- but I digress.
I really liked Committed. I thought it was a really interesting take on relationships and marriage. It didn’t resonate with me the same way EPL did, but I enjoyed it and recommended it to people. The Signature of all Things was gorgeous and unexpected. I love when a book surprises me.
This book was so exactly the right book for me to be reading right now. I am writing for two blogs, just finished an article, I’ve had pieces up on HuffPo, and I have other irons in the fire I’m still figuring out.
BIG MAGIC is such a… I’m not sure how to say it. It’s both mystical and practical. It’s nuts and bolts sporting gossamer wings. It’s Cher slapping poor Nick Cage in Moonstruck- Snap out of it! and John Cusack holding up a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel. It is all of the things.
Because here’s what I have come to know about creativity- it is equal parts ephemeral and muscular. YES, sometimes I think we are visited by genius- and I love the way Elizabeth describes it in the book, as something outside of us. MUCH HEALTHIER, Y’ALL. But sometimes it’s a grind. It’s both. It’s AND not OR. It is inspiration and discipline, holding hands.
I could quote this book ad nauseam, but I’m hesitant to do so simply because that would rob you of experiencing it as you should. Intact. GO. Pre-order. If you are already creating, it’s a love letter to your journey. If you aren’t, it’s marching orders and permission.
You’re an artist. Go act like one.