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Month: September 2016

Big Magic, Parts 1 & 2

Big Magic, Parts 1 & 2

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the first in a series of posts about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Join the discussion, and read more with us at the Books on Writing Reading Program! 

 


“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – -continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself (p 12).”

I feel like there’s a meme out there somewhere that illustrates this (although Gilbert’s book cover does a pretty good job of it). It’s like Dorothy leaving Kansas and entering Oz. Everything is dull and grey, and then suddenly it’s technicolor. That’s what creativity – of any sort – does to your world. Your senses are heightened, you notice more, you feel more alive. And it’s hard to go back from that.


“I believe that our planet is inhabited…by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us – albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest (p 34-35).”

This reminds me of Julia Cameron’s idea that the stories are out there, waiting for you to discover them. Gilbert tells the story of Ruth Stone, who would “take dictation, letting the words pour forth onto the page (p 64).” This is exactly what Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, is talking about when she says, “When I teach screenwriting, I remind my students that their movie already exists in it’s entirety. Their job is to listen for it, watch it with their mind’s eye, and write it down (The Artist’s Way, p 118).”

Gilbert goes on to say, “The idea will organize coincidences and portents to tumble across your path, to keep your interest keen – you will start to notice all sorts of signs pointing you toward the idea (p 36).” This sounds suspiciously like Cameron’s idea of synchronicity!


Gilbert talks about the book idea she had, Evelyn of the Amazon, and how she left it unattended for a long period of time, and when she got back to it the novel was gone. I worry about this with my WIP, Luke and Ann (working title). I love this book so much, but I’m so stuck, and I’ve been stuck for 4+ years. I’ve decided to take a break from it, and I’m scared it won’t be there when I get back to it. It still calls me, I still think of it often, and I still spin my wheels on it. Has the idea “grown tired of waiting” and left? I hope, since I’m still hearing the siren’s call, that’s not the case, but in the meantime, it’s slowly driving me insane.

But there’s still hope: “Sometimes they do wait. Some exceedingly patient ideas might wait years, or even decades, for your attention (p 48).” I can only hope my idea does. Still, I might need to remember this advice: “…the best you can hope for…is to let your old idea go and catch the next idea that comes around. And the best way for that to happen is to move on swiftly, with humility and grace. Don’t fall into a funk about the one that got away. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t rage at the gods above. All that is nothing but distraction, and the last thing you need is further distraction. Grieve if you must, but grieve efficiently. Better to just say goodbye to the lost idea with dignity and continue onward. Find something else to work on – anything, immediately – and get at it (p 48-49).”


This is not The Artist’s Way, although I do see a lot of similar thoughts echoed. Julia Cameron leads you along gently, coaxing, trying not to scare you, like luring an abused dog to trust you. Gilbert doesn’t have time for all that. Put on your big girl panties and let’s go. She writes in a friendly tone, almost as if you’re sitting across the table from her. You’ve just finished telling her how terrible everything is, and she says, yes, yes, I know, I’m so sorry. So what are you going to do about it? She’s the friend that drops truth bombs on you, the one that sees through all your bullshit and calls you on it. In the most loving, caring way possible, of course.

And sometimes, that’s just what you need.


What do you think so far of the book? Has anything touched you, sparked your interest, made you realize something about yourself or your writing? Do you have an idea that may have waited too long for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Join me next Friday to discuss Big Magic, Part 3 (Permisssion)

Episode 29 – 10 minute writing practice

Episode 29 – 10 minute writing practice

Last year, I had this idea: to get back to the fun part of writing.  The Writing Promptcast was born out of that idea.  I wrote more in a month than I had written the previous four years, and I enjoyed every moment of it, because I didn’t have to work for it – I just wrote the story that came to me.  It was a story full of aliens and FBI guys and assassination attempts and true love.  It was crazy and random and fun, and yes, it needs a lot of editing.  But it’s written.

I have big plans for NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month is all about getting words on the page, and I’d love to help you with that.  In November, I will be doing 30 minute podcasts every day.  Set aside the time to write with me.  Have fun.

The Writing Promptcast is the podcast you listen to while you write.  It is a series of word prompts, each separated by several minutes of silence.  Write whatever story comes to you.  Find out more here.

www.writingpromptcast.com ¦ Facebook ¦ twitter ¦Pinterest

 

Episode 28 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

Episode 28 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  E.L. Doctorow

The Writing Promptcast is the podcast you listen to while you write.  It is a series of word prompts, each separated by several minutes of silence.  Write whatever story comes to you.  Find out more here.

www.writingpromptcast.com ¦ Facebook ¦ twitter ¦Pinterest

Episode 27 – 15 minutes of writing prompts

Episode 27 – 15 minutes of writing prompts

If you want to write, but don’t know what to write, the Writing Promptcast is for you.  Come here with no plan in mind, and see where the story takes you.

The Writing Promptcast is the podcast you listen to while you write.  It is a series of word prompts, each separated by several minutes of silence.  Let your imagination run wild!  Find out more here.

www.writingpromptcast.com ¦ Facebook ¦ twitter ¦Pinterest

Next up: Big Magic

Next up: Big Magic

The Books on Writing Reading Program – I know, it’s a mouthful.  Not sure what else to call it, though.  What is it?  We read Books on Writing together!  I post, you post, we discuss.  Read more about it here.

Now that we’ve finished with The Artist’s Way, we’re going to start on Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I wanted something (hopefully) quick and inspirational before November and NaNoWriMo.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Here’s the schedule:

  • September 30th: Parts 1 (Courage) & 2 (Enchantment)
  • October 7th: Part 3 (Permission)
  • October 14th: Part 4 (Persistence)
  • October 21st: Parts 5 (Trust) & 6 (Divinity)
  • October 28th: Final Thoughts

Read along with me, share your thoughts, share what inspires you or doesn’t.  I’d love to hear from you.

www.writingpromptcast.com ¦ Facebook ¦ twitter ¦Pinterest

 

Episode 26 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

Episode 26 – 15 minute writing practice using word prompts

Writing PromptcastAmerican novelist Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  Consider each word in today’s podcast to be the drip, drip, drip of that faucet of writing.

The Writing Promptcast is the podcast you listen to while you write.  It is a series of word prompts, each separated by several minutes of silence.  Let your imagination run wild!

www.writingpromptcast.com ¦ Facebook ¦ twitter ¦ Pinterest

 

The Artist’s Way – Epilogue and Final Thoughts

The Artist’s Way – Epilogue and Final Thoughts

Image - The Artist's Way
Available on Amazon and other book retailers

The first book of the Books on Writing Reading Program is complete. I hope you all enjoyed reading along with me and that you found something you could use in The Artist’s Way.

In the epilogue, Cameron talks of a spiral path going up a mountain representing The Artist’s Way. But spiral, to me, means going around the mountain time and again in ever-smaller circles as you get closer to the summit. I rarely see paths this way; instead, I see switchbacks, which actually seems more fitting to me. Back and forth, each switchback taking you higher while also exhausting you. We still see “the same views, over and over, at slightly different altitudes.” She even goes on to say that growth is “doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping.” Switchbacks are killers, but “while the occasional dazzling vista may grace us, it is really best to proceed one step at a time, focusing on the path beneath our feet as much as the heights still before us (p 203).”


As I’ve noted on more than one occasion, I have a really hard time with morning pages. After more than five months (I was actually doing them before I started doing The Artist’s Way) I STILL hate them. HATE. I struggle. I never get through a week straight of doing them. They are a task on my to-do list, a chore, one of my least favorites. I would rather (and have) clean toilets.

I kept searching for others who didn’t like them. Those haters are really hard to find. All over the internet I found raves about morning pages, how they changed lives, made people more clear-headed, made people write more and better.

Again and again, I wondered what I was missing. Again and again, I wondered what I was doing wrong. Again and again I hated myself because I didn’t get it.

Somehow I stumbled across this forum post on Barbarasher.com. A comment from engelein says, “Can’t stand them. You know, just because you’re a creative type doesn’t mean you have to do morning pages. If it doesn’t work for you then let it be and do something else.” Another comment from midlifemusing: “I hate morning pages too! A prescribed time, format, length, method, etc…please! I know they work for many people, but they are just a means to an end. There are many activities that can serve the same purpose as morning pages.” Alwen recommends “fallbacks,” having predetermined lists to write about, like wish lists or gratefulness lists, or description, “What I can see, what I can hear.” I’ve tried this in the past and it’s worked to some extent, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere with it.

The problem I have most with morning pages….well, there are multiple issues.

  1.  I am not a morning person
  2. With a 2 year old, I’d have to get up at 4am to make sure I have time to do them, because I never know when the kid will wake up.
  3. My mind is blank in the morning. I’m half falling asleep (I really think I’ve fallen asleep a couple of times while doing them).

I also found a post on thisoffbeatlife.com about “recovering” from The Artist’s Way. The author likens morning pages to Getting Things Done – I’ve noted some GTD similarities myself, since I’ve been reading both at the same time. She also recommends Cameron videos on youtube. In one video, Cameron says morning pages “prioritizes your day.” It’s never done this for me. I write it while half asleep and forget it before brushing my teeth. However, I do think it prioritizes my day when I don’t do them first thing. When I’m awake enough to get something out of them.

So I’ve started doing them in the afternoons, and I’ve seen a vast improvement. I get something out of them. They go faster, like take about half the time. I’m happier. About doing them, about what I’ve done.

So it’s Daily Pages – not Morning Pages – for me.


As with any book offering advice, guidance, self-help, there are parts of The Artist’s Way that resonate more with me than others. Other parts will resonate more with someone else. I admit that I am cynical, especially when confronted with the gentle tone Cameron uses. But in the end, I did feel like she really wanted to help others, that she wanted to see us succeed. The Artist’s Way will remain on my bookshelf for many years to come, and I will likely go back and read highlights regularly.

So now that we’re done with The Artist’s Way, what’s next for the Books on Writing Reading Program? Cameron’s Recommended Reading List includes Dorothea Brande, Natalie Goldberg, and Brenda Ueland, all of which I have read to some extent and are in the future of the Reading Program. But first, what will hopefully be a quick burst of inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ll post the reading schedule next week.

Coming in October:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert