Big Magic

Last week I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's (author of Eat, Pray, Love) new book Big Magic.  Already I want to read it again.  As Marie Forleo says, "every human being should read this book."  Agreed.  So, go get the book.  In the meanwhile, here's a few things that really stood out to me.  

If You're Alive You're a Creative Person.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people tell me I'm creative, but they're not.  I call bullshit.  Elizabeth Gilbert does too.  If you're alive, you're a creative person.  Maybe you don't write music, or books, or paint, but that does not mean you are not creative.  I truly believe we were born to create, all of us.  Yes, I have cultivated creativity in my life and made a conscious choice to hone the craft that chose me, which happens to be writing.  Once you start digging in your own life, you might be surprised what you find.  

I Want to Live My Life Collaborating With the Forces of Inspiration.  I intend to spend the rest of my life following the trail of magic, and collaborating with these forces of Inspiration.  I love the word "collaborate", because it speaks of a partnership.  And I LOVE the idea of partnering with Inspiration on this journey.  I have found when I am working on my books, I am not writing the story, the story is writing me.  I sit down and ask what the story has to tell me today.  As I am faithful, so is Inspiration.  I have two novels in progress, and Inspiration has dumped a third one in my lap.  I don't need to understand Inspiration, or even prove it exists.  It simply is.  I think our world is dying for lack of inspiration and magic, so I intend to be one of those who lives on the fringes of imagination, welcoming Inspiration into my life and creating space for it in my world and the world at large.

You're Own Reasons to Make Art are Enough.  I don't need anyone's permission to make art, which for me, is writing.  And neither do you.  If you want to make it, do it!   It doesn't really matter what anyone thinks anyway.  Would I love to be a NY Times best-selling author?  Of course!  Am I going to quit writing if I'm not?  Never.  I hope I'm writing novels when I'm 90 years old.  Writing is work, but I believe it is the work I am meant to do, and that is good enough.  So, do it I will, regardless of the outcome.  I cannot control the outcome anyway.

If I'm Not Creating, I'm Probably Destroying Something.  I am inclined to think that all of the world's horribly addictive behaviors might be alleviated if people were creating more.  There are a million ways to be blacked out of life, asleep and unaware,  because one does not wish to be present in their current reality.  Not just drugs and alcohol, but food, sex, money, work....and I could go on.  I think these behaviors are a sign of acting out because we are not creating.  We reach for the bottle instead of the page, the pill instead of the piano.  Creating drama in our lives, instead of drama on the page, as Julia Cameron says.  I know this to be true in my own life.  If I don't write daily, I get angsty and antsy and then I start creating all kinds of ridiculous scenarios in my mind, including and not limited to the fact I might just end up homeless, and then I want to eat an entire box of donuts and binge-watch Netflix.  Once I put pen to the page, I settle right down and my mood does a 180.  Those things that seemed to be looming on the horizon are dissipated into mist once I start creating.  

If People Don't Like What You're Creating... This is probably my favorite.  And I am completely unapologetic about the profanity.  People love to criticize, love to tear down, love to do anything to keep you on their level so they don't have to be faced with the fact that Inspiration might be trying to get their attention too.  I wish everyone would go "make their own fucking art".  I think the world would be a much better place.  We get all serious about it, but the very fact that I can sit down with paper and a pen and create a world out of my own mind is amazing!  My brother puts on paper or canvas (or sometimes whatever he can find) the images in his mind with pens and inks and paints.  One of my very best friends records the melodies and words that come to her in song on the piano, the guitar or ukulele.  My Dad has self-published four books.  Four!  And he's got another story in the works.  What an incredible gift!!!  And the coolest part is, we've all got it!  I think Inspiration is just waiting for us to say yes.  

One last thing...if you are thinking about creating something, do it!  You know all the times you say, "Hey, I had that thought" ?  Start acting on it.  If you say no, or ignore the idea long enough, the idea will then move on and find someone else who can bring it to out into the world.  Ideas are waiting to be born, according to Miss Gilbert, and they will find someone else. Will it be easy?  Hell no.  Will it be the best time of your life?  Absolutely.  So go create something!  

1 Thing That is Really Helping Me Get My Writing Shit Straight.

My brother, Benj Curtis, challenged me to simply work on one of my books for 15 minutes a day.  That's it.  This was on Sunday.  

I'd been fairly stuck in my book writing process.  I had one book with a partially finished first draft, limping along.  A second book had been burning inside me but I told myself I needed to put this one off until I finished the first one.  Talk about a subtle form of self-sabotage.  This way, neither book ever gets written and I can say I am a writer who is writing nothing but morning pages.  Not that there is no value in morning pages.  They simply are not a book.  

It's this little thing called performance anxiety.  "What if it's crap?", "What if it's terrible?", "What if no one likes it?", "What if I can't actually write, but just think I can?", "Why would I write a book, let alone two or more, when there are already so many?".  And on and on it goes.  I have had to learn to tell my inner critic to shut up and go to the corner, tying her into a chair if I have to.  Her name is Edna.  I say, "Edna, go to the corner and be quiet."  And sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't.  

I get overwhelmed when I think of writing for a four-hour block of time.  Even a two-hour block of time.  But, for whatever reason, this 15-minute thing seems to work for me.  So, for the last two nights, after getting ready for bed but before reading and going to sleep, I set my phone timer for 15 minutes and write.  Guess what happened?  In two sessions, I have almost 1500 words.  

Sometimes I hate admitting this, but my brother was absolutely right.  It's easy for me to do 15-minutes.   And I have found there is something magical about writing when the world is quiet.  Plus, I'm writing kind of a creepy tale so the darkness is a good place to do it.  I write my story out long hand, using a pen or pencil, on good old-fashioned notebook paper.  I date it, number the pages (back and front) and then put it in a plain white binder when I'm done.  

I type the words into my laptop the next day, so I can keep track of word count and don't get overwhelmed by having to type the whole thing in all at once.  I do teeny, tiny edits when I am typing, but for the most part, keep it as raw as I can.  For me, there is something so important about touching pen or pencil to paper.  This is exactly how I write songs.  Chicken scratch on paper, and then I copy it to a computer or somewhere else once it's finished.  Poetry and short stories too. I write them out by hand, messy, scribbled and very rough.  And then I refine them, after I have birthed the initial idea.  

And then I came across this video by Neil Gaiman in one of my emails.  This is why I write.  Not because I am better or smarter, but because no one else can tell the stories I must tell.  Cheers!

My Book

Last November, I completed NaNoWriMo.  I sat down and wrote out 50,000 words in the month of November.  And since that time, my book has been staring me in the face. It sits in the folder, all alone.

For whatever reason, I am afraid of my own book.  Afraid to finish.  I know what the next steps are, and where I need to take the plot.  I have a million and one writing resources.  I don't touch those either.  Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance, with a capital R.  I think he's right.  

This is the thing I am meant to do, write.  I know it.  Yet, I still deny it, still run from it, still allow my ego to distract me.  I know if I finish, then I am obligated to get the book out there.  Whether through traditional publishing, or self-publishing, it has to happen.  I never give myself a deadline, so then it is impossible for me to fail.  

I am making a promise, a public promise.  My book will be finished by Dec 31st, 2015.  Good, bad, ugly.  Whatever it is, it will be.  Because my soul longs for this.  I am dying to get my stories out and for some reason decided it's okay to punish myself and not do the thing I love the most.  

Ridiculous.  So my ego is going on a shelf, in trade for my dream.  My real, true dream of being a published novelist and a freelance writer.  There.  I said it.  Now that wasn't so, hard was it?  What is the dream you are running from?  Sit down, pound it out and do it.  Because it will never let you go if you don't.