I love when book recommendations lead me to discovering new ways of looking at the world–especially the world of creativity. Thanks to Brittany Anderson at Globestrolling Bee for this recommendation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic: Creating Life Beyond Fear.
I have to admit, at first I was skeptical. I was not a fan of Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat, Pray Love. I just like my memoirs to be a little deeper with a little more grit. However, I did enjoy Gilbert’s most recent fiction book, Signature of All Things .
Since launching my books out into the world as an Indie author last February, I have found myself on a whole new level of creative living and have been seeking out books about the process of creativity–old favorites such as The War of Art and new ones–such as Big Magic: Creating Life Beyond Fear.
The book is divided into sections including: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. Each section dives into the creative process with the focus on Gilbert’s life as a writer–from her early days as a writer in her 20’s, to the first short story she sold and how she revised it to fit the magazine, to her mega bestseller to her subsequent books which have not been mega sellers.
One of the quotes I loved in Big Magic said:
“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates uncertain outcome.”
AHA! So this explains why when we send off that query letter, sign that contract, or push publish on our Amazon Kindle accounts–suddenly there is a wave of fear so high you just want to scream, what have I done? While everyone around you is so excited for you that you have published that book or signed that contract, all you can do is smile and mutter to yourself, I hope I know what I’m doing. And that’s the thing. We don’t. Anytime one stage is over whether it be the draft is complete, the revisions finished or the price set on Amazon, we move into the next stage and there is the uncertain outcome. What if no one buys my book? What if everyone buys my book? What if I never write another one? What if? What if? What if? It’s all enough to shut down the whole thing and call it good–except the alternative of not writing never seems very much like an option to me.
When I sold my upper middle grade, Stained Glass Summer to Musa Publishing in August 2011, I was petrified. Yes. The book I had been trying to sell for over seven years, finally sold. BUT…I had taken a risk and sold to a small e-publisher. Children’s books were not with small e-publishers. Romance books were just barely with e-publishers. What on earth was I doing? But, something about that decision felt right too. The path before me was not the one I had listened to or seen at SCBWI or in my MFA program. Everyone I knew published children’s book traditionally and got big advances. The only problem was by the time 2011 rolled around, those two book deals were not so common, big advances were not so popular, and traditional publisher had laid off a lot of editors who were now working freelance–one of whom I used to developmentally edit Stained Glass Summer.
At the time, I had no idea that decision to go with Musa Publishing would continue to shape my choices. I had no idea that I would move into the romance markets and love writing romances. I had no idea that Musa Publishing would go out of business three years later and that again instead of letting that story die, I chose to take it and my other YA book, WEAVING MAGIC, out as Indie books. I had no idea that Indie would become a path I enjoyed for the challenge, learning curve and freedom it gives me as a writer in all of the decision making stages.
But if I had listened to fear in that decision to go with Musa Publishing, the path of the last four years would have been very different and most likely I would still be trying to sell that first book. I did not listen to fear. I trusted in the flow of creativity and the journey this process takes us on.
In the early part of Big Magic, Gilbert writes a letter to fear and tells fear that she and creativity are about to go on a journey together. She says to fear that he is super at doing his job and there is plenty of room for both fear and creativity. Fear is allowed to have a seat and even a voice, BUT…fear is not allowed to have a vote. Fear is not allowed to touch the road map and suggest detours. She says, “Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio!” And above all else, “my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
And this, I think is something to remember when we encounter fear in any stage of the creative process., my familiar friend, you will always be given a seat on the journey because your voice is priceless, BUT…you are forbidden to drive this journey.