balance · books + reading · creativity · reading

What I Learned From Big Magic #takeaways #mind #soul

The streak of all my famous authors coming out with new books continues!  I picked up Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert from the library on the Tuesday it came out.  (All of these books have been coming out on Tuesdays; I did some googling and it seems like this is a thing, new releases coming out on Tuesdays, though I couldn’t identify the reason why.)24453082

I finished Big Magic on October 5.  I really enjoyed the format; Liz Gilbert divided the book into six sections, and each section is divided into several short pieces.  It reminds me of the format of Eat Pray Love: 108 stories, divided into three sections.  Some of the stories were longer; some were shorter.  And they were all inextricably connected.  I thought Eat Pray Love had a really good flow to it, and I think Big Magic does, too.  Here are my takeaways!

  • What happens to our work after we create is not our responsibility and is not within our power.  If you want to create, you create.  That doesn’t mean you’re going to achieve creative success.  It doesn’t mean you’re going to make a living as an artist.  As Gilbert says in Big Magic, “The patron goddess of creative success sometimes rewards charlatans and ignores the gifted.”  Understanding that the reaction to your work is not under your control and is, frankly, none of your business is, Gilbert says, the only sane way to create.  For me, I get caught up in what other people will say about what I’ve written.  Gilbert has some wonderful words of wisdom for dealing with haters.  (See below.)Quotes-From-Elizabeth-Gilbert-Big-Magic 7
  • Sneak off and have an affair with your creative self.  Gilbert playfully writes about dressing up in your best clothes and sneaking off to have an affair, pointing out that when someone’s having an affair, they never give the excuses like “I don’t have time” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.”  They find stolen moments to devote to their affair against all reason and rhyme.

I try to remember that my writing wants the best of me.  My writing wants me to bring my best self to the page.  My writing wants me when I’m feeling witty and graceful and powerful.  It also wants me when I’m feeling vulnerable and sensitive and weak, of course, but I like the idea of getting ready for writing as if I’m going on a hot date.  Get excited!  Put on your best sweatpants.  Because this writing thing is going to be so much fun.

  • If you can’t quit, you’ll have to keep going.  Gilbert tells a story, relayed from a relative, about the writer Richard Ford.

Ford was conversing at a speaking engagement with an aspiring writer who        was  struggling to make his living with his craft.  The writer asked Ford for advice, explaining that all anyone ever tells him is to do is persevere.  Ford tells him to quit – because writing is killing him and is making him miserable.  Ford then cheekily tells him that if he spends a few years away from writing and finds nothing else that inspires him the same way that writing does – well, then, he’ll have no choice but to persevere.

I sometimes fight off the negative self-talk themes of not good enough and it’s too late.  If I was meant to find creative success via writing, shouldn’t I have found it already?  I’m 32 years old.

Well, maybe I should have.  Maybe I will someday.  Or maybe I never will.  But if I can’t find any other creative outlet that brings me the same joy and fulfillment that writing does – well, I’ll just have to keep on writing.

  • Only when we are at our most playful can divinity get serious with us.  I do a lot of play therapy at my job, so I have a bulletin board full of quotations about the importance of play in my office.  “Play is serious work.”  “It’s a happy talent to know how to play.”  “Play turns out to be so stunningly essential to childhood that it’s like love, sunshine, and broccoli, all juiced together.”  Gilbert argues that our creative energy and ideas come from divine sources, and that we can only open the channel tQuotes-From-Elizabeth-Gilbert-Big-Magic4o our divinity when we are being playful and not taking ourselves so damn seriously.  
  • Value authenticity over originality.  I often have this argument with myself – why are you writing?  All the most wonderful, unique, and original stories and books have already been written.  But anyone who is writing straight from the heart and being truly authentic is adding something original to the world.  (So, don’t try to be original.  Just try to be you.  You are original.)
  • Write for you.  You need to write for YOU – not for money or for popularity or for other people.  Gilbert talks about writing Eat Pray Love for herself – it was a book she felt she needed to write.  And it ended up helping a lot of people in the world who related to her personal and spiritual struggles.  But – I really believe this is true – if you write something TRYING TO HELP OTHERS, it probably won’t help.  It will probably come across as condescending or distant or preachy or inauthentic.  However, if you write from the heart anfullsizerenderd honestly with honesty and you write what you need to write, you may find that your words accidentally end up helping others in strange and mysterious ways.
  • Creativity doesn’t have to be sacred.  If we try to make everything perfect, we end up never creating anything.  Gilbert argues that our creative expression must be of the utmost importance (if we are to live artistically) and it must be completely unimportant (if we are to live sanely).  “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Voltaire said.  Just keep on going and get things done.
books + reading · reading

The Great Book Project #mind

I love books.  That is a long-established truth.13227156_1240992875918652_6615662842851939933_n

I have a problem that is probably common to many book lovers.  I have a bunch of books – two shelves full, currently – that I bought at one point with every intention of reading it cover to cover, and then I got distracted and never read any of them.

However, these two shelves of books have survived many, many Marie Kondo-esque tidying projects.  So, there’s something about them that consistently appeals to me.  I always plan that I will read them – someday.

Then someday never comes.

So, after I Marie Kondo’d all my books, I was left with these two shelves:


I developed a plan for The Great Book Project.  I would press the pause button on all book buying and library usage, and I would read the books on these two shelves, one by one.

The first book I chose was If You Want To Write, by Brenda Ueland.  (You can see it on the top shelf, a skinny blue book tucked between Each Day A New Beginning and Flow.)  I’ve been meaning to read this book for years.  So one day last week, I picked it up and read the first five pages.

Less than a day later, I found myself at Barnes and Noble buying a brand-new book.  (Work, by Thich Nhat Hanh – so good so far!)

I came to the realization – and I probably should have realized this a long time ago – that there’s probaJust Not Into Youbly a good reason why I haven’t read a lot of these books.

In reality – I’m just not that into them.

Nothing against these books.  They’re wonderful.  They’re great.  It’s just – I’m just not that into them.

I had this experience with If You Want To Write, and then also with The Holy.

Does that mean The Great Book Project is over before it’s even begun?

Well – no.  I looked over the titles on the shelf today, and there are definitely some I still have aspirations of reading.  However, I’m going to ease up on the project, because what I’ve found is that by trying to reach a bunch of books I’m not that into, I end up not reading anything at all.  And what fun is that?

yoga for book lovers

books + reading · reading

I Would Be A Terrible Detective #mind

You guys – I just read the best book!READY PLAYER ONE

It’s called Ready Player One, and it’s written by Ernest Cline.

The main character, Wade Watts, is in the middle of a crazy scavenger hunt.  He has to use his wits and his computer skills to decipher clues and read hidden signs.  I tried my best to solve the puzzles Wade faced and to predict what would happen next – to solve each mystery as the book presented it.

Here’s the thing about me: I love mysteries – in books, in movies, anywhere.  I find them so intriguing and exciting.  Serial, Making A Murderer, Monk, Encyclopedia Brown – I love them all.

Here’s the other thing about me: I would be the worst detective in the history of the world.  No contest.  Hands down – worst detective ever.

I’m not that observant.  I have to tell people this, somewhat apologetically, all the time – when I don’t notice their new haircut, or when I can’t give them landma10325666_10153747607766291_6660091271841028219_nrks when I’m giving directions.  I will not notice if you’re wearing a new outfit – if you are limping – if you’re wearing colored contact lenses.  If I ever witness a crime, the cops are going to assume I committed it – because why else would I claim to have noticed absolutely nothing about the crime scene?

My lack of observational skills is, in part, why I abandoned my original career goal of journalism.  Too many of my stories included lines like, “People were there.  I don’t know how many or why.”

I actually like this weakness of mine – my lack of observational skills.  It protects me from annoyance frequently, and it keeps me focused on the things that really matter to me.  It keeps me from making judgments based on appearance.

It makes me look silly at times – when I can’t explain directions properly or when I notice, for the first time, an aspect of someone’s appearance that is blatantly obvious to others.

But, all in all, it makes me happy.  And it allows me to relish mystery novels, because I never, ever, ever pick up on the clues enough to solve the mystery before the detective does.


books + reading · reading

#bookbinge #mind

Currently I’m on a crazy book binge.  I literally can’t stop reading.  There are three books on my Goodreads “currently reading” shelf, and there’s a pile of books on my mantle waiting next in line to be read.  I keep hearing about new books that I need to a) add to my “Want To Read” shelf and b) request from the Baltimore County Public Library.  12112120_10153673219174732_4936065155598892010_n.jpg

As previously mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of book reviews, reading them or writing them.  I like when one of my Reliable Book Recommenders suggests a book for me, but I don’t really want to hear what the book is about or why someone liked it.

However, I usually give every book I read a rating – zero to five stars.  My ratings have been questioned in the past – I’m a pretty tough rater.  A five-star book is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE BOOKS IN THE UNIVERSE.  A four-star book is amazingly awesome, flawless, beautiful, but for whatever reason, is not one of my top 25 favorite books in the world.   So a three-star book is still pretty freakin’ good.  And I don’t think I’ve ever given a rating of zero or one star, because I would never spend my time finishing a book that was a zero or a one.

Anyway – I decided to give something new a try.  Concise book reviews – only ten words, only five if I can make it work.  We’ll see how it goes.

My 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge is to read 55 books this year.  So far, I’ve read eight:I-LIKE-TO-PARTY-(I-MEAN-I-READ-BOOKS)-Hoodies

  1. The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez
  2. The Relic Master, Christopher Buckley
  3. Gratitude, Oliver Sacks
  4. The Grown-up, Gillian Flynn
  5. Deep Dark Fears, Fran Krause
  6. The Turner House, Angela Flourney
  7. Who By Fire, Diana Spechler
  8. Did You Ever Have A Family, Bill Clegg

I’m in the middle of my ninth book – My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman.  So good.  Look out for my ten-word review!