And just like that, one of those simplistic sentences that can be used to tie up endings in storytelling, which I find a bit annoying. Because much of the time, things don’t happen just like that in real life. Coincidences occur but not with the same regularity as in fiction. Or if they do, the ‘just like that’ bit is not a random occurrence, but a result of time, effort and work put into the process.
Yet sometimes, we do experience moments of inspiration or of blinding clarity – that flash when we just know something is 100% right, or we get that brilliant idea or vision, of exactly what we need to do and how to do it. We usually call these our light bulb moments, because it feels like a switch has been turned on and we can see everything properly for the first time.
That spark of the conception of an idea, then its growth as you make further connections in your brain, is an exhilarating feeling. It feels a bit like magic; the writer Elizabeth Gilbert argues in her latest book Big Magic*, that magic is exactly what it is, the magic of our creative connection with the universe in particular.
Before any cynical types run away in panic at that last sentence, take a breath. Remember, I am one of those types too. This is not a hippy dippy, knit your own cosmiverse from fairy dust type of book. And this is not a book review either, although I did start it today and have read about a quarter so far. It’s an easy to read, sense making manual, that will help people overcome their fears about trying to create.
Gilbert is most famous for her travel memoir Eat Pray Love, which some people will dismiss as a chick lit book because of the film that followed (haven’t seen it myself) but it’s not. I found it to be funny, moving and insightful, and her honesty about her own failings was brave and refreshing to read. Some of the early stuff in Italy and India is hilarious, with people you wish you had met too. When I read it, I was trapped in a maternity ward bed, struggling to breast feed, while my newborn slept much of the time, and I found it a great comfort.
The purpose of her new book is to encourage people to tap into the inner creativity that is inside all of us human beings, because it makes us feel properly alive, connected and happier people. To indulge our own creative side is a part of wellbeing. Her argument is that because arts is also a profession, there is also a ‘what’s the point of creating if you can’t be that good?’ type of attitude that stops many people from exploring their love of music, dancing, writing, art and so on.
And of course, creativity can take other forms, like planting a beautiful garden, or making clothes, for example. Keeping a journal, or exchanging long letters with a long term correspondent can be a great outlet for that creativity, one which many contented people will share. However, Gilbert’s book is also aimed at people whose interest goes beyond just doing things for themselves. Putting their creative thing out there to the world is an essential part of it, like writing, or painting or performing. You can do those things and never show them to anyone, but not doing so is a judgement of your own ability and in many cases, a product of fear.
She includes a great list of potential fears, which itself is frighteningly long and includes fears like not good enough, everyone else has done it and better, or what other people will think. The list goes on, with the summary that everything is scary, scary, scary.
I recognised many things on the list, and while I have taken some big steps, there are many more to climb, so I am sure I will find it helpful as I go on. For example, starting this blog and posting it to where people who actually know me in real life can read it, was a terrifying thing for me to do. Despite that, I did it anyway and it’s been giving me exercise and discipline in writing for nearly a year. Given the range of things I write about, I have lost the fear about writing or being judged here. But there is other writing, fictional writing, that I am afraid to show. That’s my scary place.
The slightly hippy bit in the book so far is Gilbert’s belief that ideas are zapping about the world, looking for homes to land in – i.e. people who get that flash, then take it and do the work with it to make it happen. If you don’t, the ideas disappear and look for another home. It’s a little out there for some. For example, it’s hard to imagine that the universe was desperate for someone to make The Only Way is Essex.
You can take from it what you will. I took from it, that that however they originate, there are ideas out there that will eventually get seized by someone else if you don’t do it. So if you think you’ve got something, you need to buckle your backside down and get on with doing it. That’s the hard bit, where most people fall down. You have to work at it. No-one will help you, or do it for you. And be less precious about sharing it. For what’s the worst that can happen? The world will not end, no-one will die, if you write a bad poem or sing a bum note on a stage.
Aside from my shameless acts of self-promotion on this blog, I am not so good at putting myself out there to have my writing judged. However, I have started to write a bit, hence the more sporadic nature of this blog these days. There are only so many hours in the day and week, when you are not busy with living. Finding time is not the problem, it’s making time. We all have spare hours when we could be doing something more fulfilling than watching television. It’s not that we shouldn’t enjoy a bit of telly, but that if we did it just a little bit less our lives could be a hell of a lot more interesting.
To that end, I’m practicing being less afraid of doing things like writing stories and then showing them to people. I’m going to join a writer’s group in a local café, if they’ll have me and I manage not to get thrown out. It meets tomorrow, and they will be looking at other people’s work, so there’s no real threat, but it’s still a bit scary. It means saying the unsayable, something I have never said out loud. Like going to AA or somewhere for the first time. Hello, my name is Jude and I am a writer…
Find your magic and nurture it, for it will always bring you joy, whether for others, or only you.
Until next time,
*cheap on Kindle if you have one