BIG MAGIC for Creatives

At the suggestion of an author I follow, I checked the audiobook of BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR written by Elizabeth Gilbert. After all, I needed something to listen to while I cleaned the house and logged miles on the pavement.

In case you’re not familiar with authors, Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of EAT, PRAY, LOVE, so she had a little authority in the are of creativity. As a bonus, she narrated the audiobook.

What’s the Magic?

Inspiration is the magic behind creativity. There’s tons of noise about listening to your muse and being inspired by certain things.

Gilbert has an interesting view on inspiration. She proposes that ideas are the offspring of inspiration. Ideas float freely through the air around us, buzzing into the hearts and minds of various people, looking for a receptive venue.

When they find an artist that pauses to consider them, they stay awhile. They plant their seedling concept into a ready mind where the willing artist considers it.

If the artist, waters and feeds and otherwise tends the idea, it happily grows and flourishes, until finally it becomes the premise for a novel, theme of a painting or thought behind a symphony. Then it goes fully formed into the wider world to be viewed and appreciated by everyone.

Should the artist give up on the idea, it won’t wait around forever. This is why sometimes when we set aside a project for awhile, when we come back to it, the magic is gone. We can’t get into the flow again. It suddenly feels stale and unimaginative.

Gilbert has proof for her hypothesis regarding ideas. It’s a real eyebrow-raiser, and involves an exchange of ideas with Ann Patchett through nothing more than a touch. That’s all I’ll say about that. Read (or listen to ) the book if you want to know the whole score.

Gilbert’s advice: consider art as a vocation rather than a career. Even if you do it full-time. Once you call it a career, the weight of responsibility (to pay the bills and feed the artist’s family) presses against ideas, stifling them.

She names many fears and addresses her own methods for counteracting them. She debunks the idea of a “suffering artist” and proposes creatives fill their well with love for their art. The art will reciprocate with kindness.

My Takeaway

I enjoyed the various anecdotes and personal experiences shared by Gilbert. This will be the only book of hers I have ever read (although I did see the film version of the best-seller mentioned above, but we all know it was NOWHERE as amazing as the book).

Although I’m not entirely convinced of her theory regarding ideas, I can see how she would have made the conclusion she did.

Ideas are inanimate. However, the Creator of all things could very well send them on the air and into the hearts and minds of people He wants to develop them.

I have said, “Inspiration struck. The words poured out of me.” However, this isn’t inspiration in the sense of “God-breathed” scriptures.

Instead, I mean an idea bloomed and was ready for harvest. It responded to my watering with introspection and my feeding through brainstorming or research. It’s growth can no longer be contained in my heart and mind,

Idea explosion makes me adore writing a first draft. Sure, some parts of it might be a struggle, but I’ve learned to skip to the part the muse want to expel. The other parts will fall in line–eventually. Or maybe they will end up being summarized, nothing more than connective tissue for the brain child birthed with a minimum of labor.

A few lines jumped out at me, and I scrawled them down. They’ll be fodder for reflection in the quiet corners of my mind.

It’s true fear dampens creativity, can destroy it altogether. This is why I chose “dauntless” for my word this year. And why I’ve embraced the unexpected opportunities that have flowed my way this year.

BIG MAGIC isn’t an especially long book, so I recommend it if fear is stifling your creativity. It can’t possibly hurt anything, right? And it might invite the Big Magic of Inspiration to drop an idea (or ten) in the fertile soil of your imagination.

If you’ve read this book, what was your takeaway? What fear stifles your creativity?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Inspiration Abounds all Around

Image courtesy of Running Rachel

Today’s assignment is to write about who inspires me. What? I’m supposed to choose only one person? If not, this post will be longer than anyone cares to read.

In life, inspiration lives all around us. We just have to open our eyes and see. After seeing, we must ponder the message and take it to heart.

Only then will we be inspired. Like everything else in life, it’s our choice.

What’s Inspired Me Recently?

Olympic Athletes: Hours, months and years of hard work and determination is clearly marked for these heroes. Are they disappointed if they don’t win a medal? Is getting there enough of a payoff? I don’t know, but their dedication to a course of action inspires me to stay the course toward my own dreams.

My Sister: We may have come from the same background, but life has dealt her a brutal hand when compared with mine. Yet she continues on. And not begrudgingly. She maintains a positive spirit. When she got another degree on her black belt, I wasn’t surprised. Solid stuff – that’s what she’s made of and it compels me to “suck it up, Buttercup!”

My Husband: If you know me, the man is already a saint for enduring me for 25 years. More than that though, he is the model of love. He has the heart of a servant. When my mom died, he stepped up to hold me up, but then he stepped in and helped my step-dad deal with all the financial red-tape. If you need a helping hand – you can count on my husband.

Friends: When you’re down, the people who reach out to you are the ones you can truly call friend. In the midst of all the loss and craziness, I had friends who gave me permission to skip a day of writing and just relax. I was ready to return to creativity after that, but I didn’t want to cut myself any slack. These people inspire me to reach out to others and be a better friend.

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150Could my list go on and on? Certainly. I think I’ll cut my readers a mid-week break.

Who inspires you? What do they inspire you to do?
Linking to the HOST

An Icon Passes

It’s been more than two years since I researched the life and times of human rights activist, Nelson Mandela. Some of his quotes inspire me still.

In fact, reading about his prison experiences reminded me sharply of the Apostle Paul.  They both spent years in prison, but while they were there they refused to give up hope. In fact, they wrote letters encouraging others to keep fighting the good fight.

Mandela’s story has a happier ending. I was inspired by the movie Invictus to discover the actual truth behind the man. It was a fascinating, enlightening, heartening, inspiring and infuriating journey.

Fascinating

I’m not a history buff. I had heard Mandela’s name bandied about, but I didn’t know him from Malcolm X in the scope of beliefs and actions.

He was called the Black Pimpernel because he kept managing to disappear whenever the authorities closed in on his location. As a literary nerd, the allusion  to The Scarlet Pimpernel grabbed my attention.

Enlightening

Injustice happens everywhere. If I spent all my thoughts and energy learning about the various examples of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, I’d have nothing left for anything else. Further, I’d be so depressed or enraged; it wouldn’t be healthy.

Why had I never connected the dots that apartheid stemmed from the Dutch colonization of South Africa? The same movement toward colonizing the far reaches of the world that led to the birth of the United States of America hatched tyranny in many other places.

Heartening

Forgiveness, or the lack thereof, is a huge problem. If religious people with different beliefs could truly practice it, wars between factions could cease.

This is what Mandela embodies in my own mind. He walked out of prison and chose to forgive those who put him there. Did this mean he suddenly endorsed their viewpoint? No.

He understood that the future can look to the past for assistance but it cannot hold onto the grievances of the past. He didn’t want to kill his enemies; he wanted to learn to peacefully coexist with them.

Some ideologies had to die on both sides for this peace to be won. Compromise doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If Mandela had come at his opponents with guns of retribution blazing, all would have been lost. By being a man of character, he won the respect of his adversaries and eventually of an entire nation. Perhaps, an entire world.

Inspiring

Role models abound. Down the street, across the country and in the far corners of the world. The ones who make the news win the Nobel Peace Prize. The rest of them have an even greater reward waiting in eternity.

Mandela is hardly the first person to suffer imprisonment for disagreeing with the powers that be. He is not unique in continuing to be revered during his absence from society. Many have suffered the same fate.

He inspired me because his wisdom was coupled with humility. He was adored by his fellow countrymen and feared by those who supported the fallen regime. He used his power to unite a country.

Old hatreds die hard. I pray Mandela’s ideology will continue in his homeland. I believe it will because true heroes inspire others to follow in their footsteps

Infuriating

As every good American can claim, I am a melting pot of cultures. I have ancestors that sailed on the Mayflower and ones who walked the Trail of Tears. Their pain and discovery opened the door into the world where I now enjoy freedoms they died pursuing.

Mandela was a product of colonizing forces, as well. His tribal ancestors were driven away and oppressed beneath apartheid. Fortunately, he believed in freedom and that true freedom meant forgiving his oppressors and learning to work toward a common goal.

What gives us the right to walk into a society different than ours and decide it needs our assistance? What makes one culture superior to another? Who can judge such a thing?

Change is inevitable and most of the time, it’s for the better. It’s one thing to offer education and assistance to a culture that is struggling to survive because it lacks the knowledge to effectively utilize its resources. Forcing someone to yield to your ideologies is a whole different can of tyranny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Posts:

Nelson Mandela, Rest in Peace

Long Live Peace. Long Live Nelson Mandela

National Novel Writing Month

2013-Participant-Twitter-Header[1]

Four years ago, a teacher I worked with sent me an announcement for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). His message: “You sound like you might have a novel in you.”

His observation came on the heels of our first ever Open Microphone event in the middle school library. The librarian wanted to encourage students to write, so she offered a forum where they could read aloud a piece of personal writing.

As with everything you hope to see young students do effectively, creative writing and baring your soul to others should be modeled. She asked staff members to voluntarily read some of their writing. In response, I read the opening pages of a story that kept popping into my mind.

I fully intended to write that story. It was going to be the first in a series of a Middle School Mayhem series that would make me famous.

In my defense, I do have two chapters completed and saved in a Scrivener folder. Like so many other writing projects, life got in the way.

If you’ve been following me long, you know that I spent three years completing my bachelor’s degree while working full-time. The idea of writing something creative in addition to all the research papers and term papers made random, fleeting appearances in my mind. Obligations drowned them.

After I was assigned a blog for my nonfiction writing workshop, I decided to attempt to write a thousand words per week to post online. No one would read most of this stuff, but I would get back in the habit of writing, even if it was creative nonfiction.

Fast forward to present day: college degree completed. Now it’s time to pursue my real dream: writing.

I’ve always imagined myself as a novelist. My imagination has taken me to the top of Mt. Everest, to Mars and to realms beyond this reality. I wanted to invite young readers into the alternate universe between the covers of the book.

An admirer of C.S. Lewis (whose Chronicles of Narnia rescued me from the ugliness of domestic abuse and divorce), I didn’t want to just entertain. I wanted my fiction to include a deeper truth. Allegory seemed like the way to accomplish this goal.

Thus, my idea for the Gates of Astrya emerged from my soul into my mind. With a little work and a ton of time, words on a page birthed it into actuality.

During November, my goal is to write the second book in this series (originally, I thought it would be a trilogy, but it’s taking on a life of its own and might require four books to fully resolve).  I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo website.

To ensure I can keep writing to the end, I completed a beat sheet (thanks to Jami Gold) and an extensive setting sketch. I’ve done some research to authenticate the setting I’ve chosen. Major character arcs have been outlined, along with the cast of supporting characters.

Today, I write the first 3,000 words of the novel. Since I want to complete the challenge (to write 50,000 words in 30 days) by November 27, I’m setting my daily word count at this level.

I promise not to bog down my blog with updates and commentary about this event. I have worked feverishly the past two weeks to get most of my posts pre-written so content will continue here without interruption.

Are any of you taking this challenge? What other sorts of challenges have you pursued? What’s the most important advice you have to help someone stay the course when things seem overwhelming?

What’s a Muse?

Muse: Statue in Germany
Muse: Statue in Germany

Muse, Greek goddess of artists, gifted her favored ones with inspiration to create fantastic and original works of art: sculptures, paintings, poetry, songs. Actually, lucky for the Greeks, there were nine goddesses.

Greek city states produces creative art, I’m sure.

Often, we creative types like to blame our personal muse when what we write is subpar. Or if we aren’t feeling especially creative. If the toast burns.

Yeah. Ridiculous. What is a muse anyway? Is it a real or imagined phenomenon?

Muse Defined

Aside from the capitalized version referenced above, the noun form of muse means “a source of inspiration; especially a guiding genius” (Merriam-Webster).

With such a broad definition, a muse could be anything. Maybe the sunrise inspires you. It could be a walk that helps your creativity flow. Reading quotes from a literary genius like Shakespeare or a satirist like Mark Twain might incite you to write.

Whatever makes you itch to practice your art becomes your muse.

Real or Imaginary

Artists who depend on the elusive muse to visit them before they can create have made her a crutch. Why cripple yourself? Time to throw away the cane, Tiny Tim, and stand on your own two feet.

Ideas sparkle in the air around us. Open your eyes and ears to the world and you will discover an inexhaustible source of inspiration.

I believe some things I’ve written have been divinely inspired. Other stories emerged from dreams. According to the dictionary definition, whatever inspires us can be a muse.

My Muse

In my case, my muse defies definition. When a story is fresh, the ideas flow. The story becomes my muse.

Often a walk early in the morning causes poetry to flow. Is it nature or exercise acting as my muse?

When you say, “I’m waiting for inspiration to hit” instead of writing, you harelip your muse. I believe the muse is available as oxygen. We only need to open our artistic lungs and inhale her.

What is your personal muse?

Why I Write

Words

A mighty deluge swelling

Untold tales beg telling

Phrases unwritten compelling

Imagination dispelling

Exuberant phrases propelling

A pencil to engage in spelling

Verbiage continually welling

Until spilled on the page.

 

Stories

Expand in the soul

Burning a yearning hole

Fiery phrases, a mole,

Burrowing to a creative goal

Amplified brilliance, a coal

Igniting, indicting, on a roll

Loquacity the latest foal

Until birthed on the page.

 

Prose

Awakens from its dreaming

Profuse diamonds gleaming

Letters like gemstones beaming

Brush strokes meanwhile seeming

Composed with silent screaming

Alive, aloud, with virulent teeming

Consonants and vowels streaming

Until written on the page.