Big Magic: Courage, Enchantment, & Suffering

In the grip of depression, anxiety, and perfectionism last week, I asked for a pep talk on Twitter.

It was really what I needed to read. Seriously.

I listened to the audiobook, and I’m so glad I did because Elizabeth Gilbert’s sweet narration was like being mentored by a big sister in the arts.

big magicThis isn’t really a review, per se, just a few of my thoughts on the book.

“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust.”

This quote really touched me because it really nails some of those ingredients that people don’t seem to realize are so necessary. What do you need to write a book? I bet a lot of people would say talent or time or (cheekily) a pencil. I agree with Liz: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust. (Though I might swap “trust” out with “faith” to get a little closer to what trust looks like for me.)

“There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self help book ever written: what would you do if you knew that you could not fail? But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: what would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail? What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant? What do you love even more than you love your own ego?”

This is huge to me. I just read an article about the same thing. (It’s right here and well worth the read!) This article said the question to ask is: How do I choose to suffer? Basically, what is worth suffering for?

I like how the writer of the article summarizes a failed dream of his: “I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.”

I’m learning. Slowly.

Writing, I believe, is worth the suffering. Writing is worth it, even without success. But it takes courage and enchantment and faith.

I want to cultivate those things in myself.

Slowly, slowly …

Four Thoughts on the Writing Life

writinglifeIt’s so lonely.

Writing is quite solitary. Even though I am part of a writing community– and have so much support and collaboration with dear friends– in the end, I have to do the work alone. I can’t explain just how alone I have felt over the last month or so, especially being single. Theoretically, I understand that even if I were dating or married, I would still have to do the hard work of revisions on my own, but … I’ve felt a little untethered and singular. Very, very much solo in this treacherous territory.

It’s so hard.

Harder than I ever imagined. I’m not referring only to the actual act of writing here … but to the head game. I get to a point where I start to hate my manuscript … my beloved story that I’ve poured my soul, energy, and tears into. Do you know how crippling that is– how it folds your spirit into such ugly shapes that you worry you’ll never sort yourself out again? I’m back in therapy, folks.

But I still want it.

Things got pretty dark– to the point where I started questioning my identity as a writer, ultimately asking myself, Is this really what I want? There, in the darkness, I saw a pinprick of light: the certainty that my answer was yes.

And I’m not really alone.

My lovely new therapist asked me to picture the Holy Spirit sitting beside me, looking at our manuscript, saying, Look what we’ve made. It made me bawl. Of course. I so desperately want to honor God with my fiction. The thought of him looking on my manuscript with pride was such a reminder to me that no matter how lonely this road seems, I have a faithful companion.

Related posts:
Writing is Hard … but Worth It (I Think)
Writing and/or Life, Both Hard
The Good & Bad of Writing
Being Single and Writing a Book

Image credit: Unsplash, modified by me