Impact of Big Magic

So the other week someone lent me a copy of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was told that I should really read it and the person lending it to me certainly got me interested, telling me snippets of Gilbert’s view on creativity. I have never read any of Gilbert’s other works (fiction and non-fiction) and have not seen the movie Eat, Pray, Love the adaption of her wildly successfully novel of the same name. That sort of story doesn’t usually resonate with me. That’s not to say they are not good stories, I just usually don’t gravitate to real life novels. It usually takes someone shoving it in my face and demanding I read it.

 

Like with this one. Jade, the friend who lent Big Magic to me, had spoken of it before and was telling me more about it at lunch just over a week ago. I said I was interested in it and I genuinely was, although I would have looked for it at my local library and if it wasn’t there I would never have thought of it again. Jade had it in her car and when we were leaving she handed it over to me. I still had it with me when I went to pick up the kids from school that afternoon and as I was early I started to read it.

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I’m freaking glad I did.

Disclaimer here: I didn’t read Big Magic in one go, eagerly devouring every word. No. I actually took my time reading it and letting it sink in. And there was one bit in particular that really hit a nerve, when she talks about perfectionism. I think she hit the nail on the head pretty much square on when she wrote “I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear.”

When I read that I actually stopped for a moment, found Gilbert on twitter and told her that my mind had been blown. Funny how a single sentence can do that.

I’m not a complete perfectionist, but I do sometimes dither until I think something is as good as I can get it. And a large part of that is because of the fear of what others will think of my work. Hence the reason why Gilbert’s words struck such a cord with me. I think it is time to trust in myself and my creative process a little bit more than I currently do. Why? Because being creative is a part of me and I’m freaking sick and tired of fighting with that part and trying to beat it into submission at times.

I love to create, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns but it is pretty fun when I don’t get stuck in my head with what I think society expects me to do with it. Think of the stereotypical tortured artist and you’re pretty close to what is in my head with that. And for me that’s the number one problem, what think is expected is not necessarily what is expected or needed. Time to let it all go and write from the heart instead of the head, which is how I started but it got lost in the daily grind.

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I could have said this about myself word for word.

Do I think the work I churn out is stellar, number one selling stuff? No, but I do think it has potential and truthfully, writing makes me happy. I like to create different worlds and have characters do things I would never do.  So that’s the ultimate goal, one I have lost sight of recently I think. Create for the sake of creating, write because it makes me happy. Just be. And hopefully be more at ease with my creativity because the tortured artist role is so not for me.

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When Life Hands You Lemons…

You make lemonade. Or martinis if you need the alcohol. And are of legal drinking age. But that is not what I did this week. Oh hell no, I took those lemons and multiplied them. In other words things went wrong and I dwelled on them and made them worse. Bit of a talent really.

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I picked plenty of mental lemons this week

I didn’t start like that though. At first I just dealt with things going wrong this week. I figured that things don’t always go your way in life and this was just one of those times. And then Wednesday happened. At first it was great, had a breakthrough with my latest story that had been bugging me for a few days and caught up with a great bunch of ladies in the morning. Picked the kids up from school, got home and then wham! Arianna, my youngest, threw up all over the kitchen floor. I think she got every inch of it. Then she got the couch, then the kitchen floor again and then her bed.

In the space of about 3 hours I felt like I was enduring a major disaster of epic proportions. And then my husband came home unexpectedly (he works away for varying stints of time) and it was like the eye of the storm. Come morning he was gone again, but it was nice having him there. Arianna woke up fine and I thought yay, I’ll have a quiet day catching up on washing and relaxing. Nope. Keeley was sick. Phase two of the natural disaster starts and this is were I start to lose it a bit.

After dealing with Keeley being sick I thought Friday was going to be a nice quiet day. And it was, until the evening when Keeley was sick again. This time was worse and I seriously considered taking her to the hospital before she fell asleep and settled down. By this time I was a wreck. I had tried to continue with life, but seriously, I was worn out and every little problem became magnified. I banned myself from social media  as I knew that anything I did was coming from a negative mindset (I was sorta successful at that and it became another thing to get upset about with myself). I talked to my mum and my best friend, trying to halt the negativity.

Then on Saturday Talon, my oldest, got sick and I thought stuff it, (actually I used a more grown up word) and had a whinge on Facebook. And I found out that other people were going through the same thing. I no longer felt so alone and even better, a certain person told me that this is life and that I am not sucking at it, I’m doing great and to roll with it. It was actually what I needed to hear.

So that brings me to Sunday and the day I am writing this post. Both my boys are sound asleep and it’s 8:30 am (a sleep in for them), my girls are awake and are eating pizza shapes while watching YouTube on my iPad. I feel a bit bad about what the girls are having for breakfast but it’s not like it’s an everyday occurrence and truthfully, I’m just enjoying the peace and quiet for a moment.

I was meant to go to a creative workshop this morning but I’ve cancelled it. One because I’m not sure how Talon will be this morning and two, I’m afraid that Dante will get sick as well. Also, I’m just not in the right headspace for it. I’m tired and worn out and I’d be wasting the teacher’s time. Sometimes I need to stop and focus on the important things and right this very second that is my children and my need to be at home.

So that’s what I’m doing. I could push through and try to keep doing everything, but bitter experience has taught me that I just end up collapsing into a heap, unable to look after the very people I have been trying to soldier on for.

Now to take my abundance of lemons and make lemonade for the children because I don’t really like martinis 🙂

A Writer’s World

One thing I have really taken notice of this week is my imaginary world. The reason for this is because I killed off one of my characters and had to break it to my other characters that he was dead. It took me by surprise that the character died (for those of you that don’t know, I’m not a planner when it comes to my story. I know the beginning and the end, everything else is a mystery) and it actually made me really sad and I thought I was going crazy. Other writers assured me that I wasn’t and that it was quite normal to get so attached. Exactly how George R.R. Martin keeps killing off his characters I don’t know, but it is effective for his story. After this week I know I wouldn’t be able to.

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After killing a character I basically wanted to hibernate for a while. 

But it also got me thinking about other writers and the worlds they create. I think that those who do it successfully (J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Tolkien etc.) really immerse themselves in it and to some extent the world becomes real to them. If a fan asks them a question about what a character would do in a situation, they can answer it because they have taken the time to get to know the characters in their story.

They know their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses and all the little details that makes them a fully fleshed character rather than a bunch of words strung together. And it is these things that capture the reader’s imagination.

There are a lot of books out there and honestly, not all of them are good. The writing may be fantastic, the plot good, but if the characters are flat the story will not captivate me. I read a lot and I can over look some bad grammar if the characters are interesting. The plot has to have some substance to it or it loses me, but if the characters are done well I’ll persevere. The characters and what they go through, the growth they show throughout the story are what matter to me.

And my favourite stories reflect this. Harry Potter starts as a young orphan and grows up to save the wizarding world from Lord Voldemort. Claire Fraser from the Outlander series is introduced to us as a young war nurse and in the last book was a grandmother and a well known figure for her medical prowess. In between that they had their challenges, victories and loses and they grew. And it is this sort of story I want to show my readers. That even though some of my characters have magic and some of them aren’t entirely human, they all have emotions and grow when confronted with change.

Sometimes that growth is fantastic and other times it is stunted and goes in a bad direction, but it is change. So that is what drives my story, my characters’ growth and consequently my own, for I simply can not write and not be affected by it. My writing world may be imaginary, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me or my readers and really, why write if it doesn’t touch people in some fashion? Why read if you don’t want to grow in some way? Even if it’s just for entertainment value, you still change a tiny bit from the person you were before you read that story.

What story had the most impact on you and why?

 

Priorities: Make them.

It is nearly the end of the first week of Nanowrimo 2016 and I will put my hand up and say that I have found it hard.

I didn’t expect to because I had successfully completed Nanowrimo 2015 but this time I am struggling. Why? Because my priorities have shifted. Last year I was focused on just writing, this year I’m not.

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Birthday parties, this year I have two in November to organise.

Firstly, both of my daughters have birthdays in November. Last year my youngest didn’t have a party, choosing to go out to dinner instead. This year it is all about the party with both wanting one. I tried to have a joint one but no, they have different friends and don’t want to share etc. so separate it is.  And I am so not the type of mother who enjoys hosting parties. Still, I know they will have a great time, it’s just this time last year I was writing, this year I am mothering.  Priority shift number one.

Secondly, social media!!! Last year I only had a personal Facebook account, nothing else. This year I have that plus a Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter and this blog. Nothing sucks up your time like mindlessly cruising through it all. I try to limit it, but I pretty much disregard any time limit I put on myself. I really am my own worst enemy when it comes to this, passing it off as building my author platform. But seriously, I know I’m just procrastinating. Thank god I didn’t have a smart phone or my own computer as a teenager or I would never have passed high school.

The last priority shift is my health. Last year my health still wasn’t completely up to scratch and I needed down time. This was perfect for writing as you don’t really move your body much with it. It allowed my brain to stay active and still give my body the rest it needed at times. These days my health is awesome and consequently I am doing more, eating into my writing time.

Is there a solution to all this? Yep, getting organised. My girls’ parties are all done, simply have to host them. Secondly, set certain times of the day where I check social media and stick to it! And lastly, look at what I have planned for the day the night before and figure out the best time to write. Up to this point I have been trying to follow last year’s pattern, but the reality is it is not last year.

Some of what worked for me in 2015 is working now, but some of it isn’t. And I really don’t want to get to the end of Nanowrimo all stressed out and hating it.  Writing is a joy for me and I want to keep it that way. Time to prioritise.  Happy creating!