I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books. She writes a lot about creativity. If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject. Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.
A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing. I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share. You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.
Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.
I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.
I have these two well-worn images tacked up on the way to my studio to remind myself not to get discouraged. Walk away, regroup, keep going one step at a time. They are also applicable to life in general……
I think it’s important to use one’s gifts and talents to the best of one’s ability in a lifetime. (If you are still not quite sure what they are, go back to what you loved doing when you were five or six years old and go from there.)
WordPress canceling the Weekly Photo Challenge is similar to a relationship ending with a text message. When I began blogging 1 1/2 years ago, the WPC provided a comforting structure. Every week I knew I could contribute something and connect with others. What fun it has been peeking into other bloggers lives with their photo interpretations of the prompt. I gained followers and I have followed others through the WPC.
Now without warning, reasons, or input, WordPress is eliminating this forum as well as the Daily Prompt. They say the community is still there but it’s akin to closing down the coffee shop where everybody meets. It’s the soul of WordPress. Since blogging is about voice, I am going to speak my mind to the powers above. I hope you will join me to encourage a return to the WPC. In the meantime…here are a few favorites from my travels that I posted in the past.
I was taking an evening beach walk last week when my two friends, a couple, each pulled out a pair of Zeiss binoculars to look at a bird. “Wow,” I remarked, “Someday I am going to get myself a decent pair of binoculars” as I inspected one of the pairs. Then I stopped and said to myself, “What the hell am I waiting for?”
About 30 years ago on a hike, I had difficulty identifying a bird that my companion easily did. She said “take a look through these” and she handed me an expensive pair of Leica binoculars. There was the bird with its colors and features crisp and crystal clear. I was astounded at the difference between her glasses and my inexpensive pair at the same resolution. “Someday,” I said to myself.
Those excuses…too expensive, too extravagant, too precious, not practical. What bunk. I’m in my mid-sixties. Practicality can only work so long as an excuse. Really, sometimes it’s good to reexamine your longings, take them seriously, then take action.
I got home, did some research and ordered a fabulous pair of high-quality binoculars with all the features I could ever want. They came yesterday. I love them. This morning in bed I watched a Downy Woodpecker at the feeder with my new binoculars. The colors and features of the bird were crisp and crystal clear.
The somedays roll past
Like tumbleweeds on a desert highway
Piling up on fences
The calendar pages turn
“Someday I will…”
I declare longingly to myself
Until I realize there are a limited amount of pages left to turn
I spent the better part of the day last week at the aquarium in Newport, Oregon looking for inspiration for future artwork. The Jellyfish tanks were hard to pull away from. I lost track of time mesmerized as their twisting bodies gracefully moved in their fluid world.
I’m a master of avoidance. Once I’m in my studio I”m ready to roll but getting there past all the distractions and excuses can be tricky business. Really, does laundry need to be folded and put away first? The “Thing” that needs to be manifested from your psyche in words, paint, ink, or whatever medium you work in is the priority. Here is a system that works well for me…
Make an appointment for an assigned studio time. The earlier in the day, the better. Your cell phone is not invited.
Enter studio, close door set timer and say to yourself “for one hour I will focus on nothing else but THIS.”
Do not answer the phone, check email, or do anything not essential to your project on your computer- NO EXCEPTIONS!
Work, work, work for one hour and then STOP. Continuing for more than this often leads to overworked material.
Take a break for at least a half an hour and do something mindless like weeding or doing the dishes. Stretch and get outside for a breath of fresh air. This acts as a reset for the creative part of the brain that’s been working hard.
Repeat steps 1-5 if needed
Most of the time I can get an amazing and satisfying amount of work done in a focused 60 minutes and I’m good for the day. If I have more to do, I find that by taking a break I come back to work reenergized with “fresh eyes”. I also use the timer method for unpleasant tasks around the house in 15 minutes increments (ex. cleaning out the fridge- ugh). You can accomplish great things in a small measured amount of time!