Monday, August 11, 2014

Big Magic: An Afternoon with Elizabeth Gilbert

The county where I live is celebrating its 300 year anniversary this year. Literally hundreds of events have been planned throughout the year to celebrate the occasion, one of which I attended yesterday, a talk given by county resident and best-selling author, Elizabeth Gilbert.

The topic of Ms. Gilbert's talk was "Big Magic." She spoke about her personal journey as a writer, and how often magic, in the literal sense, factored into it. She is a excellent speaker and it was a great talk. She spoke about ideas, and how they flit from person to person, waiting for someone open enough to let them in, and ready enough to manifest them into the world.

So much of what she said resonated with me. I, too, am a firm believer in magic. In fact, I have always secretly thought of prayer as being a great deal like casting a magic spell. Both prayers and spells are powerful words, infused with the hopes, dreams and intentions of the one uttering them with devotion, and involve calling out to a source of power and mystery outside of ourselves in order to create change. I don't see a difference, personally, but maybe that is just me.

Regardless, I do believe there is a magical element to creativity, one that all creative people know about and can relate to. We may call it different things, saying "I'm in the zone," or "the muse took me," or "I had a vision," to describe it, but we've all been there and know that whatever it is, when it strikes, the best thing we can do is roll with it.

Something else that Elizabeth Gilbert said was meaningful to me, and very liberating. She shared how she discovered she simply cannot write fiction when her life is in chaos. She needs her house to be in order to be able to produce fiction, yet during times of chaos she still relies on writing to get her through it, and has, in fact, turned that writing into two best-sellers, "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Committed."

I thought I was the only person who felt this way. In fact, I considered it to be a major flaw in my creative ability. It is true that I clung to writing like a drowning person clings to a life preserver during my time as a foster parent; It was the one thing that allowed me to keep a sense of my own identity as I was swallowed up whole by second-time-around parenthood. Yet, looking back on that time period, when things were mostly under control, I was prolific, writing a new flash fiction every week. But when things got wild and wooly, I reverted mostly to blogging, using the blog as much as a tool to manage my own feelings as to document our journey together.

Judging by his smile, Toby approves of my current reading material.
I'm sure there are many people out there who can create while the storms of life swirl about them, whose creative genius is fueled by the force of the gale. I just don't happen to be one of them. Fact is, I'm an introvert who craves peace and solitude, so living with a crowd of boisterous house guests who stick around for three years is not the ideal situation for fostering my creativity. And let me just say, these damned bedbugs and the chaos that accompanies them sure aren't helping any, either.

When I zoom out, to look at the bigger picture, I can't help but see the connection to my three year plan. My plan is centered around three things, achieving financial stability through home ownership, getting published, and finding balance. What I didn't see before, but which is crystal-clear now, is that achieving these things has one true goal, which is to put my house in order so my most authentic self, the part of me that feels that magic and creates more magic from it, can flourish.

My blog has been a journey of self-discovery ever since the beginning, as illustrated by this early post "Who am I?"

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