Thursday, July 14, 2016

On Big Magic, Creativity, and Loving Your Book

I was going to write a post about polishing your manuscript for PitchWars.

In fact I DID write that post and while it had some useful tips, a lot of them have been covered in the PitchWars feed during discussions this week. The article felt a little redundant, plus I wanted to write about something else. Specifically, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, so when my CPs first recommended it, I resisted them. My fiction TBR list is already unmanageable.

Read it, they urged. It’s food for the writer’s soul.

Maybe later, I said, and read another YA thriller instead.
Then I had one of Those Weeks—the kind that makes you wonder why you ever thought you could, or should, be a writer in the first place. When all your ideas seem ten times worse than the worst idea anybody else has ever had. I capitulated and bought Big Magic. And I’m glad I did.

Elizabeth Gilbert knows a few things about the creative process, and she shares a lot of wisdom in this book. But the thing that struck me most came toward the end: an anecdote about an aspiring artist who was invited to a costume party. He misread the invitation and showed up dressed as a lobster at a glittering medieval court ball. The artist debated turning (literal, red) tail and going home, but instead he braved the stares, joined the party, and had a great time.

Why did that resonate so much? I think because at almost every stage of the publishing journey, all writers are convinced their book is the lobster in a room full of ball gowns. When first you start querying. When you reply to a full request. When your soon-to-be agent sets up The Call, and you convince yourself that this busy professional is taking time out of her day to explain over the phone why you should never, ever become a writer.

When you’re on submission. When you’re revising for your editor. When you have to wrestle your next book idea into a synopsis (shudder. Sorry, flashback). When your debut launches. And so on.

If we gave in to these fears and held our creation back all its vulnerable imperfection, a lot of wonderful books would never be born.

As Gilbert writes, “You must stubbornly walk into that room, regardless, and you must hold your head high. You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it … You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.”

So when the PitchWars submission window arrives, go ahead and send your work into the world. Don’t miss the party. Wave your giant foam claws in the air and be proud of what you made. It’s beautiful and uniquely yours.

Also, get rid of filter words. (Had to get that original article in there somewhere).

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