Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Elizabeth Gilbert

Blog Conversation Concerning “What Should I Write?” . . .


Our last discussion here was on June 6th & June 11th… On Writing

It dealt with Etymologies—word histories—and explored their value for readers and writers…

Since the last part of that conversation didn’t elicit any comments, I’m moving on to a new discussion…

And, just before I do that, I must announce that, after this coming Friday (when I’ll publish the last, and 95th, short Tale in my Story Bazaar Cycle.), these blog conversations will be every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday…

So—“What should I write?”

That plea might be uttered by a well-seasoned writer or someone considering writing for the first time…

If it’s a well-seasoned writer saying, “What should I write?”, it could be a consideration about a new work or the next steps in a current work…

If you happen to be someone considering that question for the first time (or, the hundredth time before you’ve begun your first effort as a writer…), the options are just short of infinite

And, from a certain perspective, the well-seasoned writer may very well face a slightly smaller infinity of choices…

I’ve relied on what’s called a Muse to help me narrow those infinities (which can also occur just before the very next sentence…).

Over on the Lateral Action site, in the article, 5 Reasons Why You Need a Muse, it’s said:

“‘A muse?’ you ask. ‘You mean some kind of invisible spirit that dumps creative inspiration into my mind?’

“’Exactly,’ I answer. ‘A genius. A daimon. An independent force in your psyche that directs your creativity, and to which you deliberately hand over ultimate responsibility for your work.’

“’That’s nuts!’ you exclaim.'”

“All creative block is ultimately identifiable as a manifestation of performance anxiety or performance guilt. Offloading your sense of responsibility for creative work onto another self is like flipping a switch. It instantly removes that pressure and lets you breathe again. It returns you to the state of relaxed receptivity that characterized your earliest efforts, when you were just playing around in a ‘beginner’s mind’ mode. This is when the best stuff happens.”

That article also references a Brilliant TEDtalk about the psychological concept of the Muse by author Elizabeth Gilbert

However, for the sake of conversation ( conversation being the whole purpose of these posts on this blog:-), there could be other ways to become inspired about what “should” be written…

Aha!

Should“…

Seems we might need a word history:

“c. 1200, from Old English sceolde, past tense of sceal (see shall). Preserves the original notion of ‘obligation’ that has all but dropped from shall.”

Somewhere back in my earlier decades of life on this planet, that word “should” was something folks could use in conversation without incurring violent wrath from certain listeners…

Is it conceivable to you that writers “should” write certain things?

That a particular sentence “should” follow that one you just wrote?

That a precise gem of a word “must” precede a particularly important other word…?

I had to include a few questions to, hopefully, provoke a few folks to comment :-)

My particular brand of shoulds for my writing hover around concepts like the one expressed in New Patterns of Community Life in an Urbanizing World:

“Large-scale migration to urban centers has, in many cases, led to social fragmentation, the depletion of limited ecological resources, and profound feelings of isolation and despair.”

But…

Things that large will henceforth be relegated to my ruminations about my second book of poetry…

Which brings me to the image up there at the beginning of this post…

It was created by my Best Friend, author Jane Watson, for what I thought was going to be a new work I’d publish every Saturday over on Wattpad—a “column” of articles on writing…

That lovely image up there was Jane’s creation for the cover of that new effort on Wattapd…

However, I got cornered by my Muse yesterday and was humiliated by her…

Naturally, I deserved it…

How could I keep up blog conversations here (along with the search for the re-blogs I share…) while reading the 21 books I need to explore, as research for that new poetry book; and, the depth of thinking that work will demand—along with my attention to my social media activities (and, to be sure, all the time this writer needs to just sit here and commune with my Muse and other, yet Higher, Entities…)…?

Plus, my Muse drummed into my skull, “Why don’t you encourage folks on Wattpad to come over here and peruse the over 2,200 posts you’ve already written?” (…nicely organized by topic in that handy Top Tags widget, in the left side-bar...)

So, has my exploration of “What Should I Write?” stirred up questions or ideas or feelings?

If only one of you shares a comment, this conversation can continue………
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“Eat Pray Love” Author Writes Amazing Fictional Tale. . .


Have you heard of Elizabeth GilbertThe Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

Perhaps you read the book, Eat Pray Love; or, saw the movie?

Well, Ms Gilbert wrote a few fiction titles and did some journalism before Eat Pray Love.

In fact, here’s a bibliography of her work

The specific work of fiction I want to talk about is her 2013 release, The Signature of All Things.

Wikipedia’s “overview” does not do the book any justice, at all:

“The story follows Alma Whittaker, daughter of a botanical explorer, as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. As Alma’s careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she starts a spiritual journey which spans the 19th Century.”

Actually, if I hadn’t already read Eat Pray Love and known Ms Gilbert was an accomplished writer, I would never have read The Signature of All Things based on Wikipedia’s description

But, I have read The Signature of All Things…

Literary explosions happened…

Tears often fell…

My authorial spirit was enlightened…

I was shocked to my core approximately six times…

And, the story’s events may have happened in the 18th and 19th Centuries; but, the writing was extremely accessible

Since I’m not a real book reviewer, I’ll share a few excerpts of others’ reviews that say things I can agree with…

From GoodReads:

“Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, ‘The Signature of All Things’ soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad.”

From The New York Times:

“The novel is frontloaded with its most hair-raising exploits as back story on Alma’s father, a plant thief whose boyhood punishment was to be packed off on the madcap voyages of Captain Cook. Real events provide ample substrate for a novel that entwines the historic and the imagined so subtly as to read like good nonfiction for most of its first half. It crosses over to page turner after the introduction of the author’s most beguiling invention, the deliciously named Ambrose Pike.”

From The Guardian:

“Each passage of this sprawling novel is written with an astonishing eye for just the right amount of period or environmental detail. The character of Alma Whittaker is so believable, so deeply drawn and so likable for its complexity and open spirit, that it is impossible not to be engrossed by every twist and turn of her thoughts and imaginings. In fact, one of Gilbert’s most impressive achievements is making Alma’s journey a universal one, despite anchoring her protagonist’s life in a different time and sending her to the furthest corners of the unexplored earth.”

And, from The Washington Post:

“Gilbert has been a journalist, a biographer, short-story writer, novelist, memoirist and, perhaps most famously, a celebrated ‘Oprah author’, but she continues to set higher goals for herself. Like Victor Hugo or Émile Zola, she captures something important about the wider world in ‘The Signature of All Things’: a pivotal moment in history when progress defined us in concrete ways.”

Still, this book may not be suitable for every reader…

I suppose that’s true of all books………
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How Many #Women #NonFiction #Writers Have You Read?


There was a Twitter-Flap earlier this month about the rather well-known Male Non-Fiction Writer, Gay Talese.

When asked to name women non-fiction writers who influenced him, he said, “None”

And, Ann Friedman, A Female Non-Fiction Writer (who I’ve written about before), referred to Gay Talese’s situation in her New York Magazine article—The Queens of Nonfiction: 56 Women Journalists Everyone Should Read—by saying:

“Talese deserves the backlash. When it comes to naming influential women nonfiction writers of the past several decades, though, most of us fare only slightly better than he did.”

She also said:

“I’d always assumed this was partly because women, for decades, have missed out on the best writing assignments….But after Talese’s remarks, I started to wonder: Is it really true that almost no women were writing powerful narrative nonfiction before the 2000s?

“And so I went hunting for one good piece of nonfiction by a different woman writer published in every year since 1960, the year Esquire first published Talese. It was difficult. Most of this stuff just isn’t well archived digitally. And yes, far fewer women were working as magazine journalists in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s….But they were there.

“I found them — one for each of the past 56 years.”

You’ll have to take the link to Ann’s NYMag article to see all 56; but, I’ll give you the writers she listed that I’ve read (there are others in the list I’ve heard of but not read…):

Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring,” The New Yorker, 1962.

Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale,” Show Magazine, 1963.

Gail Sheehy, “Inside Grey Gardens,” New York, 1972.

Susan Orlean, “Figures in a Mall,” The New Yorker, 1994.

Elizabeth Gilbert, “Lucky Jim,” GQ, 2002.

Samantha Power, “Dying in Darfur,” The New Yorker, 2004

Why did I read only a little over 10% of the authors mentioned in the list?

The reason (not excuse) was that I spent the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 00s reading only fiction, science, psychology, history, metaphysics, and religion (although, there may have been a few magazines I read with women writers; but, I don’t remember either the magazines or the women—or, even the male writers in that format…).

Thing is, there were many women writers in what I was reading for all those years—they just weren’t journalists

And, why do I even feel it necessary to account for my relationship to the list?

Basically, because I’m a man who’s acutely aware of the repression and neglect of women

Ann made her point so well I had to account for my actions :-)

I hope you’ll read her full article
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What’s the #BigMagic about #ElizabethGilbert?


Back in 2012, I included a video of Elizabeth Gilbert in the post, Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

I consider that video a Magic Performance

She captures Something Elusive about writing and infuses it into one’s soul

I’ve watched it more times than I can count; but, until very recently, I took no notice of her books

So, because of her most recent release and a friend giving me an Amazon gift card, I bought three of Ms. Gilbert’s books.

Eat Pray Love was Magic

The video I mentioned up there was done after Eat Pray Love had become a phenomenon—selling over 10 million copies.

I’d imagined it was some light, frilly thing about taking a year off from work and living it up

Turns out it was an extremely well-written, lyric book about taking a critically-needed year to heal and rebalance a life sorely-torn

So my first answer to the question (without the hashtags) What’s the Big Magic about Elizabeth Gilbert? would be:  she could suffer a devastating divorce, bring on more suffering with a rebounding affair, and somehow convince her publisher to pay for a year’s travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia so she could reconstitute her identity

Oh! And then write a book about it all.

I also bought her novel, The Signature of All Things, which I won’t read until I’ve finished a chunk more of my research for my next book

And, I bought her newest book, Big Magic, slotted further down the reading road

You can watch a slew of videos with Elizabeth talking about Big Magic and here’s a bit of a synopsis:

“…this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers powerful insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and to let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love (and how to face down what we most fear).”

If my Muse were not the lovely martinet she is, I would be reading Big Magic right now—my next book needs a certain amount of preparatory care and feeding—and the Muse is confident I’ll begin reading Big Magic at just the right Magic Moment

I’m not allowed, yet, to know too much about that book but YouTube has a series of podcasts about Big Magic in Ms. Gilbert own voice (look in the right side-bar on YouTube for more of the series…)

And, speaking of her voice—it has Big Magic

It’s a combination of her tone and timbre (in a lower, provocative range) along with the pace of delivery (modulated by passion and concern) and her amazing ability to talk off-the-cuff yet make perfect and lyrically-delivered sense

Take A Listen………

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#CreativeCourage & #BigMagic for Readers, Writers, & Publishers


I used just a bit of Creative Courage in the title of this post—jamming the words together and sticking a pound-sign in front of them—going for the Twitter-Look… Big Magic

Naturally, writing a novel or raising a child or working to prevent radical climate change take TrueCreativeCourage and a heaping soul-full of BigMagic

Have you heard of the book Eat, Pray, Love? It was written by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I’ve written two important posts about Elizabeth (both having very cool videos):

* Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

* Are Failure and Success Actually “The Same Thing”?

It turns out that Maria Popova has written an article about a new book by Ms. Gilbert—Big Magic: Elizabeth Gilbert on Creative Courage and the Art of Living in a State of Uninterrupted Marvel.

Here come the excerpts:

“…the pursuit of possibility is very much at the heart of Gilbert’s mission to empower us to enter into creative endeavor the way one enters into a monastic order: ‘as a devotional practice, as an act of love, and as a lifelong commitment to the search for grace and transcendence.’”

“Surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you. I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

“The hunt to uncover those jewels — that’s creative living.

“The courage to go on that hunt in the first place — that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.

“The often surprising results of that hunt — that’s what I call Big Magic.”

Later in the article:

“The only reason I can speak so authoritatively about fear is that I know it so intimately. I know every inch of fear, from head to toe. I’ve been a frightened person my entire life. I was born terrified. I’m not exaggerating; you can ask anyone in my family, and they’ll confirm that, yes, I was an exceptionally freaked-out child. My earliest memories are of fear, as are pretty much all the memories that come after my earliest memories….

“I also realized that my fear was boring because it was identical to everyone else’s fear. I figured out that everyone’s song of fear has exactly that same tedious lyric: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!” True, the volume may vary from person to person, but the song itself never changes, because all of us humans were equipped with the same basic fear package when we were being knitted in our mothers’ wombs.”

“Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction.

“If your goal in life is to become fearless, then I believe you’re already on the wrong path, because the only truly fearless people I’ve ever met were straight-up sociopaths and a few exceptionally reckless three-year-olds — and those aren’t good role models for anyone.”

If you want to be a more creative person or you’re already embroiled in a creative life, I suggest you go read the full article

Ms. Gilbert also has a nice discussion guide for Big Magic.

And, here’s a video with Elizabeth…

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