No, I’ve never met Elizabeth Gilbert, famed writer of (most notably) “Eat, Pray, Love” and recent cultural icon. But without her, I wouldn’t be sitting here with a real book deal with Harper Collins, awaiting the release of my book, staring at a beautiful cover on Amazon ready for pre-order.
Over a year or more ago, I tuned into her podcast, called “Magic Lessons.” It was based on her bestselling book, “Big Magic,” which encourages creatives to pursue their artistic passions with abandon no matter the results.
In the podcast (which I sure wish she’d bring back for another season!), Gilbert chooses a different artist to mentor for each episode, talking out their craft with them, giving them homework assignments and bringing in an “expert” to dole out advice as well. She spoke with everyone from tap dancers to painters to — of course — writers. I was a recent podcast junkie and enjoyed interviews with her in the past, so I tuned in — never expecting to find all the juice I needed to finish writing the book I’d started several years earlier.
It all came down to eliminating expectations.
There’s a phrase people often use for inspiration and it’s this: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
Gilbert turned the phrase around and posed this question: “What would you do even if you knew you would would fail?”
It the moment I heard it, I realized writing this book was it. Even if I “failed” and no one ever read it, I still wanted to do it.
When you are doing something with a huge end goal in mind, the possibility of completing it seems monumental. But when you are doing something out of passion, out of a love for the actual act of doing it, then it becomes real art. I’d never thought of myself as an “artist” but writing was this for me.
The other thing she emphasized over and over again was that “finished” is better than perfect and undone. As the old saying goings, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Would I rather complete this book and feel accomplished in what I pursued or leave these words dwindling on paper, unfinished and never to be read? There was JOY in the journey and the destination just wasn’t that important.
During this time, I picked up “Big Magic” and also “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott (MUST-READ FOR WRITERS!) and both (extremely successful) writers told me I will never get anywhere with writing if making money or getting a big book deal is my goal. I never thought that would happen in the first place but eliminating those thoughts entirely was exactly what I needed.
That’s not why you write. If it is why you write, you will stop writing. It will lose the BIG MAGIC and your dream will be lost. I felt the magic as I read these books and listened to this podcast.
I got it. I got it SO HARD that I realized the reason I had to finish this book was for me. It was for the art of it. It was what I owed the story of my husband. I was perfectly okay if the only people that ever read the finished product were Rick and my parents. It wasn’t about a book deal or making money (also, some people don’t realize MOST authors don’t get “rich” just because they get a book deal — that’s…not really a thing unless you ARE the exception to the rule.)
So I wrote. And I wrote when I didn’t feel like it and I filled in details and I wrote even when I knew it was bad (you can’t wait to “feel like” writing…) I just kept writing. I figured I would try to self-publish — what did I have to lose there? But then some BIG MAGIC happened and I was introduced to a reputable book agent. I didn’t even know how to get a book agent or where to begin, but an author friend was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to meet hers when I mentioned — just randomly — that I was writing a book. I said “yes” of course feeling like…oh that was nice of her but this will never work. WRONG.
It was then that I felt like God and the BIG MAGIC were swirling all together at once to make something big happen. The book took further shape into a faith story and I felt like it was no longer really in my hands. It was in His hands — and while I certainly had a lot of work to do in revising and writing a 50-page book proposal — it felt effortless because I loved this project, it was conceived in pure love and God was moving it forward step by step.
My book agent attracted attention from a couple of publishers and when I heard Harper Collins was one of them, I just about died. It was totally surreal and felt a little bit…magical 🙂 Obviously, we moved forward with the book deal and I’m still in the whole process of actually getting my first book out there — a total dream come true.
The tag line on “Big Magic” is “creative living beyond fear.” I still have fear — I mean, people still haven’t actually READ the book yet. Judgment looms. But I will cast it aside and know that I did my artist best.
I never would have found the courage or the gumption to finish the book and really believe in it without first being inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m pretty sure this is what she was going for when she wrote that book and created that podcast. I can’t thank her enough for transmitting the message and the bravery to me through my ear pods. I hope she will read this and know what a big deal it was to this one writer.