I’ve been re-listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons Podcasts this week, to ready me for five nights away on my own to catch up on writing my novel a little, with the novelty of no interruptions. The thought of the time away is really a big deal when you’re a woman, a mother and a writer who works at home. The first, second and last descriptors there are, in my experience, extremely difficult to manage alongside the act of writing a big piece rather than dipping in and out of smaller ones. An excellent article in Harper’s Bazaar covers the issues I’m nodding at here and I suggest anyone navigating an unapologetically modern relationship or considering the messages they’re giving younger generations about gender roles reads the piece for comfort and fire-stoking. It’s an absolute cracker.
But back to the Magic Lessons. Every single episode feels freshly relevant. Yesterday I did my own version of a homework task Gilbert sets a podcast guest in order to help balance an internal dialogue which often poleaxed ambition. You can listen to the podcast here. Reflecting on the task of stepping aside from the locked mind to exchange letters with both Fear and Curiosity, I was prompted to shine a light on my own fears because they’re currently presenting the biggest hurdle to productivity during my time away.
As a sidenote, a horrible irony here is that I really didn’t feel the weight of these fears until I booked some time away. The act of booking the time, hell, the audaciousness of booking the time in some folks’ eyes, set off an epic domino chain in my head about pressure. I didn’t realise the domino chain was happening until it was halfway through and heading towards an elaborate helter-skelter set of turns before stretching into middle distance further than my terrified eyes could see. Think the domino chain in Collateral Beauty scaled up by a hundred and you’re there.
In a nutshell, the pressure-fear, wee darling that it is, has pretty much been whispering self-loathing into my lugholes since I got my Airbnb e-receipt. Here’s a fragment for your delectation;
‘Five nights away, huh? That’s brave. Or stupid. Especially as you’ve had some really shit feedback on the novel recently. Do you not think if you were going to have finished the novel you’d have done it by now? I mean, you don’t even really have a good story, do you? And you keep changing direction. And you’re still not doing it the way you want it to, are you? Because that way is shit and you know it. Your blindspot’s massive. But yeah. Have a great week away.’
Swim, swim, swimming I went. Swimming into a pool of mindcrap.
That’s the thing about creativity. It makes light and dark and balance must be imposed.
Despite the mindcrap, there was another voice in my head, quite possibly it’s the voice of leftover drugs from my teens but I guess that’s valid too.
The other voice says go and write. And go and enjoy. And lighten up, sweetheart. You’re doing great. Oh, and, most importantly….? For the love of fuck write the book you want, the way you want it written, because evidently you care so much more about that than anyone else’s feedback. How do I know that? I know that because when you think about the book you want to write, you smile. And that’s the thing. Write a smiling book that you one-day-kinda-soon finish and to fuck with whether it ever gets published, read or respected by anyone else. It’s either that or you’re carrying that baby everywhere while you try to write one that your heart isn’t in and one day realising the one you love isn’t there anymore – it just turned to regret. It waited too long.
Writing that, I can hear the other voice more clearly. It doesn’t belong to 16 year old me at a rave in Arbroath on MDMA. It belongs to me AND Liz Gilbert, one of the woman in the USA right now making the world a better place against all the odds. I dare say she’s scared and brave all at the same time. How inspiring.