Filling the Well in 2016

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Hungry unicorn

To keep myself accountable to my unicorn for providing her with input from which to draw inspiration for new work, this year, I am keeping a list of everything I’m feeding her. She’s a hungry magical being–an insatiable appetite for creativity–and does tend to get stroppy if I neglect her.

I’m excited about what’s on there already, and looking forward to seeing this grow. If you have any awesome events you know of in the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane or southeast Queensland area, I’m keen to hear them. 🙂

So far, I have:

Books Read (completed, or at least half way, not including the hundreds I read to my toddler). Don’t be alarmed by the brevity of this list. As I’ve said many times, I’m a very slow reader.

  • Hester & Harriet, by Hilary Spiers
  • Fall of the Beasts (Spirit Animals), Immortal Guardians, by Eliot Schaefer
  • Diamond Spirit, by Karen Wood

Theatre Productions/Music

  • Australia Day (Noosa Arts Theatre), February
  • 2016 Season of One Act Plays (BATS, Buderim), April
  • Educating Rita (The Events Centre), April

Speakers

  • Elizabeth Gilbert, February

Workshops/Courses

  • Cheesemaking, Brisbane, March

Travel (research, inspiration)

  • Melbourne, April
  • Writing Retreat, June
  • Burdekin Writers Festival, July
  • Bundaberg Writers Festival, October
  • Tuscany, September

Movies

  • Under the Tuscan Sun

How to Write a Book (for those who want to, but have a hundred excuses not to).

Consider this post both a gentle, supportive hug, and also a loving butt kick. I’ve had too many conversations in the past month with beautiful, talented, creative women that go something like this:

  • “Yeah, I’d love to write a book but I don’t want to do it and have it be bad.”
  • “I don’t want to write a book and have people criticise it.”
  • “I’d love to write a book but I know it’s so hard to get anything published [and therefore why would I bother].”
  • “I really want to write a book but I know hardly anyone makes money out of it and I need to be able to support myself… I can’t give up my day job.”

Look, to be blunt, none of this is new. All of this has been said before, by me and every other person with a creative wish. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “your fears are boring”. (Ouch! Hurts just a bit, doesn’t it?)

People get so messed up in their heads thinking about the outcome of their creative project that they fail to even start it.

And in my experience, what happens to your book  after it is finished is largely out of your hands. You have very little control over it after it leaves your laptop and flies off into the world.

Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will start a revolution across the world, or maybe it will change a single person’s life and help them through a difficult time. Maybe it will make you really rich, or maybe it will pay a phone bill, or maybe you’ll end up in debt.

Like bringing a child into the world, there is only so much you can do to protect, shepherd and guide her where you want her to go. She has her own journey.

Is this poking at your deepest fears? Can you feel your stomach knotting and your breathing constrict?

Here is something terrifying.

That fear never goes away.

I emailed my lovely fairy godmother, Monica McInerney, not long after getting my contract for The Tea Chest and The Chocolate Promise and asked her how to deal with the paralysing fear that was stopping me writing. She laughed (lovingly) and told me it wouldn’t ever go away and she was going through it right then too, on her tenth novel.

Julia Cameron, master of living a creative life (and famed author of The Artist’s Way) confesses in her book, The Creative Life, that as time goes on, the mind’s tricks, which it plays to stop us from writing, only get trickier.

Please, beautiful people with creative dreams, don’t be a slave to the ego’s fear.

You are stronger than that. You are wiser.

Accept it.

Name it, if you like. (My creative monster, my ever present fear, is called Maureen. Julia Cameron’s is called Nigel.) It is like an unwanted relative. You can’t get rid of it. It will always be at the table, eating your food.

Give it a job if you like. Many years ago, I listened to my saboteur tell me that everything I wrote was crap, turned to the corner of the room and said, ‘Really? Thanks for that feedback. Now go do something useful and find me a book contract.’

But please, write.

Please write.

Write.

Write for the sake of writing. Write because you want to. Write because in this hour, this day, that is what your soul calls you do to. Write because you love it. Write because you have something to say.

What happens to it after that?

It’s irrelevant. The important thing is that you wrote.

Much love,

Jo x

 

 

Elizabeth Gilbert: “Most in Show”

I just smiled and smiled when I read this today. The ever-inspirational, Elizabeth Gilbert, posted this on her Facebook site and I, like others in her comment thread, just had to share it on my blog. There’s not much I can say to add to this, other than, yeah, sister, right on. (And as an author who’d written ten manuscripts before cracking a publishing contract, I can attest to the value of ‘most in show’.) Enjoy 🙂

1536741_573424569406329_240531612_nI found this photo the other day at my mom’s house, and I burst out laughing.

This is me in 1980, ten years old, showing off everything I had made that year for our local 4-H fair. (That’s an agricultural fair, for those of you who aren’t so familiar with 4-H.)

I had a dream that year. I wanted to win BEST IN SHOW in the Home Goods department. I’d been coveting that giant purple ribbon for years, and wanted to make it mine.

My plan was to enter as many items as I could in every single category (cooking, canning, baking, gardening, sewing, industrial arts) in the hopes that at least one thing would be BEST.

I worked all summer at this. I drove my mother crazy. I cooked, I canned, I baked, I picked (and pickled) beans and beets and cucumbers, I made a teddy bear (!), I built a coat-hanger, I made a automobile first aid kit, I did needlepoint, I was out of control. (By the way — thanks, mom. Because of course I didn’t really know how to do any of this, so she spent the summer helping me as I hijacked her kitchen, her sewing machine, her craft table, her garden…)

After all that, I didn’t win BEST IN SHOW. Another kid did, for a dessert that he had made. I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m sure he was a very nice kid and the desert was probably fine — but seriously, it killed me. I was a sobbing mess.

But then some sympathetic judge must have put it together and noticed that — out of the 300 exhibitions in the Home Show that year — about 175 of them had been made by the same girl. Somebody must have been like, “Oh my god, that poor pathetic child.” Because later in the day, I was given a special award — a giant ribbon upon which some kind soul had written: “MOST IN SHOW”.

Which soothed my sad heart and made me very proud, though today in makes me laugh my ass off because: MOST IN SHOW? That it the best turn of phrase ever. “You, little girl, are not the best at any of this stuff…or even the second best…or the third best…but, by god, you are the MOST.”

But you know what? I’ve always been MOST IN SHOW. I wasn’t the best writing student in any class I ever took, but I was the MOST — I was the one who tried hardest. I think I finally got published because I was MOST IN SHOW — because I spent years writing and writing and writing and writing and sending out those stories to publishers and getting rejected and rejected and rejected, and sending out more and more and more stories until I finally wore them down and they published one at last.

I’m not the best at anything, you guys. Not the smartest, not the most talented, not the prettiest, not the strongest, not the best traveler, not the best journalist, not the best public speaker, not the best with foreign languages, not the best novelist, not the wisest, not the best meditator, not the best yogi, not the anything-est. But by god, I show up with a truckload of effort and participation and preparation, and I give to life the absolute MOST I’ve got. In every category I can.

The uniquely talented guy with the fancier dessert still usually wins the big prize, but you know what? I still wear them down (the great judges of life, that is) and they still have make up special ribbons for me all the time.

Because I just won’t go away.

Persistence forever!

MOST LOVE,

LG

Elizabeth Gilbert will be in Brisbane on 5 March at the Brisbane Powerhouse, talking about creativity and inspiration. You can find more information from the Brisbane Writers Festival program.