I finished reading Big Magic, which I got last week at the Liz Gilbert extravaganza in Pasadena. Gilbert is a charming and generous writer, and she shares some fascinating stories about her famous and not-so-famous friends, as well as her own experiences being a creative soul.
My favorite story was the one she told about a story she wrote for GQ, and how at the 11th hour she was asked to ax it – really cut it down to nothing. She was given the choice to do that or have the story go back into the hopper, where stories often go to die. She chose to cut her precious words – and when the story appeared, an agent contacted her, and that’s how she landed the agent she’s had for 20 something years.
I was also intrigued by her claim that ideas are sentient and willful – that they want to be made manifest. This may seem like a wacky notion – but my father the environmentalist wrote a book called The Rights of Nature, and I have often heard him talk about the fact that rivers have desires and wills (they long to run to the sea, so far be it from me to refute it.
There are also some powerful lessons here for writers, including:
- Fear is the most boring thing about you.
- Fear is not going anywhere so you might as well learn to live – and create with it.
- You are entitled to create.
- Take delight in your creativity rather than ranting about what a bitch it is
- Don’t get attached to the results – just keep creating
- Take your work very seriously – and not seriously at all.
You may notice that these are not the most wildly original lessons – but so what. The way Gilbert tells them is very comforting and very encouraging and very charming, and writers need all the help they can get.
This led me to think – so who would most benefit from this book and when? Why, for example, might you read Big Magic instead of Bird by Bird or The War on Art? And that led me to think about some of the books I recommend the most, and turn to the most myself. And I began to imagine a kind of map or guide for when in the writing process you might turn to a particular book, and why. And so I made that map -- a six page infographic -- and am sharing it here with you today.
Download the Writers’ Book Infographic HERE
Who doesn't love a good infographic?
Big Magic claimed the spot at the very beginning of the list. It’s a book I think I would recommend to someone just dipping their toes into the creative waters, or someone who needs to tread very lightly. Gilbert is not spineless – far from it. She’s got some tough love in these pages. But she is such a kind and good and gentle person that she delivers it in a palatable way that isn’t going to scare anyone off – well, unless they get weirded out by that willfull idea thing.
To read the fifth draft editorial commentary on my first chapter of my new novel, click HERE. You can follow along as I build this book, one edit at a time.... NOTE: When you land on the draft, you need to click OPEN in order to see the actual commentary, which appears in the margin.