Big Magic: Or, Some Pre-NaNoWriMo Wisdom

NaNoWriMo is a month of fear and excitement. It’s thirty days of creativity, pressure and bloody minded determination that sometimes ends in 50,000 words. NaNoWriMo, whether you’ve done it tons of times or are making your first attempt, is a pretty daunting prospect, and I can think of no better advice to get you started than that given by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Because we all need a little NaNo-spiration.


On fear (and getting started anyway)…

‘Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting – and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones making any decisions along the way.’

On living a creative life…

‘You can live a long life, making and doing cool things the entire time. You might earn a living with your pursuits, or you might not, but you can recognize that this is not really the point. And at the end of your days, you can thank creativity for having blessed you with a charmed, interesting, passionate existence.’

On writing…

‘Most of my writing life, to be perfectly honest, is not freaky, old-timey, voodoo- style Big Magic. Most of my writing life consists of nothing more than unglamorous, disciplined labor. I sit at my desk and I work like a farmer, and that’s how it gets done. Most of it is not fairy dust in the least.

But sometimes it is fairy dust. Sometimes, when I’m in the midst of writing, I feel like I am suddenly walking on one of those moving sidewalks that you find in a big airport terminal; I still have a long slog to my gate, and my baggage is still heavy, but I can feel myself being gently propelled by some exterior force. Something is carrying me along – something powerful and generous – and something that is decidedly not me.

On originality…

‘…the older I get, the less impressed I become with originality. These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity. Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has a quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.’

On rejection…

‘…editors could reject me all they wanted; I wasn’t going anywhere. Whenever I got those rejection letters, then, I would permit my ego to say aloud to whoever had signed it: “You think you can scare me off? I’ve got another eighty years to wear you down! There are people who haven’t even been born yet who are going to reject me someday – that’s how long I plan to stick around.”

Then I would put the letter away and get back to work.’

On being an artist without losing your mind…

‘The paradox that you need to comfortably inhabit, if you wish to live a contented creative life, goes something like this: “My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).’

On life, the long game…

‘All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration I can neither see nor prove, nor command, nor understand.

It’s a strange line of work, admittedly.

I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.’


Author: Lydia Tewkesbury

27. Loves a good story.

9 thoughts on “Big Magic: Or, Some Pre-NaNoWriMo Wisdom”

    1. I’m not NaNo-ing, but I suddenly want to write stories again for the first time in a few months. This year I have mostly been about the non-fiction (trying to get published and failing). I hope you have a fun NaNo. If you need a beta reader, let me know 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: October Wrap-Up

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