My Own Little Love Letter to Liz Gilbert

Liz Gilbert post graphic

Have you seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest TED Talk?

No?!

Check it out here and read how she inspires me.

I hope she inspires you as well.

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The Art of Distance

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So, many of you know that I submitted a novel-in-stories to a contest about 2 years ago and haven’t really touched it since. I let not winning or placing in the contest really knock me for a loop. Turns out that’s the best thing I could’ve done.

After letting it sit there for about eighteen months, I finally took it out again. What a difference those eighteen months made. It was like I was reading it for the first time. I even forgot how some of the stories ended. I teared up at some of them as if i hadn’t written them myself.

With fresh eyes, it was like a flashlight shined upon all the parts that needed revising. Cut those first 2 pages of that story, tweak the ending of that one, re-write the ending of that one. Misspellings, grammatical errors, clunky sentences, unneeded scenes—all of this was suddenly glaringly obvious and I cringed to think that I had submitted the older version. But, I did the best I could at the time. Now that I could see better, I was doing better.

Some things I learned through this revision process:

– Distance is key. Would I recommend eighteen months? Not necessarily. I recommend all the time it takes to almost forget what you had written so when you read it again it’s like somebody else wrote it.

– I have certain pet words and phrases like: “murky” and “clot.” I learned to catch these repeat offenders.

– Don’t be afraid to cut words, sentences, paragraphs and even pages if necessary.

– I need to revise on paper. I love having the pages stacked or sprawled in front of me, pen in hand.

– With distance, it was easier to spot places where I needed to go deeper and add a beat or another layer.

– While revision can be a very linear process with regard to spelling, grammar, mostly it was a very intuitive process. A process I learned to trust.

Five on Friday

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1. Another awesome talk by Liz Gilbert on success, failure and creativity.

2. Creative blocks and how to bust through them.

3. Unconventional writing advice.

4. “Art journaling is about the {creative process} of pulling together color, words and images as you wish on a page. Unlike many other forms of art, it is not about the outcome.”

5. Thoughts on God, religion, faith, writing and love. “…that spirituality and making art are not such different practices. Both call upon the animating force of the unseen. “

Five on Friday

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1. I get chills every time I watch this video.

2. Dani Shapiro on the writing life. “My inner life is an inaccessible landscape when I’m not writing, a foreign and unfamiliar place.”

3. Keri Smith on the cult of celebrity.

4. Establishing a small, non-threatening daily writing habit when is a great idea! Can’t wait for Gretchen Rubin’s new book on habits to be published.   

5. As a recovering self-help junkie, I can totally relate to this.

Five on Friday

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1. My latest on “elephant journal.” I cried when I wrote it, cried when I read it.

2. Excellent piece by David Ebenbach on trusting yourself.

3. Love all of these 21 things by Robin Black. Seriously. Can’t even choose a favorite. I need to print it and hang it over my desk. 

4. Intriguing take on the eclipses coming this month.

5. To practice yoga you only need one thing.

Books Read in March

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“The Isle of Youth” stories by Laura van den Berg

The first thing that went wrong was the emergency landing.

How could you not read on after that first sentence? These stories mesmerized me. Women of various ages navigate lives cloaked in secrecy and deception: two sisters run a P.I. business together in Florida; a newlywed couple embark on a honeymoon fraught with turmoil, both inner and outer; a teenage girls acts as her magician mother’s assistant but is up to her own intrigue after hours. Beautifully written stories combined with complex characters add up to one amazing read.

What I learned: How much I love and admire the perfect first sentence to a story. It’s what I aspire to write and this collection is filled with them.

“When We Woke” a YA novel by Karen Healey

My name is Tegan Oglietti. One of my ancestors was a highwayman, and another was a prince.

Imagine being shot. Then imagine waking up only to find that one hundred years had passed. One hundred. That’s Tegan’s story. She finds herself trapped within the confines of government bureaucracy and secrecy, in a world where she knows no one and the future isn’t as positive as she had imagined or hoped. It’s an awesome premise that kept me turning the pages.

What I learned: That song titles (in this case for the Beatles) make an interesting structure/container for the story.