Sunday, November 01, 2015

An Appreciation, Not A Review ...

I don't read reviews.

If I have the sense that I want to see a movie or read a book, I do. If it's awful, so be it. If it's great, good. But reviews give too much away in their reviewing, and I'd rather not know.

I have, in the past, I believe, written reviews, which were not really reviews, and were instead critiques, for better or for worse. But I have ceased writing those, some time ago. Maybe I didn't like something but that doesn't mean you won't love it. Likewise, I can love something that you'll find total dreck.

It's a crap shoot, really, how we receive the creative output of others. As Thomas Dolby once sang, "Two and two make five and a quarter. That's why people fall in love."

(That said, if you Google me, you may find that I've written in the past about my bafflement of the adoration surrounding The Shipping News – I just couldn't get into that book but it was widely praised and lavished with awards and most people loved it, so that failure's on me – and you may also see that I had unkind things to say about Mario Puzo's The Fourth K, but seriously, in that instance, people should be spared.)

This post, though, is about Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, of which I am one-third of the way through, but I was moved to slip the due-date receipt in between pages 92 and 93 and tweet at her, but the computer was being poky, which I took as a sign that I should take the time to write a post and tweet the link instead. One hundred and forty characters surely would not suffice.

Because, oh, Liz gets me. Because she gets herself. Which means she gets every creative-type person out here, which means she gets everyone, because everyone is creative in some way.

Still, it feels very personal, this book. (There's advice in the writing world to write as if you're writing to one person, so, mission accomplished, Liz!)

And while there is plenty of interesting information of the "Really? I didn't know that. Huh. Well, that helps me to think of this in a different way" variety and plenty of gentle "Don't be so hard on yourself, dear one" kindness, there is also – at least in the way I'm reading it – a healthy dose of Liz sitting across the room from me, listening to my litany of excuses past, rolling her eyes every so slightly, and verbally swatting down every single one of my lame explanations with a "Yeah, and?"

"Yeah, and?" indeed.

I'm giving myself a little talking to, and it's going something like this:

"Get over yourself, Beth. You're no different than every other person who's ever paused in the face of fear or flat-out shut down. Your lack of creation isn't something special. It's no measure of what could be. It's banal. It's common. You've been looking for confirmation for most of your life. And you've received it and you've still failed to produce. Because the positive opinion of others is nice but it doesn't matter. It guarantees nothing. It's not protection. It's not a shield. It does not inure you from criticism. If you really want it, do it. For the sake of doing it. Because you'd rather look back at your crappy clay Mothers' Day ashtray and be glad that you made it than regret that you didn't have it to give."

I checked out this book from the library because I made a deal with myself that I would read books first and then decide if I want to own them, because in the past, I had spent far too much money and consumed far too much shelf space with should-reads that went unread until I finally gave them away.

So now, I date a book first, as it were, and then decide if it warrants a more permanent place in my life.

I'll be heading out to buy Liz's book this afternoon.

Right after I return this copy to the library, where it's one day overdue. Someone else is waiting to read it (I know this to be true; I couldn't renew it because of a hold) and I hope that that person gleans something meaningful from it about their creative life and their creative truth.

Thank you, Liz. Consider this is my Patchettian virtual kiss.


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