Friday, February 09, 2007

Compulsive, but not crazy.

I've been doing the math and it's beginning to look a little bit more optimistic than I thought. After a lot of thinking and brainstorming and even decided to change my thesis topic, I went to Barnes and Noble last night to find books on Creative Nonfiction and Memoir and, as luck would have it, Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love was there. She must be getting around...because Leah heard her talk just the other day.

Eat, Pray, Love is one of the best books I've read all year (competing only with Sold), so when they announced over the loudspeakers that she would begin her reading at 7:30, I got an incredible rush that went shooting through my blood in an "OMG! Elizabeth Gilbert is here?!! Right now!?!" sort of way.

But when she started talking, I immediately became irritated. Well, excited and irritated. I couldn't tell what I was, actually. There I was, looking for books for my "NEW" thesis topic, trying to escape my self-imposed pressure/prison of writing about my travels in India...and goddamnit if Elizabeth Gilbert wasn't there!!!!

Oh...and now I laugh.

Well, it turns out that she has a lovely, sexy, energetic voice, she's beautiful, and funny, too. She was so very perfect that I decided to leave early. Gah. Despite the early exit, I spent the ride home thinking about how interesting and wonderful it is to find writing that is so deeply satisfying that you need nothing more than the words on the page. I didn't need to meet Elizabeth. The book itself had been enough.

Now that I seem to have crawled (at least part way) out of the very deep hole of thesis-depression, I am grateful for last night's synchronicity. And I'm grateful that I almost changed my topic. Because, in doing so, I came across this book.

I stayed up half the night reading it and then got up early this morning to read some more. I hope to write more about it soon, but basically she talks about writer's block, why we write, how we write, and the myriad of ways that writing is effected by our emotional, mental, and physical states of being. She addresses the deep need to write, what it feels like when one can't write, and explains creativity from a (very) scientific perspective. It makes me wish I had gone into psychology.

The best thing about the book is that the author, Alice Flaherty, writes from her own experience. I know that this probably sounds stupid, but I feel like this book has rescued me from a profound darkness. I have been struggling so hard and for so long over this thesis, that I have been all but frozen solid. For the life of me, I could not tell if what I've written is any good or not. But Flaherty has done something very simple to help me see my situation differently.

She acknowledges that writer's block is a very real thing. A physical, mental, emotional thing. That's it. That's all she did. She acknowledged that my problem is real. And this alone helps to lift the weight.

I'm not saying that I think it's going to be a piece of cake from here on out (oh, I wish). But what I am saying is that I've gained a new perspective of myself and my situation.

This allowed me enough breathing space to go back and read some of the stuff I've written in the past few weeks...and you know what? It's not as bad as I thought. I was dead serious about abandoning my India stories and going with a new topic (and I have piles of books and papers and outlines and ideas strewn across my room to prove it). But after reading a few pieces, I got out a notebook and started doing the math.

I have at least 6 stories in progress. Apparently, I get so far and then I lose confidence in myself. BUT--if I keep working with what I've already started, that means that I only need to write another 30-40 pages (from what I already have started!).

Ok. I can do that.

Needless to say, I ended up with a few very good books on the art of creative nonfiction and memoir, a necessary dose of deep rooted understanding, and a chance to see Elizabeth Gilbert in the flesh. I guess my trip to Barnes and Noble was worth something.


Endment said...

Based on what I have just read - I can hardly wait to read your India stories!
I am also ordering the book The Midnight Disease... My - you are really inspiring me to add to my collection of literature:)

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Gilbert was HERE?! And I didn't know? *weeps*

And I read the Midnight Disease when I lived in Chicago...and yes, I remember feeling somewhat enlightened...but I won't remember by what? I blanch at the idea of digging it out of my many boxes, so you'll have to tell me all about it. Like, over coffee. ;)

And I am so excited to hear that you are going with your original idea! I have faith in you...and I cannot WAIT to hear that you are letting me read them! :)

Jessie said...

M., I thought about calling you. I even grabbed for my phone. But the reading was just starting. Chances are, you wouldn't have been able to make it in time. I should have called you anyway!

Coffee. Soon. I'll tell you all about both. ;)

Anonymous said...

i had no idea that book would have impacted you so much. i have had 2 copies (don't ask) on my shelf for a year. well, better you read it late than never right?

and speaking of elizabeth gilbert. thought you might enjoy this

Jessie said...

Ruby, now you have me curious...why 2 copies?? And, actually, while I was reading I was wondering what you and tara dawn and swampgrrl would think of this book. Err, if you haven't noticed already, I'm awfully sensitive to things. Sometimes it doesn't take much to rock my world. :P
ok...I'm going to go check out that link now. Thanks! :)

bee said...

i feel just a tiny bit responsible for all that pressure and crap, jessie, and i'm so sorry. i'm glad that you feel a bit renewed though...we should keep playing phone tag.


Loralee Choate said...


I came over here to see where the heck you have been and found ALL THESE POSTS!

You aren't updating on my bloglines and I am annoyed. At least I know that it is stupid technical reasons than you going MIA.

Ok, rant over. Misssssss yyyyyoooooouuuuu!!!!!!!!!!!

liz elayne said...

i just love this post. how you are finding your way back to your thesis...
eat, pray, love is one of my favorite books as well but i had writer envy the entire time and still do. i can totally relate and as much as i think "oh i would love to meet her, she would love me, we would be friends," i kind of hope to never see her. too perfect.
thanks for sharing this..i am going to check out midnigt disease..can't wait to hear more about it.

blessings dear girl

Patry Francis said...

I loved Midnight Disease, and have been wanting to read Eat, Pray, Love for a long time. How could anyone resist that title? Or the wonderful cover art?

Cate said...

I'm about halfway through The Midnight Disease, and I've found it to be fascinating. I'm glad that it helped you to find a new perspective, in terms of working on your thesis. Definitely a worthwhile trip to Barnes and Noble, indeed!