Part Two of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is titled Enchantment and is about the magical feeling of inspiration. Big ideas are tossed about. This one on page twenty-four left me gob smacked:
“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”
I was mesmerized by the remaining chapter detailing the loss of an idea; saying yes or no to an idea, “The idea will organize coincidences and portents to tumble across your path, to keep your interest keen.” The fascinating reality of multiple discovery—“…whenever two or more scientists in different parts of the world come up with the same idea at the same time. (Calculus, oxygen, black holes, the Mobius strip; the existence of the stratosphere, and the theory of evolution…all had multiple discoverers.)”
And the magical effect of fairy dust—that feeling of, “Something is carrying me along” while writing. “…when you’ve made something wonderful…and look back at it later, all you can say is: ‘I don’t even know where that came from.’” YES—I grok (for Heinlein fans!).
“In ancient Greek, the word for the highest degree of human happiness is Eudaimonia, which basically means “well-daemoned”—that is, nicely taken care of by some external divine creative spirit guide. (Modern commentators, perhaps uncomfortable with this sense of divine mystery, simply call it “flow” or “being in the zone.”)”
I had an idea for a story over a decade ago. I wrote pieces of it furiously for a while and then put it away. I found those scribbles years later and was inspired to begin again with a slightly different character, more detail and didn’t share with others so I didn’t have to explain the idea.
The idea has not abandoned me and I am grateful. I reread my fifty pages a few weeks ago and laughed in all the right places and slipped into my characters world as easily as smiling at a baby. I enjoyed it; I wanted more! I have absolutely no idea how these pages were written but I’m convinced fairy dust was present. Last week I showed up to the page and wrote a few more, long hand works best for me—purple ink of course. I took the littlest tiniest leap of faith and—I am still here. I didn’t dissolve into a puddle of ‘crappy first draft’! The next leap will be less scary and the one after that…until the story is told. THAT dear readers is big magic.
The last quote Liz shares in this section paints a magnificent visual of an idea’s journey through time and perhaps many souls before it is given voice—“No genuine book has a first page. Like the rustling of the forest, it is begotten God knows where, and it grows and it rolls, arousing the dense wilds of the forest until suddenly…it begins to speak with all the treetops at once.” ~Boris Pasternak