I began writing a book about my journey through mental illness back in February of this year. I had written a few chapters but eventually hit a road block so I put it away in a drawer and haven’t look at it since.
However, one of my literary heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, just released her new book Big Magic which profoundly changed the way I think about creativity and the “hidden jewels” lying inside me.
After finishing the book, I pulled out the chapters I had worked on so diligently for several months and the words made me cringe. The meat of everything I had written was about what happened to me rather than how it transformed me. Basically, it was dull and boring, even to me.
So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself, “Lindsay, at the beginning of your journey what would have been the ideal outcome of your story? Because that is what you should write about.”
It took an hour of soul-searching and self-introspection to get to the bottom of it, but in the end my ultimate desire was this: I didn’t want to waste my suffering. I wanted to use it to get closer to myself and to become the heroine of my own story.
I thought that sounded pretty cool and when I wrote that, inspiration struck me with such ferocity that I wrote and wrote and wrote. Before I knew it, nearly ten hours had passed, my Saturday virtually gone. But I looked through my composition notebook and realized I was looking at the outline for an entirely new book – a more real and genuine one than what I had previously written. One I was writing purely for me, not anyone else.
And you know what’s strange? I found myself writing about the profound pain and suffering and emotional confusion I had endured and was actually enjoying it, which is to say I am in a drastically different state of mind compared to where I was many months ago. Maybe that is because enough time has passed for me to look at my story as a spectator rather than writing it all as it unfolded.
At the time I had begun writing my book I had only been out of the hospital for a little over a month. I was still depressed as my medications hadn’t quite kicked in yet. And I was angry. Why did this happen to me? Why is life so unfair? It’s no wonder, then, I had written a book from the viewpoint of a victim. Thank god I’ve moved on.
Perhaps the most encouraging piece of advice I took away from Big Magic is the idea that your creativity and art is begging to be made manifest. It doesn’t matter if what you create is any good. It just matters that you finish it. It may not always come easy or naturally, but then again your work never promised it would be either of those things. It just promised it would interesting. And it is interesting, indeed.