Magazines and Magic by Deb Danielle

First let me say that newspapers are wonderful, in theory. They are often full of interesting, pertinent, well-written articles. But I find them physically unwieldy, their texture gives me the willies and I hate how the ink comes of on my fingers. And magazines? Magazines are a guilty pleasure, sure, but really they just make me want things I can’t have.

Thinking about wanting things led me to wondering about the creative process, about giving versus getting (or trying to get)…and about joy.

We spend a lot of time trying to get things, in our society, and I think sometimes we apply that to the creative process. Being an actor was like that for me. I often found myself grasping, trying so hard to “get” a moment, “get” a role, searching for something outside of myself that would make it all work and bring the magic. I worked hard, but it was like throwing myself against a wall—magic was elusive, the results mixed and, in the end, there was so little joy.

And if you’re going to do something so damned hard, there had better be joy.

As a writer, I find my process very different. I give. It’s not about searching outside of myself, it’s not about grasping. It’s about finding something that interests me and then diving into it, giving myself over to it. I wanted to do that as an actor but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s maturity, maybe writing is just the right medium for me, but now I’m starting to understand that if you really want to achieve something, you have to give, and you have to give everything. You have to wring yourself out and you have to do it daily. It’s exhausting, difficult and sometimes painful but it’s also how I’ve found magic, how I’ve finally found joy in my work.

I suspect this is the best way to achieve anything you really want, whether it’s writing a book, playing Hamlet, building a business, being a great parent, husband or wife—give yourself to it, give everything you have to it, and you will find a deeper level of satisfaction and success at the end of the day.

Which isn’t to say I’ve stopped wanting to play Ophelia, wanting a new wardrobe, better triceps, a flat stomach, more books, an LCD TV, a newer house, a treadmill for my dog, etc. I’m just happier while I’m wanting it.

What about you?

12 thoughts on “Magazines and Magic by Deb Danielle

  1. I know way too many people who spend their whole lives wishing for the next thing instead of enjoying what they have. I’m not so zen that I still don’t want- but I try and enjoy the road there.

  2. Great food for thought. We really do need to enjoy the process rather than waiting for that end result. Except for instance if you’re on a diet. Then the process is really arduous and makes you want to throttle people, all day long, sometimes for months on end, when really, all you’re after is the end product, you know? So can I just discard the process on this diet I’m attempting, and get from point A to point B without the agony? Please?

  3. Eileen–yes, the “zen” thing is so important. This whole publishing thing is an example of that–it goes so fast and there’s so much to do and sometimes I just have to stop and remind myself that I’m living my dream already–actually living it.

    Jenny–I’m on a bit of a diet too. There are some grumpy times that come with that, especially since I like to have unlimited access to chocolate while I’m writing. Humph. I’ll have to find a way to apply my “give” instead of “get” process to it. (Does this mean I have to start giving chocolate away and not getting any back? That kind of sucks…) Re throttling–you can “give” a good throttle, can’t you? Maybe to some pillows? A frozen good or two?

  4. What a wonderful, thoughtful post! You’re so right about the actual writing process being a giving process–grueling, but when all cylinders are firing, pure bliss. Focusing on the “getting” side of things with writing (getting an agent, getting published, getting great sales, etc.) is another story entirely!

  5. This is a thoughtful post, Danielle – and you’re right about giving. I give so much more to my writing than I do to my day job, keeping my house clean or most things that I really should do.

    For me, writing is still an unpaid ‘hobby’, but I give to it as though it were a paying job. It’s a total commitment.

    I am drained by writing at times, at others energized – it’s so emotional, but how could it not be? I can’t evoke emotion in others without instilling some of my own into the work.

    But it always gives back. Even though I’m unpublished and am struggling with the business side of it, when someone reads something I wrote and tells me they laughed out loud or even cried, I feel I have gotten back so much more than I have given.

  6. Very Buddhist of you, that whole non-grasping thing. Writing does seem to exact it’s pound of flesh, doesn’t it? I can’t write anything these days without dragging myself up the stairs at the end of the day, rubbing my shoulders, searching for Advil.

    Lucky for us, creativity doesn’t come in a tidy package–who would want to do it? Guess that’s why they call this stuff we do ex-pressing. Keep pressing out the great posts, and thanks for the brilliant idea for the doggie treadmill. Now I’ll have one more hour a day to devote to writing.

  7. Jess–Thanks. Yes, there is still lots of “getting” work to be done on the business end. At least we can aim to balance that with the actual creative work!

    Joanne and Maia–Some days it takes more than others, doesn’t it? I do find it worth it though. I just wish it would take its pound of flesh off my butt or thighs!

    Thanks for coming, everyone! I’m off to feed the munchkin and will check back later.

  8. So much wisdom here, Danielle, and very thought-provoking. Wow! I’m impressed. And that wringing yourself out is exactly how I feel after writing AND after yoga…

  9. Oh Gail, I really miss yoga. I just have a heck of a time getting to a class these days. I have some DVDs, but it’s not quite the same.

  10. There’s great joy in giving of yourself, reaching out to share your thoughts/feelings with others cannot be more rewarding. It’s not self-sacrifice, though; it’s an innate desire.

  11. Yes, Larramie–I was thinking about the post today, about how one could take perceive what I’m describing to be some kind of martyrdom, but that’s not the kind of giving I’m talking about. Giving in the way I’m talking about is very rewarding and becomes part of who you are. Thanks for coming by!
    Danielle

  12. Great post. It’s funny, about writing that way. Good writing gives to others, but at least for me, I get so much out of it. After spending the summer with my kids and very little time to write, I’m constantly amazed at how much I can’t wait to get back to it, how I miss it when I can’t spend hours working, mostly, how much it gives to me.

    Fantastic post.

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