Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert [Book]

I first saw mention of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear in some magazine I was reading. There were several writing and creativity books mentioned and I quickly requested those I hadn’t previously read from my local library. What I hadn’t noticed, until I started reading the book was that it was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love. This often happens to me. I don’t recognize famous people out in public or important people in a company or government. It is just not something I am attuned to. In this case, I might not even have started to the read the book had I known more about the author. Sometimes coming to a new resource “cold” allow you to take in important lessons without any preconceptions.

One big thing I agree with Gilbert on is that writing — like many creative pursuits — is indeed magic. Whether I have been writing, performing music, singing with a choir, performing solo or walking onstage in the play or musical, there is something amazingly magical in what results. Thinking that creativity is magic doesn’t mean that it is unattainable for everyone, though, only that we have to treat creativity as something that is special and — most importantly — something that everyone should experience, as often as possible, in their lives. 

Big Magic isn’t a book about writing, with special exercises, meditations, or prescriptions. Rather it is a book about having and coping with a creative life. Creativity is always seen as something special — found only in select others — and this can lead to our own denial of its power and rewards and our own abilities. In a section entitled Permission, Gilbert says that we should all be “entitled”. This is a loaded word these days, but the fact is, we should all feel entitled to engage in creativity throughout our lives, regardless of what others might say or do or how much they try to dissuade us. Creativity is a certain, inalienable right, like those others laid out in the Declaration of Independence. In fact, I consider it one large part of “the pursuit of happiness” that Jefferson gave such importance.

One of the most important lessons Gilbert imparts is one that many creatives might not want to hear. She says that, in most cases, you shouldn’t depend on or expect your creativity to support you financially. In fact, she thinks this is one of the best ways to kill of your creativity entirely. If you expect your music or poetry or photography to support you, you quickly turn the magical into drudgery. What you once loved to do becomes a hateful burden and if allowed to continue, will kill your desire to create. 

Sure, some lucky few might be able to support themselves from their creativity, but most will not. In fact, she says, “with rare exceptions, creative fields make for crap careers. (They make for crap careers, that is, if you define a “career” as something that provides for your financially in a fair and foreseeable manner, which is a pretty reasonable definition of a career.)”

No matter how successful you may become, there will still be aspects of any job that you hate — the bureaucracy, the finances, the constant travel and more. On the other hand, Gilbert says, “Creative living can be an amazing vocation, if you have the love and courage and persistence to see it that way.” For myself, I often say, “Love your creativity, but don’t necessarily expect for it to love you back.” There is much to be gained from creativity, but money not be the most abundant nor important.

Big Magic is divided into short, easily consumable, sections — more like a collection of essays, although unlike some similar books, it holds together well as a complete book, too. You can read it from cover to cover, as I did, or jump from essay to another as your mood — and your creative need — strikes you.

Come to Big Magic to help you understand and better manage your own creative life. Creativity is never an easy path, as either vocation or avocation, but it is amazing and something that everyone should experience in some way. Like most things in life, though, having a guide along a strange and confusing path is always more helpful than we might like to admit. Consider Big Magic one such guide in your creative life. Now, head out on your own creative journey.

Other books by Elizabeth Gilbert

See more of her books on Amazon

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 
** 74 copies of Big Magic are available to check out from the Los Angeles Public Library 


Book Review: Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques by Evan Skolnick

Book Review: Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques by Evan Skolnick

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** This book may be available from your local library. Check it out! 

At first glance, an outsider to the world of video games might see little relation between a major motion picture and a video games. They seem to be different genres, different worlds, even when movies crossover to become games and games crossover and are developed into movies — often badly. The action, the interactivity, the immersion of video games can make their stories seem unlike a standard narrative program. Surely, due to the player’s control of characters, video games can’t be written in the same way as a television script. While that might be true in some regards, when you go deeper into the creation of story that drives the final narrative, there are more similarities between writing for film and video games than you might imagine. These similarities also mean that many similar challenges exist for these writers regardless of their genre.

Writer Evan Skolnik is an international speaker and educator who conducts workshops on storytelling techniques and has worked on large scale video game projects such as Star Wars 1313, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 and Spiderman 3.

The first half of Video Game Storytelling would be familiar to anyone who has ever taken a film writing course. It discusses the “three act structure”, “The Hero’s Journey” and the Monomyth that are the basis for many of our most classic books and films like Star Wars and Alien. Skolnick uses these well-known films to illustrate various writing concepts but then expands his examples with examples from well-known video games and how they also use these same techniques. These games include the Bioshock series, Uncharted and Metal Gear Solid. Thankfully, just as with movies, many scenes and playthroughs of these games are easily available via YouTube. This allows the reader to familiarize themselves with games they may have never played and fully understand the lessons Skolnick references.

While there is a good deal of video game examples spread throughout this first half, I found myself wishing for even more examples of how the traditional writing and storytelling rules applied to video games.

The second half of Video Game Storytelling details the many disciplines involved in creating a video game and how each of these affects — and is affected by — the narrative tools he has illustrated in the first half. For incipient video game developers this is where they will find the “meat” of the book and the majority of the author’s expertise. The information found in the first half might be found in any good book on screenwriting, but the detailed breakdown of all the video game development disciplines, their challenges and their relationship to the narrative of any video game should probably be required reading for anyone considering a career in video game design and development.

In the “In the Trenches” section, Skolnik details the responsibilities of each important discipline including Game Character Development, Level and Mission Development, Environments, Audio and several others. He also details how a video game writer needs to work with each of these disciplines in order to create a well-balanced, successful, and most importantly playable video game.

Throughout Video Game Storytelling you will see and hear a complaint common to any collaborative writing and creative enterprise — the lack of inclusion, if not outright respect, for the creator of the narrative of a game. There are several common mistakes in dealing with a writer, whether in traditional media such as television or film or the relative younger video game industry. Skolnick lays out the biggest mistakes creative teams can make with their narrative experts i.e. writers. These mistakes can range from not hiring a writer at all for your game to hiring a writer but then not giving them the power and support to defend the narrative from the competing demands of all the disciplines mentioned above. Too often writers are given all the responsibility for the narrative, but very little power to defend that narrative. This can often translate into taking much of the blame for a less-than-successful game, even when many of the narrative decisions were taken out of their control.

Skolnik’s best advice when hiring a video game writer can be summed up as — hire as early as possible in the development process, integrate them fully and equally with all the other disciplines and teams, listen to their guidance about the narrative. A game developer is paying their writer for their experience, advice, and knowledge. They should then take it. Too often, though, that is not the case. The writer — and the narrative — get shunted aside by cool gaming mechanics, great explosions and intricate AI characters.

One of the main reasons I requested a review copy of the book from Blogging for Books is so I could better familiarize myself with game development and be able to discuss it more intelligently with my high school aged son, who is looking at a career somewhere in the game development industry. As I read the book, I found myself reading him some of the stories and ideas out loud and also encouraging him several times to read the book as soon as I had completed it. I think there is a great deal of knowledge to be gained from both sections of the book. The “Basic Training” section gives an excellent introduction into the world of the Three-Act Structure and the second half applies that knowledge in very concrete ways specific to video game development. It is a great starting point for learning about an industry — video gaming — that is rapidly becoming a huge entertainment industry on the level of traditional television or film.

Noted: Learn How to Make Captivating Presentations with This Free Online Book via Lifehacker

Learn How to Make Captivating Presentations with This Free Online Book via Lifehacker

Learn How to Make Captivating Presentations with This Free Online Book via Lifehacker

Communication guru Nancy Duarte helped us learn how to create and deliver presentations that don’t suck. Her acclaimed book, Resonate, is available online now for free in multimedia, touch-friendly form.

 Read More


“Noted” items are particularly good finds from my daily reading which I share via all my social media accounts.

Find more Noted items here

Noted: Amazon launches KDP Kids, a tool to help authors self-publish illustrated books via GigaOm

Amazon launches KDP Kids, a tool to help authors self-publish illustrated books via GigaOm

Amazon launches KDP Kids, a tool to help authors self-publish illustrated books via GigaOm

Amazon on Wednesday launched the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, which is software that helps authors create illustrated ebooks. It could also be a way for Amazon to beef up its subscription program, Kindle Unlimited, with more children’s content.

Read More


“Noted” items are particularly good finds from my daily reading which I share via all my social media accounts.

Find more Noted items here

Midsummer Book Sale — All My Kindle Books 99¢ each for the next 30 Days!

That’s right!

As a special Midsummer treat to all my loyal readers, listeners and viewers, all my books are now just 99¢ each for the next 30 days!

Offer expires August 24, 2014

For career-minded types, there is my original book, The High-Tech Career Handbook, Cultivating You Career Reputations and, for those looking to decide where to take their career, Career Compass: Finding Your Career North.

Social Media fans can check out Social Media Self Preservation and learn how to take advantage of social media without losing your mind.

Finally, fans of A Gardener’s Notebook might like my collection of gardening essays, From A Gardener’s Notebook.

Read the Kindle book using your Kindle, Computer or Mobile device!

 

Noted: The Mozart Project via Kottke.org

The Mozart Project 

Mozart project

The Mozart Project ($14.99) is a book about the life and music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Or is it an app? Stephen Fry calls it “a completely new kind of book”…you read it in iBooks but it acts more like an app than anything. Over 200 pages of text by leading Mozart scholars is accompanied by hours of music, videos, photo slideshows, all sorts of other goodies.

Read More


“Noted” items are particularly good finds from my daily reading which I share via all my social media accounts.

Find more Noted items here

“Unfollowing or unfriending isn’t a value judgement of the person…” from Social Media Self Preservation

“Unfollowing or unfriending isn’t a value judgment of the person, but rather about the value of their information.”

Download a Sample or Buy Social Media Self Preservation today!

Download the audio book version

Cover and Interior of “The Promise” designed by Douglas

The Promise - Cover and interior

The Promise Web Site

Print Edition | Kindle Edition

I have a few Kindle books of my own, so I was familiar with the process, but when my wife and her writing partner came to me to produce their children’s book, The Promise, as a print-on-demand title, it took a bit more effort. I had already shot and designed the cover for the Kindle book, so that was easily re-used — although it did take some redesign to fit the format of the Creatspace service (now owned by Amazon).

Createspace has some decent templates for laying out the text of their books, so it only took a few iterations  of edit and test before we found something that worked.

Now that I have produced this book, I am contemplated releasing print versions of my own career-realted ebooks in a similar format. I figure I might as well put my new-found knowledge to work.

If you aren’t researching print-on-demand for your project, I highly recommend it. The days of being stuck with a garage full of books (costing hundreds of dollars) is over. Print books as you sell them and use the power of Createspace and Amazon to produce and deliver them directly to your readers.

That said, we recently purchased 2 boxes of books for school presentations Rosanne and Dawn are doing this month, so it easy (and relatively cheap) to order books for your own, face-to-face sales.

Print Edition | Kindle Edition

Subscribed 46: Scott Berkun – author and speaker on creativity, leadership, philosophy

Subscribed 46: Scott Berkun

If fine myself reading and sharing a lot of content from Scott Berkun, so it only makes sense to highlight him here are part the Subscribed series. Scott’s recent article, How to overcome cynicism, was a great example. It can be easy to fall victim to to cynicism in life and business and I salute him for taking on such a chronic issue.

How do you overcome cynicism in an environment determined to maintain it?

You overcome a toxic environment by walking out the door. Unless you happen to be a powerful person in the organization, it is not your fault that the environment is cynical, broken, dysfunctional, toxic, demented, twisted or incompetent. Managers and executives are paid a great deal more than the average employee and the main thing that comes with that pay grade is accountability. If the place depresses you, look upwards: the people in power make it this way. It’s uncommon for people in power to be motivated to make big changes since they like being in power.

Read the entire article

Scott berkun

From Scott Berkun’s web site…

I’m an author and speaker. My work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Guardian, Wired magazine, National Public Radio, The Huffington Post and other media. I taught at the University of Washington, blog for Harvard Business and BusinessWeek, and have appeared as an expert on various subjects on CNN, CNBC and MSNBC.

My latest book, The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com & The Future of Work released in Sept 2013 and was named an Amazon.com best book of the year.

Read Scott’s entire biography

 Get The Year Without Pants from Amazon.com

Other books by Scott Berkun

What are some of your favorite Subscriptions? Share them here in the comments!

Previously highlighted on Subscribed:

Subscribed is a Careers in New Media series  highlighting the Podcasts, YouTube Channels and Blogs that I follow on a daily basis. Check out this entry, and past entries, for some great New Media Content — Douglas

Gift Guide 2013: Moleskeine Journals

Moleskeine Journals of all sorts

No matter how much technology i have at hand, I always find myself falling back on my paper journal as a data gathering, thought-provoking and capturing, friend. Yes, I carry and iPhone, but there is something about writing things out longhand in a paper journal that makes you think more deeply and locks in the information more completely. Moleskeine journals are the sine quo non of paper journals. Their quality is high and they have been carried by artists and business people for generations. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, lines and more, including day-to-day calendars, travel journals and city guide. 

My favorite is this large, lined journal. Right now I have a Lego Moleskeine waiting to be put into service as soon as I fill my current journals. I can’t wait!

 


More 2013 Gift Guide Items:

Video: Interviews with authors of “Cut to the Chase” and “Inside the Room” from UCLA Extension Writers’ Program

Below are YouTube playlists for a series of videos we produced for the UCLA Extension Writers Program to accompany their new books on television and screenwriting, Cut to the Chase and Inside the Room.

There will be 18 videos from various chapter authors released over the next several weeks.

Interviews with Authors of Inside the Room

Interviews with Authors of Cut to the Chase

Buy the books!

  

Video: “Demystifying the Business of Feature Film Writing” with Laurence Rosenthal from “Cut to the Chase”

The sixth in a series of videos we produced for the UCLA Extension Writers Program to accompany their new books on television and screenwriting, Cut to the Chase and Inside the Room.

There will be 12 more videos from various chapter authors released over the next several weeks.

Uclawp rosenthal

Laurence Rosenthal, Producer; Development Executive; UCLA Extension Writers’ Program instructor; and author of Chapter 14 in Cut to the Chase: Writing Feature Films with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, talks about how to get an agent, how managers differ from agents, and why branding in important in a writer’s career.

Buy the books!

 

Video: “Pictures in Motion: Scenes and the Movement They Create” with Chrysanthy Balis From “Cut to the Chase”

The fifth in a series of videos we produced for the UCLA Extension Writers Program to accompany their new books on television and screenwriting, Cut to the Chase and Inside the Room.

There will be 13 more videos from various chapter authors released over the next several weeks.

Uclawp baylis

Chrysanthy Balis, screenwriter, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program instructor, and author of Chapter 9 in Cut to the Chase: Writing Feature Films with the Pros at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, talks about “principle of movement,” where to start and end a scene, and how to deal with cutting a scene you really like.

 

Buy the books!

 

Video “Polish Workshop: Making Your Best Even Better” with Michael Weiss from “Cut to the Chase”

The fourth in a series of videos we produced for the UCLA Extension Writers Program to accompany their new books on television and screenwriting, Cut to the Chase and Inside the Room.

There will be 14 more videos from various chapter authors released over the next several weeks.

Ucla weiss

 

Video: “Jump-starting the Screenplay” with Jon Bernstein from “Cut to the Chase”

The third in a series of videos we produced for the UCLA Extension Writers Program to accompany their new books on television and screenwriting, Cut to the Chase and Inside the Room.

There will be 16 more videos from various chapter authors released over the next several weeks.

Ucla bernstein

 

Dog Days of Podcasting – Day 16a – Video: On Books: Doctor Who and Race with Dr. Rosanne Welch

Part of the Dog Days of Podcasting Challenge

I interview my wife, Dr. Rosanne Welch on her recently published essay, “When White Boys Write Black: Race and Class in the Davies and Moffat Eras” in the collection, Doctor Who and Race published by Intellect.

 

Read Rosanne’s interview with Doctor Who Producer and Writer, Russell T Davies for Written By Magazine.

Dog Days of Podcasting – Day 16 – Audio: On Books: Doctor Who and Race with Dr. Rosanne Welch

Part of the Dog Days of Podcasting Challenge

I interview my wife, Dr. Rosanne Welch on her recently published essay, “When White Boys Write Black: Race and Class in the Davies and Moffat Eras” in the collection, Doctor Who and Race published by Intellect.

Listen to this interview

Read Rosanne’s interview with Doctor Who Producer and Writer, Russell T Davies for Written By Magazine.

Video: “Building Characters” with Cindy Davis from new book, “Cut to the Chase”

The second in a series of videos we produced for the UCLA Extension Writers Program to accompany their new books on television and screenwriting, Cut to the Chase and Inside the Room.

There will be 16 more videos from various chapter authors released over the next several weeks.

 

 

Video: “Writing the On-Air One-Hour Drama Spec: The Script” with Charlie Craig

The first in a series of videos we produced for the UCLA Extension Writers Program to accompany their new books on television and screenwriting, Cut to the Chase and Inside the Room.

There will be 17 more videos from various chapter authors released over the next several weeks.

 

Dog Days of Podcasting – Day 10a – Video: Lifehack 1 – Finding cool new books to read via your library’s sorting shelves

Lifehack 01

 

Want a great way to find cool books to read? Visit your local library. That’s right, your library. Then locate the “Sorting Shelves.” Ask the librarian, if you can’t find themselves. Sorting shelves contain books which have recently been returned by other patrons and are being sorted by subject, so they can be reshelved in their proper locations.

You are almost sure to find something interesting here via pure serendipity. It only makes sense that those books which have circulated recently might be of interest to you, too. These shelves will be a great mixture of every genre, from cookbooks to philosophy, as well a collection of both new books and old.

Next time you are looking for something interesting to read, check out the sorting shelves at your local library. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

Music: “Mining by Moonlight”, Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com, Creative Commons License