I am a Bitter Southerner

Here’s the thing: I’m still trying to fall in love with the South.

A short time ago, I was dead set on joining the mass exodus of young people who are fleeing the South. My whole life, I operated under the assumption that the South was just a stop along the way. Most people who have grown up here and gotten their degrees take ‘em and run.

And honestly? I don’t blame them for leaving. The South is hard to love. It’s still harder to defend. There’s a tightrope strung between loving the South and acknowledging its many failures, both past and present. That double-edged sword of shame and pride is one that we’re keenly familiar with—you know the one. Teeter to one side, you must have a confederate battle flag or two lying around. Teeter to the other, you’re a de facto Yankee. Go on, git. You probably put sugar on your grits anyway.

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The Space Between

Plantations—the structures—are beautiful. What happened within their walls and on their grounds was an unspeakable evil.

Isn’t this what southerners struggle with on a daily basis? This push-and-pull effect between loving your region, your state, your town… but still knowing that the land you stand on bore witness to the worst atrocities that the human race had to offer. The space between beauty and the profane is where the southern mind rests, and it can respond in two ways. Or so we think.

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Big Magic: The Skeptic’s Review

Here’s the thing. I’m a skeptic by nature.

Self-help books are something I used to scoff at. Now, I just kind of roll my eyes a little... as I read them. I was expecting a lot of woo-woo from this book; I mean, it’s in the title... Big Magic. But it was highly recommended by one of my favorite podcasts, so I decided to give it a go. And I’m so glad I did.

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Gilbert writes from a writer’s perspective about, well, writing. How mind-numbingly difficult it can be. And how she’s managed to come to terms with its difficulties. Her main premise is that an idea, or inspiration (or even a muse, if you will,) is a living, breathing entity that only visits if you invite it in. It demands attention from you, and, what’s more... it loves you.

I’ll admit, she almost lost me there. But then she went on to talk about how so many artists actually feel the opposite—that their art hates them—and it gave me pause. Was that not true of my own experience?

Books and blog posts are written with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Paintings are born from the darkest depression. Music flows like lifeblood out of a musician’s soul, leaving them weak and diminished.

Isn’t that line of thinking just as preposterous as the idea that your inspiration loves you? Why is the concept of personifying your inspiration so silly? But, if your art could hate you... shouldn’t it also be able to love you?

Wouldn’t you want it to love you?

What would loving it back look like?

I decided to find out, skepticism be damned. After finishing this book, I took up one of her recommended habits—for a short time. (Mediation.) I also branched out and listened to more podcasts, read even more books, followed my curiosity. Instead of posting to my blog once in a blue moon, I did my best to devote enough time to my writing so that I could post at least two times a week.

As for my photography, I went through my old images and looked at the raw files with new eyes. Instead of slapping a Instagram-perfect filter on them, I took my time in chiseling out the best parts of my images.

And then, out of the blue, it hit me. Out of absolutely nowhere came careening this idea for a book. An actual, viable book.

I’d been moderately inspired before by other book ideas—but lately, even while writing them, I felt that they rang strangely hollow. Writing became a chore. I was dreading having to return to the task every morning.

This is the first time in a long time that I have felt an idea settle so comfortably under my heart. I mean, I am enamored. Stealing moments to tend to my scribbles (which live on notecards and napkins and unsuspecting scraps of paper,) talking about it to anyone who will stay still long enough, staying up late to engage with this intriguing idea that has taken root and begun to grow.

When I look at the other ideas I was fostering, I can see that underneath them all was this common thread. Now, when I see my other projects, I think: Ah. It makes sense now. They were all leading towards this.

And, for the record, I barely tried to follow Gilbert’s advice. I’ve never been good at meditating. I put forth very little effort. It’s almost like this idea has been waiting for me to finally see it, bouncing on its toes, ready to jump at the barest amount of attention. And so it did.

So whether or not this is due to “big magic,” or coincidence, or just a trick of my subconscious—whatever it is, “it” worked.