Finishing my “practical” Master’s in Computer Information Systems sort of knocked me offline for the month of May. I was staring at a computer for most of it, but I’m afraid my writing and blogging got mightily ignored. Whenever this happens, whether from a dry creative period or life just keeping me away, I find I’ve lost focus. It’s not very different from working out: you ignore your muscles and they atrophy. Going back to the gym means finding your place and building them back up again. Completing the degree meant that my brain was very, very tired. It was quite strange, but I realized that I had little ability for meaningful output directly after. Instead I switched to input and started tackling the stack of books piled up beside my desk.
I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir piece Eat, Pray, Love, stepping far outside my genre. It was a great read and I got a lot out of tagging along for her global adventure of rediscovering her self. I don’t think I was one hundred pages in before I’d made a mental list of six people, not all of them women, to recommend it to. Gilbert’s journey to explore pleasure and devotion gets kicked off with a brutal divorce, something too many of the people on my list can relate to. I have to admit a lot of the appeal to me was getting into her head, feeling how she experienced her journey. By the end I felt like I’d connected with her as a voice, made another friend “through the pages” as an old saying goes. The book is intensely personal.
In many ways, Gilbert’s journey is mythic and that connects it well to fantasy. After all, our characters in fantasy are usually on a journey. Their experiences and encounters change them, evolve them, and shake them up. The whole concept of the mythic journey is just that: a call to leave an ordinary life. Gilbert is lucky enough to have experienced this in reality, but she touches on why I read fantasy and why I fell enough in love with it to write it: by escaping for a bit, we get the chance to change our perspective. Maybe we learn something, maybe not, but just the experience affects us. Gilbert set out with a mission and a plan, the benefits of which unknowing characters rarely have. Escape can be avoidance, but it does not have to be. Escape, when you’re trapped, is exactly what you need. By traveling with characters on their journeys, we ride along, and hopefully empathize with their plight. When they experience something, maybe we experience too. I’d highly recommend Eat, Pray, Love for anyone in your life who needs a change.