Lately I haven't had time to write much - and even worse, I've started to forget that I actually want to. You see, this new life of mine (the 9 to 5 office humdrum) has been slowly, quietly, sneakily erasing my old habits. But yesterday morning an envelope tumbled through my letterbox containing the latest issue of Counterpoint Magazine; inside it was something I'd written before Christmas, plus a note from the editors giving me a little reminder as to why I love working with small publishers so much. My piece for the Space issue tells the story of a secret pocket in a vintage coat. It's a playful, slightly inquisitive story about the past lives of the objects we cherish. I hope you'll read it.

This issue of Counterpoint Magazine was published in January 2017. You can buy a copy of your own, and look out for their next issue on Survival. 



Back in December, the latest issue of Severine Literary Journal was published ft. my creative non-fiction, 'He Painted The Stars.' My collage (painstakingly put together with a glue stick and hundreds of tiny triangles) was also chosen for cover art. Both were inspired by an American artist called Joseph Cornell; they reflect on his life in New York and his habit of collecting stars - not just the celestial kind, but special trinkets discovered at flea markets and thrift shops, too.

A selfish part of me wishes I'd never shared his story, for the same reason that I used to hide my favourite toys when friends visited for play dates. (Is that an only-child thing?) In short, it's hard to share what we love most. But the rational part of me understands that he cannot be stolen. So, if you do read it, let me know what you think. And perhaps you might share your secret love in return?

This issue of Severine Literary Journal was published in December 2016. You can read it online here or buy a copy of your own. Submissions are also open until January 31st 2017 for work related to the latest theme - wild

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I recently confessed to a new friend that I'd quit watching Breaking Bad mid-way through the second season. He was horrified, particularly after I explained that I did the same when watching Arrested Development and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. My TV habits are entirely governed by the motto, 'Life is too short.' When it comes to books, though, I make it my mission to finish every one I start; I'm not the type to bail out at the halfway point. Often, I resent this about myself, especially when I'm struggling through pages of quantum physics. So, why do I do it? Because most books can't be fairly judged before you've got to the end. That said, most books aren't as excruciatingly painful to read as Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic.

When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was uncharacteristically excited. I didn't get on so well with Eat, Pray, Love (Gilbert's notorious bestseller) but I thought a non-fiction guide to 'creative living beyond fear' might suit me better. That, and the cover was perhaps the most beautiful I'd ever seen. Almost a year since the book came into my possession, I finally got round to reading it. I'd just finished my MA and started a full-time job; it was the perfect time to take on some creative guidance, encouragement and general inspiration. But, you guessed it, my plan didn't quite work out. In total, I made it through a grand total of seventy-eight pages, for a couple of reasons...

Here's the thing about Elizabeth Gilbert, she likes to write about herself. And that wouldn't normally be a criticism; many of my favourite writers are no different. However, I do take issue with the fact that she pitches Big Magic as a kind of self-help book. Like most of her work, it's nothing more than an indulgent exploration of her own first-world problems. 'Oh, I was so busy touring South America that I never got round to writing my second novel.' Gee, poor you. We know we're being duped within the first chapter when she confesses, 'I did not write this book for you; I wrote it for me.' Why bother addressing the reader then? Just call the book what it is, the diary of a rich kid.

Now, I knew this book was going to be a little hard to stomach. I'd been warned about its 'sage-wafting' tendencies and I was prepared to be open-minded. In fact, I was almost on-board when Gilbert explained that 'The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.' But two pages later, she lost me for good. Recalling the story of a woman who learned to figure-skate at the age of forty, Gilbert writes:
'Susan is still figure skating - simply because skating is the best way for her to unfold a certain beauty and transcendence within her life that she cannot seem to access in any other manner.'
This, she explains, is the philosophy of 'creative living.' And you know what? I call bullshit. I'll bet Susan didn't carry on figure skating because it allowed her to 'unfold a certain beauty and transcendence' in her life - no, she probably did it because it was fun. Y'know, like any normal person. Pretty much every page of this book could be summarised in one sentence and I'm sure Gilbert's airy-fairy drivel could test even the most patient of readers.

I'm very uncomfortable with Gilbert's association between creativity and religion, particularly her suggestion that we are all merely empty vessels waiting to be filled with the universe's genius. Work hard, she preaches, and you will be rewarded; let your day-to-day life get in the way of your creativity and, presumably, you will be punished. This is a damaging philosophy that speaks of Gilbert's privilege and I have absolutely no time for it. (Having read through the various criticisms of Big Magic on Goodreads, I've also been informed that Gilbert makes some pretty dire comments about the apparent 'uselessness' of higher education in the arts. I'm glad I stopped reading before that point.)

You want my advice? Go have fun making whatever it is you want to make and read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird if you're in search of inspiration. Oh, and remind me never to read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert again.