Post Road Magazine #28

Miranda July's It Chooses You

Shelly Oria

Some books are not so much books as they are tiny angels sent to help humans figure something out-something we seem to keep fucking up. For instance: the creative process. I know for a fact that the creative process is something many humans keep fucking up because I am a human who keeps fucking up her creative process, and also because I am a human who helps other humans with this problem. I do this for a living: I work as a creativity and life coach. I also do this for friends, of course, and sometimes for strangers at parties, because when you mention the words creativity unblocking to anyone, what usually happens next is that the person in front of you turns into a blinking question mark. What does that mean, he or she asks, how does it work?

The conversation that follows is long. Sometimes it goes on for years. For a while, back in 2011, Miranda July's "It Chooses You" saved me a lot of time. I would carry a copy of the book with me and take it out of my bag in relevant moments. Instead of the usual creativity talk, I would just say, "Read this book; it will solve all your problems." Then I would take it back from them because it was my book and they could get their own.

You may be wondering if when I said, "it will solve all your problems," I was speaking hyperbolically. The answer is yes, I was. As a writer, I appreciate the drama of hyperboles. Isn't it funny how we always want something, someone, to solve all our problems? And isn't it funny how nothing and no one ever does? And how even though we know this, we keep forgetting? So I always figure: if I can make someone feel for a fleeting moment that she's arrived, that I am that someone offering that something that can fix it all-why not do that? It's a kind gesture, dishonest and quick though it is. If you meet me at a party, I hope you'll do the same for me.

But while it may not solve all of your problems, "It Chooses You" is a pretty powerful creativity pill. It is a book that describes a creative journey-namely, Miranda July's struggle with her film The Future-and shows how that journey is, or can become, its own work of art. In the beginning of the book, July is hitting wall upon wall in her attempt to finish that screenplay. In her procrastination, she becomes obsessed with the PennySaver, or, to be exact, with the lives of the people behind the ads. She calls them, and if they agree, she shows up at their houses with her assistant and photographer and interviews them. If you've ever read or watched Miranda July's work you understand that she does this with heart and humanity and humor. The outcome is beautiful in the way that only the most tender efforts can be.

For me, "It Chooses You" is a book-long reminder. It reminds me that everyone, including a brilliant artist whose work inspires me, has days when they feel lower than dust, and months when a project is wholly out of reach. It reminds me that I can always turn to my work and ask it: "Who are you? What are you trying to be?" And it reminds me that if I do, I will be opening a new window; this miniscreen within my screen can become its own work of art, if I am brave enough to let it. And maybe most of all, "It Chooses You" reminds me to be curious. It reminds me that being curious is being alive, and that every "creative block" is in essence a crisis of empathy, a failure to ask questions or care about the answers.

I stopped carrying the book with me at some point. It's not a small book, not a light one. My bag is often filled with heavy items of various kinds-a laptop, a big water bottle, a journal. After a while, conversation seemed easier than the extra weight.

A few minutes ago, my friend Caitlin texted me some thoughts about love. Caitlin now lives and loves in Portland, Oregon, after many years here in Brooklyn. I am writing this piece, I told her. It's about that Miranda July book "It Chooses You" and about creativity and curiosity and aliveness; what word should I end on? Wonder, my friend Caitlin, who's one of the best writers I know, said. End on wonder.

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