By Gail McMeekin
Note: I recently re-read this book while formulating questions for an interview of its author, Gail McMeekin. If anything, her insights offer even greater value now than they did years ago when the book was first published.
This is another of several excellent books in which an author has assembled what she or he has learned from a number of different in-depth interviews. In effect, the reader is given direct access to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of persons who may otherwise be inaccessible. McMeekin interviewed 45 “highly creative women” whose responses reveal 12 “secrets” which, in fact, are affirmations of basic values which most of us have been encouraged to embrace by caring parents and other relatives, teachers, coaches, clergy, etc. My own opinion is that these same values would also be affirmed by highly creative men.
McMeekin organizes her material within a series of three “Gateways” (ie rights of passage): Engaging Your Creativity, Mastering Your Challenges as a Creative Woman, and Actualizing Creative Results: The Power of Positive Priorities. She suggests that certain lessons can be learned from “a myriad of practices called Challenges.” It takes courage (sometimes great courage) to confront such challenges. Hence the importance of the “lessons.” McMeekin suggests that a “fabulous notebook, a gorgeous notebook” be purchased in which to record responses to all of the Challenges included in her book. She further suggests that the 12 Secrets be applied during each week or each month of the year.
Prior to reading a book, it is my standard procedure first to check out its title and subtitle, its Table of Contents, and then its Introduction or Preface. Frankly, I had some apprehensions after doing so with this book. How does McMeekin define “creative”? Written for and about women, will the book have any relevance to me and other males? Also frankly, by now I have become skeptical (if not cynical) about references to “secrets.” Nonetheless, I began to read her “Note to the Reader” and then the 12 chapters which follow. Those interviewed provide a diverse and abundant range of personal experiences which both suggest and corroborate McMeekin’s key points. Now having read the book, I can add affirmation of my own: This is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking books on human fulfillment which I have read in recent years. Who will derive the great benefit from it? My response is: Those (regardless of their gender and circumstance) who are accessible to what the 45 “highly creative women” were willing to share, those who possess the courage to take on the Challenges, and finally, those who are both willing and able to learn from the Secrets and then apply the Lessons.
Centuries ago, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim embarked on a perilous journey. He was sustained by his faith and eventually prevailed. McMeekin seems to be suggesting that, in our own time, an equally perilous journey must be made. There are Gateways through which we must pass, meanwhile overcoming various Challenges. The 45 women whom McMeekin interviewed (most of them unfamiliar to me) were “highly creative” during their own personal and perilous journeys. They are modern-day Pilgrims who prevailed. McMeekin seems totally convinced that each of her readers can do so also if having the same faith and the same courage. I agree. If you share my high regard for this book, I urge you to check out Ellie Wymard’s Conversations with Uncommon Women. Obvious to me, both she and McMeekin are uncommon human beings.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Robert Morris. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.