This is a new series where I write about the people that inspire me to be more creative every day: the people who live and breathe creativity and are using their passion to make the world a better place. I’ve also written about Nick Bantock, Jim Hensen, Lisa Congdon, and Amanda Palmer.
Who is Elizabeth Gilbert?
When I mention her name in conversation, sometimes people don’t know who I’m talking about – until I mention that she wrote Eat Pray Love. Though that’s her most well known book, she’s also written two novels (her newest, The Signature of All Things is brilliant), a biography, another memoir, a collection of short stories, and countless articles and essays. Her books have been best-sellers, she has won numerous awards, and Eat Pray Love was turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts. Her first Ted Talk on creativity has 9 million views, and she has a new book coming out in September (I can’t wait!) called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
What’s so great about her?
First of all, her writing is elegant and playful and I find it hard not to identify with her strong, humble, deeply human characters, whether real or imagined. In an interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday, she describes her book Eat Pray Love as “kind of a permission slip from the principal’s office that said you are allowed to ask yourself some really important questions about your life.” She inspired thousands of women (myself included) to live their lives for themselves, rather than for other people. Years later she is still setting the example, living with honesty and authenticity and a “stubborn gladness” – and sharing with her fans how she does it.
How has she inspired me?
Reading her words and watching her speak inspires me to be a better writer and a better human. She has a certain magic in the way she talks about even ordinary things. She makes this living business seem like a glorious quest that we can choose to embark on, with every day feeling like an adventure. One of my favourite things that she’s said is that writing (and creativity) doesn’t have to be a fight. It doesn’t have to be painful – it can be a collaboration and entirely based in love.
What does she do that’s different than others?
Go to her Facebook page. Go there right now and read the hundreds of posts that she has written about how to live with bravery and grace. She does this all herself, without the help of a publicist or marketing coordinator. At least once a day, though often more, she connects with her fans on a genuine, heartfelt level. She posts quotes, stories, rants, essays, discussion topics, anything that she thinks will brighten someone’s day. Need your day brightened? Head over there. I would also recommend watching her interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday. She has a lot of wisdom to share.
“I live a creative life, and you can’t be creative without being vulnerable. I believe that Creativity and Fear are basically conjoined twins; they share all the same major organs, and cannot be separated, one from the other, without killing them both. And you don’t want to murder Creativity just to destroy Fear! You must accept that Creativity cannot walk even one step forward except by marching side-by-side with its attached sibling of Fear.
So here’s my magical thinking — I decide every day that I love Creativity enough to accept that Fear will always come with it. And I talk to Fear all the time, speaking to it with love and respect, saying to it: “I know that you are Fear, and that your job is to be afraid. And you do your job really well! I will never ask you to leave me alone or to be silent, because you have a right to speak your own voice, and I know that you will never leave me alone or be silent, anyhow. But I need you to understand that I will always choose Creativity over you.”
“One trick is to just drown out the fear with love —with my pure love of the creative work itself. I absolutely love my work as a writer, and I feel honored that I get to live a life of the mind, and writing books is the only thing I ever wanted to do. That’s all really lucky for me: That’s a lot of love! If I focus on the love and the gratitude that I feel toward the work itself, then I get slightly less freaky and worried about the results.”
“Commit to the idea of collaborating with the book, not going to war against it.”
“Nothing real is at stake here. So just go make a pretty thing. Or make a clunky thing, or a tiny thing, or a big thing, or an ugly thing, or an experimental and wild thing. Doesn’t matter. Enjoy the making. Let it go. It’s merely art. This line of thinking brings me great peace. Gets me out of my own way.”
More great interviews/articles: