Even though I couldn't relate to being a freshly-divorced woman gallivanting around the world to find myself, I was still one of the millions of readers who found themselves charmed and inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, of which more than 10 million copies were sold worldwide.
I sympathized with the longing and curiosity that she gave herself permission to explore as she ventured to Italy, India, and Indonesia. I mean, haven't we all longed to truly know ourselves through international adventure?
Gilbert's way of communicating, so authentic and friendly, has a way of gently holding your attention. And so, after swiping the book off of my mother's bookshelf, I read through it with delight.
However, though certainly a memorable introduction to Gilbert's work, this report is not about Eat, Pray, Love but, rather, on her latest release titled, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by which I've found myself charmed once again.
A couple of weeks ago, Gilbert was speaking at a conference being held just down the street from my apartment in Downtown LA. Though I didn't have tickets to the event it seemed too serendipitous that she be speaking so nearby – as I was in the middle of reading her latest book at the time – and so, ticketless and determined, I managed to walk right past security and into the theater where I took my seat just as she took the stage.
(As I re-read that last paragraph, I am aware of how stalker-ish I am making myself out to be. Rest assured, I'm not a crazy fan-boy or anything of the sort. Just an admirer of her writing and the way she engages with life.)
Her talk was delivered with humor and humility, and for the many aspiring writers and creatives in the audience it was a direct encouragement to keep boldly making – not for the sake of recognition or praise, but for the existential benefits that a creative process brings to those who engage in it.
Among her admonitions to the writers in attendance, here are a few that spoke to me:
- Share the thing that you are most ashamed of, and you will find a chorus of people saying, "me too!"
- Write for one person. Make it personal. (The benefit of this, she said, is in how it helps to simplify your choice of vocabulary and tone while writing.)
- Some (most) creative work is entirely for you. There's something in you that needs to be transformed. Some books are written for you and some are to be published. They are not always the same thing.
- With no editor, no critic, pour that shit out. I'd rather have it come out all wrong than stay in all wrong.
After hearing her speak about the contents of the book I was eager to read through it in its entirety. What I found in it were a number of abstract theories about the nature of creativity – one being that Gilbert believes ideas are living, spiritual things that seek someone to bring them into reality. These abstractions, however, were made accessible through inspiring and often hilarious stories from Gilbert's own life.
If you are someone working in a creative field, then you'll find great encouragement from Gilbert's book to keep making, trying, and trusting in the process of creating as a medium for your own growth. If you are someone who does not consider yourself creative in the slightest, then reading Gilbert's book may help you redefine what creativity means to you.
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself."