Author and motivational speaker, Elizabeth Gilbert, just toured her latest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. On Thanksgiving Day last November, I excitedly set out for Liberty Hall to catch a glimpse of the magical woman herself.
Gilbert is no stranger to the book game as she famously penned the international bestseller Eat Pray Love, published in 2006. A mixture of memoir and fiction followed the phenomenon but she now presents to us a book about the creative process that frees us of the myth that creativity is exclusive to the manifestly talented.
It is not an exact science. It’s magic; BIG MAGIC.
In person, Liz Gilbert is refreshing, witty and displays an effortless cool. With Big Magic, she delves into her own creative process. She explains how she made a commitment to her writing long ago; a sacred contract that stated she would stick by it no matter what. Part of this contract was that she would not expect her creativity to pay the bills. She would be the caregiver, a nurturing vessel for inspiration.
(As an outstanding bonus, the conditions of this contract have improved through the commercial success of her work in recent years, with Julia Roberts playing Gilbert in the Hollywood adaptation of Eat Pray Love.)
Gilbert discusses how an idea comes to you with an invitation, giving you the opportunity to take it on. If you don’t accept it; or if you place it on the backburner while you catch up on your latest Netflix buzz; it will pack up and move onto the next vessel.
Gilbert denounces the ‘fetished martyrdom’ that society has attached to the definition of a creative person. She is not tortured by her work, but committed to it. She says that ‘it is not your problem if your work isn’t that good, it’s not even your fault.’ This is in relation to the fact that she believes each one of us to be a creative being. One person’s creativity may not look like the next’s, but it is real nonetheless.
She is an advocate of the idea that ‘done is better than good’. In her words, completion is miraculous. (This will ring true to those of us getting used to ruthless deadlines.)
Gilbert sparks a shift in perspective in Big Magic with regards to fear. She refers to it as boring and mundane as it is entirely common to the human experience. We operate with it daily. It comes up in almost all situations; in our most innovative and creative moments, in particular.
Gilbert asks us: what are you willing to give up to have the life you claim you want? She suggests a rule of thumb for clearing away obstacles to creative activity is to look at what you’re doing that is bad for you:
If it’s not great for you, then it’s probably not great for your work, Gilbert tells us.
Are you getting enough sleep? Laying off the booze? Do you really need to watch the entire ten episodes of Making a Murderer in one day, when there’s creative brilliance waiting to unfold from your beautiful mind?
If you would like to get to know more about the enchanting Elizabeth Gilbert, she has created a podcast called Magic Lessons in which she ‘takes the subject out on the road’. She discusses creativity and its roadblocks with her reader-participants as well as enlisting the help of a host of well-known friends; self-help gurus and creatives of all kinds.
Keep an eye out for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, Life Journeys Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Bestselling Memoir that comes out on March 29, 2016.