“…put a little fingerprint on the road to say I was here.”
Elizabeth Gilbert became a household name with her book and subsequent movie, Eat Pray Love. She visited the Isabel Bader theatre in Toronto, earlier this week, to promote her newest book, Big Magic to a crowd of mostly women. Five members of my book club made the trek into Toronto to hear her speak and were not disappointed.
Big Magic endorses creativity as a “ideas that are disembodied, energetic lifeforms” that “look for willing, hardworking, living collaborators.” Gilbert shared that many ideas are not noticed since the universe is providing them but we are focused on other things. She described an example of starting to write a book about the Amazon and that when she got distracted by other projects, the universe gave the idea to Ann Patchett who subsequently wrote a novel set in the Amazon called State of Wonder. As indicated in my blog post about Big Magic, I do struggle with this “mystical” approach to creativity but admire Gilbert in sharing her unique views.
Gilbert admitted that when she was a young girl, she took a vow, committing to being a writer. While she admitted to breaking other vows and commitments, she has taken this one very seriously and indicated that “writing was a vocation before it became her career.” She joked that while she loves each of her books, the first few sold very few copies (maybe just to her family) yet the success of Eat Pray Love was overwhelming (it was on the bestseller list for 3.5 years). Although it is hard to top the success of selling more units than this blockbuster, she looks at writing as a process that she “can’t wait to do again” using a different measure for success.
To help readers be successful with new projects, Gilbert notes that it is important to have self forgiveness and to “get your butt in the seat and get things done.” Her mother’s motto was “done is better than good” and she indicated that is is important to know that “if you finish it, you are ahead of everyone.” Gilbert reflected that it is not helpful to think of projects as ‘your baby’ and described how she had to drastically cut a short story that she had written – if she had not trusted the process, she may have let her ego take over and her successful path may not have even been launched.
Gilbert advised that writing can be a boring, tedious project but that sometimes feeling bored just means that you are “on the right path“. She uses strategies that are also used to keep people exercising, setting the timer for just 20 minutes and thinking of her work moment by moment, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude. She strongly told the group not to quit a job to write but to set an alarm earlier and write for 20 minutes a day, taking it seriously by getting up, getting dressed for inspiration, thinking of writing as an affair (exciting and something you eagerly make time for even when you have no time) and putting your energy into something you care about.
“writing is a creative and spiritual process”
She briefly touched on her experience of Eat Pray Love sharing that she had not told the whole story in the final copy. She had told it in the first draft! it was unfortunate that this was not discussed as it would have been interesting to hear more about this topic!
Although I am not sold on the magical idea of the universe providing ideas to “sit on your shoulder” I am glad that I heard this author speak and will slowly reread Eat Pray Love after I finish off a few other books on my bedside table. One disappointment of the evening was that there was no opportunity to have books signed by the author after the event. Although we were provided with initialed copies, I would have appreciated having my copy of Eat Pray Love signed. Overall, it was a fun evening out and I look forward to my next event which is the Grimsby Author Series presenting Carrie Snyder (Girl Runner) and Peter Kavanaugh (The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Times).