I had the pleasure of intersecting with Elizabeth Gilbert yesterday afternoon. As I’ve mentioned before, her latest book, Big Magic is a work which resonates on several levels. She’s a dynamic speaker and is incredibly raw and uninhibited when she talks about writing, life and everything-in-between. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to her once before and learned so much wisdom from her previous visit. My second experience offered different lessons on writing and life and here is a sampling of what I learned:
1. PERFECTIONISM IS A SERIAL KILLER
Gilbert emphasized the following point: To enjoy the miracle of creativity you must kill perfection. In regards to our writing, there is a certain vision we imagine in our head versus our expectations of how it might translate on the page. Take a sledgehammer to this vision in your head and just begin with the work without comparing it to what it should be. She admitted her own work has places where plot lines fail, beginnings and endings are rushed and characters aren’t as developed, but she still took the risk to unleash her version of her work to the world. She said, “I made this. And it might be messy, full of nails, duct tape and bandaged together – but you know, there isn’t anything else like this in the world.”
2. UNDERSTAND THE PLACE WHERE YOU ARE IS WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE
Midway through her talk, an audience member asked how to overcome the voices that say she isn’t old enough or good enough to take on a certain project. To this Gilbert offered a candid answer. There is a huge gap between what you can do and what is deemed good – and the only way to reconcile this chasm is to accept where you are now and then PRACTICE the process. It isn’t going to happen overnight and you must be patient and loving with wherever you are.
3. SAFEGUARD YOUR ENERGY
Are you constantly throwing up excuses that blind side your work? Do you complain you don’t have time or energy to do what you want to pursue? Gilbert urges us to safeguard our energy and that means saying no to things we enjoy and don’t enjoy. By committing to your craft, you cut distractions and she emphasized it might mean also stepping back from things you love.
4. THERE IS NO SPECIAL CREDIT FOR FEAR
When we focus on our anxieties, it is the same thoughts running in our head every single time and there is no special credit for these fears. Fear doesn’t have any variety to it. It’s boring and repetitive, but according to Gilbert, you still need to make space for it. Imagine a road trip – where creativity and magic go on the road and of course, fear wants to accompany you on your trip. You welcome fear, but you don’t let it navigate the road, tell you what places to visit and under no circumstances is it allowed to change the radio station. Creativity and magic have firm control of the wheel and YOU direct fear to take the back seat.
5. YOU WILL NEVER GET IN TROUBLE FOR FAILING
In our writing and personal lives, the fear of failing is pervasive. How many times do we stop ourselves for fear of being rejected? Gilbert conversed with her friend, Brene Brown about this very subject and they arrived at this wisdom: “Unused creativity is not benign.” Without your creativity, you are not ok. She urged us to fail in interesting ways.
For those of you reading Big Magic, what has resonated with you the most?