Here’s the thing. When Carolyn excitedly told me Elizabeth Gilbert was coming to Brisbane and she had tickets, I was all like “y a aa aayy y y” in a small voice that petered off to awkward silence.
And then a minute later when I couldn’t hold it in any more I said, “Sorry, um who’s Elizabeth Gilbert?” to which Carolyn patiently replied (like she was talking to an adult with a toddler brain, because well, I can be a bit dense sometimes) that she was the author of a bunch of great books and that she’s really smart and funny. And she wrote Eat, Pray, Love.
And I’m thinking, oh gawd – Eat, Pray, Love – that’s a pretty shit book. Not that I’ve even read it, or watched the movie, but I HEARD it was shit.
Anyway, we totter along to see Elizabeth Gilbert at the Conservatorium in Brisbane and you know what, she is far from shit. A million miles from shit. In fact there is not even a tiny whiff of anything stenchy about her, apart from maybe the smell of sweet glittery unicorn fart that glows pink when it’s emitted. She is crazy clever, creative, down-to-earth and kooky, and she loves to fling a few big juicy eff-boms around too, which always endears someone to me.
I was genuinely surprised at how interesting she was. She said a bunch of stuff that was a little off piste, slightly skewed and I really liked that. And she made me think. Which is always great, don’t you think?
Here’s the top ten things that Elizabeth Gilbert said that I found really cool:
Your life belongs to you
This was particularly in reference to the feedback she received after she wrote “Eat, Pray, Love.” She said women would approach her and say that the book had changed their life and that they suddenly realised my life doesn’t have to look like this anymore.
One of your jobs in life is to not turn blessings into curses
Liz (that’s what I call her now that we’re all chummy) was asked about the challenges she faced when her life was in some ways turned upside down with the enormous success of “Eat,Pray, Love.” Her take on it was that it was really awesome and although maybe some things were different she was only going to celebrate how great it was, rather than make something of the bad bits.
A puzzle is a problem with the drama volume turned down
A very different perspective on dealing with challenges or problems in life. Consider the problem nothing more than a puzzle to be solved. Let’s face it, it’s hard to make sudoku a dramatic activity that you’re going to get all whipped up over.
Create like no-one is watching
The downside to being recognised for creating something is that everyone is watching what you are doing and there is lots of attention being placed on whatever comes next. Liz’s perspective on this was interesting as she said that she was actually hugely relieved when her next book Committed came out after Eat, Pray, Love because it was finally out there and the build up was gone and people could just move on (rather than being nervous about what people would think and would they compare).
You know that friend of yours who is brutally honest? She’s just a bitch. She’s waiting for a moment to harm you.
This was regarding criticism. Her take I thought was quite unique. She said that you can choose who you take criticism from. Make sure that the criticiser has you best interests at heart and that you can actually do something about the criticism (ie no point criticising the book once it has come out as there is nothing that can be done). Her point was that you don’t have to listen and be hurt by it.
There won’t be a weird dystopian future where everyone has new tits. I don’t give a shit what you do with your face…
Liz mentioned as an aside, she hates hearing women talk about how they are so ‘sad’ when they see women who have ‘wrecked’ their faces with plastic surgery or have fake boobs. Her thought on this is that it’s just covering up being bitchy with fake sympathy. She said that she finds it hypocritical, especially when we are fighting for the rights of women to do whatever they want with their bodies (ie in the case of abortion) and yet we are judgy about what women do with their faces. Something to think about.
You owe your fear. You are alive because of your fear
There was a whole section of the discussion where Elizabeth talks about the ‘conjoined twins’ of fear and creativity. They are always working at odds and against each other. But she believes you don’t need to fight your fear but make friends with it. She says she has no interest in becoming a fearless person because they are basically sociopathic. She says she wants to be brave – to feel fear and still do it anyway!
What are you willing to give up to live the life you claim you want to live. Are you serious about this or are you pretending you want it.
Liz spoke a lot about the difference between a hobby, a job, a career and a vocation. I love her thoughts on all this stuff. Essentially her perspective is that only thing you really need is a job and you don’t have to even like it. She says if you really want to do something in life, ie write, make time for it everyday. Just DO IT. She said one hour a day over four years to write a book is better than trying to take a few months off and do it all at once. She said doing something consistently is the most important thing.
Stop saying yes, when you want to say no
This one is pretty self-explanatory but it hit a chord with me as I do have trouble saying no!
Do something. It’s better than the dream of doing something
She tells a story from her friend who’s favourite time in the creative process being the beginning where the idea is in its early stages. She calls the idea the tourmaline butterfly, it is beautiful and flutters around bringing colour and sparkle. But Elizabeth continued on to say that what then happens is that as you develop or create your idea further, you essentially grab the butterfly, put on the working bench and smash it with a mallet. You then go on to create your butterfly with stuff you have and what you end up with is a fucked-up, lopsided, crazed looking butterfly. But it is so real and so cool. And it’s yours. And no-one ever made one like that before. How great is that!
Great article G! Makes me wish I’d seen her talk as there were quite a few things you wrote that hit home – ‘to feel fear and do it anyway’ (hello Parkrun!) and ‘choose who you take criticism from’ (so totally true, so many times I’ve taken criticism badly from people I don’t give 2 sh*ts about and don’t respect, why on earth should I care what they think!!).