Creative Inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert

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Elizabeth Gilbert

I recently read the blockbuster memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know, I know, I’m kind of a decade late (and I never even saw the movie starring Julia Roberts). For those who were living under a rock like me, Eat, Pray, Love follows Gilbert’s journey through the three “I”s – Italy, India, and Indonesia – after finalizing her divorce and experiencing a failed rebound relationship, all of which left her emotionally fragile and in need of balance and spirituality. And a LOT of pizza, pasta, and gelato.  

In Bali, Gilbert met and fell in love with “Felipe” (Jose Nunes). They eventually married, and the success of Eat, Pray, Love propelled the always-authentic Elizabeth Gilbert into the public eye and she has continued to share her unique wisdom ever since. She’s won Oprah’s heart for sure, appearing multiple times on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday series. 

In July, Gilbert announced her and Jose were parting ways amicably. And just last week, Gilbert proudly and courageously declared on her personal Facebook page that she is in love with her best friend, Rayya Elias, who was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer in the Spring. “In the moment I first learned of Rayya’s diagnosis, a trap door opened at the bottom of my heart (a trap door I didn’t even know was there) and my entire existence fell straight through that door. From that moment forward, everything became about HER.” 

There’s no denying it – Liz Gilbert certainly follows her heart (and wears it proudly on every article of clothing!) And it’s especially heartwarming to read the comments from fans overflowing with love, support, and kindness. One fan writes: “Liz, I’ve loved you, your wisdom and writing from the first moment I read your words. This message doesn’t change anything except make me respect and love you more.”

Speaking of wisdom, Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic, showcases her colourful and refreshing personality as she shares insights into living creatively, packaged neatly under the headings: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. Sure, some of her notions are a bit out there (she insists Ideas inhabit our planet and float around searching for humans to execute them – and as per the title, I suspect she would be a Houdini fan); but she believes what she believes, she’s unapologetic, and a bit of a potty mouth. Which is why I like her.

 She personally experienced Magic when a very specific idea for a novel she started but paused for two years, wondrously transferred from her to another writer she had never met before or shared the story with. Freaky, yes. Impossible, I guess not.   

When Elizabeth Gilbert refers to creative living she’s “talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” Well, who wouldn’t want that? So, for my fellow writers and all the artists, jewelry designers, musicians, dancers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and other creative souls I share this earth with…I’m sharing six of Gilbert’s insights I hope you enjoy as much as I do.  

And if you don’t, well, just read to the end and you’ll know how Liz feels about that. 

1. Hidden treasures are inside all of us  

“You have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around us. And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.” 

I have a few hidden – or not so hidden – treasures. Writing, photography, making iMovie videos (if that one counts). Interestingly though, my writing has been dormant for years and only came out of hibernation in the last 10 months after blogging during a women’s trip to Israel. Today, I can’t imagine not having writing a part of my life. And in her sixties, my mom (who taught me long ago that Mark Twain was as good as he was because he sweated out every word!) recently launched her own blog, The Blogging Bubby. The praise she has received is proof enough that her writing talents should definitely not stay in hiding one more day.  

2. We’ll never be perfect, so let’s stop trying 

“Now, I cannot imagine where women ever got the idea that they must be perfect in order to be loved or successful. (Ha ha ha! Just kidding! I can totally imagine: We got it from every single message society has ever sent us! Thanks, all of human history!) But we women must break this habit in ourselves – and we are the only ones who can break it…No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.)” 

See what I mean by entertaining? 

3. Just get it done! 

“…mere completion is a rather honourable achievement in its own right. What’s more, it’s a rare one. Because the truth of the matter is, most people don’t finish things! Look around you, the evidence is everywhere: People don’t finish. They begin ambitious projects with the best of intentions, but then they get stuck in a mire of insecurity and doubt and hairsplitting…and they stop. So if you can just complete something – merely complete it! – you’re already miles ahead of the pack, right there. You may want your work to be perfect, in other words; I just want mine to be finished.” 

I especially love this one! And I’m proud that I took the leap to start this blog, and continue to put myself out there, vulnerable and all, through my personal pieces. Of course, in some ways, I’m sure we’re all those non-finishers Elizabeth Gilbert is referring to, with projects that didn’t quite make it to the finish line. But, hey, you can’t win ’em all. And as long as we keep going (see #6), it’s all good.  

4. Yes, every idea has been done before 

“Aspiring writers will often tell me, I have an idea, but I’m afraid it’s already been done. Well, yes, it probably has already been done. Most things have already been done- they have not yet been done by you.  By the time Shakespeare was finished with his run on life, he’d pretty much covered every story line there is, but that hasn’t stopped nearly five centuries of writers from exploring the same story lines all over again. (And remember, many of those stories were already clichés long before Shakespeare got his hands on them.)” 

Case in point, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of blogs and articles covering Elizabeth Gilbert’s books and writing. Hell, Hollywood got its hands on her years ago. But that didn’t stop me from writing this piece. 

5. Embrace curiosity, don’t stress about passion

“Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living…Curiosity is accessible to everyone. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times…The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion. Passion makes you shave your head and move to Nepal. Curiosity doesn’t ask nearly so much of you.”

Not shaving my head. Not moving to Nepal. I’ll stick with curiosity, thanks. 

6. Just keep on creating…and smile sweetly 

 “If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people…drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” 

Enough said. 

So call it magic, call it passion, call it curiosity, or call it freaky… the point is, creativity is within all of us. And if you dare to believe it, ideas are all around, waiting for us to grab hold of them and give them life.

Now, let’s go make something. 

PS. Wishing Liz and Rayya only happiness!

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About Author

Jori Lichtman completed an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies at Concordia University and an MBA at U of T's Rotman School of Management. Jori works full time and has 3 children, ages 9, 7, and 4. While she has never taken the blessings in her life for granted, her recent feelings of disconnectedness amidst life's hustle and bustle encouraged Jori to reflect on her life and her character, and she is taking steps every day to live a more meaningful and connected life. You can contact Jori at jorilichtman@rogers.com or visit her blog.

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