What Elizabeth Gilbert Said

Sometimes you read a book that informs not the technicalities of your writing, but the very reason to write. It kindles in you a fire to try and follow the path prescribed in it, not in a biblical enlightening way, but more as a reminder of what you already knew deep inside. Truth is, it tells you what you have never articulated to yourself, in those thoughtful silences or stolen moments of reflection, in a language that only your mind hacks through. If so, capturing those truths in words is a task indeed. I’m glad this was one of those books.

Having never read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love I was not familiar with her writing style. Not a huge fan of stories that are about coming to India for spiritual self-actualization, honestly. But I had watched a TED video of her talking about imagination, muses  and creativity. It was impressive. And so, I started reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Gilbert, expecting something on similar lines. The first few pages were in fact right out of that TED video. But as I read on and on, I realized that Gilbert was redefining the truths and busting myths around creativity. Here are my major takeaways.

  • It takes courage to create anything. To create, not even to put it out there, but just to live in a creative way. When courage dies, creativity dies. Fear is not original, its boring and mundane.
  • Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest, and it could be by anybody available, in the right mindset. You don’t choose the idea, the idea chooses you. This is inspiration. And there’s enough to go around for everyone.
  • Whatever is bad for you, is bad for your work. Being a tormented artist and seeking out harrowing or self-destructive experiences in order to write about them is silly. Maybe the experiences make you a stronger person, a wiser person, but believing your writing is any worse, because you have not had a tough life, is an immature thought. Love over suffering, always.
  • Don’t wait for anybody’s permission or admiration to be creative. Decorate yourself. Embrace the entitlement of being creative. There’s a reason why man created art, even before he learned to farm.
  • You are not required to save the world or make a difference with your works. Nothing is frivolous. Every idea deserves to be manifest. Nothing is original, but you can make something authentic. Maybe an idea has been made manifest before, but it has not been made manifest by you.
  • Your attempt to create should be divorced from your need for validation.
  • Don’t quit your job to write. Do not burden the results of your creativity with your financial debts. Do not tell it to pay the bills. It is okay to have a day job. Creativity was never meant to provide, it was only ever meant to inspire. To create is a wild and unexpected bonus from the universe.
  • Rejections will come. Keep them coming. You promised yourself you will be a writer and rejection letters don’t make you any less of a writer. Put it out for the sake of the idea. For the sake of your muse. Nobody has to like, love or even read what you write. Its a tryst between you and the content. And its nobody else’s business. Do it just because. Do it because its fun.
  • Enjoy the phases of your creativity. Even the hard times. The act is worth it.
  • It matters/it doesn’t matter. Build space in your head for this paradox.
  • Trickster Trust: it’s a freaky wonderful game. Take it lightly. Redefine what success means to you. Divorce the business from the real deal. Your truth is probably the other person’s truth too. Your written words are probably what have been stuck in their throats. Accidental grace occurs when you’re playful and don’t keep store of the results. Go with the flow.
  • It ain’t your baby. If it has to be edited, it has to be edited.
  • Devote yourself to inquisitiveness. Curiosity is the death of writer’s block. The moment you say “that’s interesting!” is the moment a story idea shows up.
  • Your sense of dissatisfaction is your ego being a howling ghost. Remember that, every time you think being a perfectionist is a good thing. Done is better than good. Laziness and perfectionism are the worst habits for creative vocations.

All these are things that I had heard from people or read somewhere or realized at some point. How could she neatly capture all of this in one single book? I guess I shall come back to this every now and then… Almost makes me want to read Eat,Pray,Love.  Almost.

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