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This blog was featured on 06/04/2019
Elizabeth Gilbert on Passion, Curiosity and Self-Forgiveness
Written by
She Writes
May 2019
Written by
She Writes
May 2019

Elizabeth Gilbert is internationally recognized as the impassioned voice of a generation after producing bestsellers such as Eat, Pray, Love, Committed, and Big Magic. Now she’s back with her new novel, City of Girls, bringing us a glittering coming-of-age epic stitched across the fabric of a lost New York.

“The book is written from the point of view of a woman in her 90s, looking back upon her wild, misspent youth in New York City during the 1940s,” she says on Facebook to describe her latest novel. She continues, “And this quote is how she describes the way that she and her friends (a bunch of promiscuous and irresponsible showgirls) used to hit the town every night, as they were conquesting their way across Manhattan. They were rockets, they were disasters, they were magnificent, they were vain and idiotic, they were just kids, they were gorgeous and clueless, and they caused nothing but trouble: ‘Instead of walking, we rocketed… we missed nothing, but we also missed everything.’”

On Inspiration

In her forthcoming novel we find out what happens when a sexually adventurous young girl collides with the grit and glamour of the New York City theater world in the 1940s. Here Gilbert shares her motivation and inspiration for this highly-anticipated new title.  

“For many years now, I’ve longed to write a novel about promiscuous girls whose lives are not destroyed by their sexual desires,” she says. “I know many women – myself included – who’ve had seasons of their life that were dedicated to the hunt for excitement. Sometimes that hunt was fun, sometimes it was disastrous. But we all turned out all right. If anything, our riotous exploits, our mistakes and heartbreaks and wounds, made us into wiser and more interesting people… All the pain and anxiety and trauma of the world only made me want to write this novel more. Never has it felt more important for me to tell stories of joy and abandon, passion and recklessness.”

The excerpt above was originally published on the How To Academy. Read the full post here.

On Passion

For the last two decades, Elizabeth Gilbert has spoken regularly – and passionately – about passion, encouraging others to find the thing that lights a fire within.

“Passion to me was everything,” she says. “It was the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, the one true path and the only way forward.”

But more recently in a SuperSoul Sunday session for the Oprah Winfrey Network, she shared about a fan who lead her to an epiphany about two very different types of passion-seekers in the world: the ‘Jackhammers’ like herself who find and follow a distinct life passion, and ‘Hummingbirds’ who follow a very different course – cross-pollinating the world by weaving different ideas and perspectives, driven by their curiosities. She now encourages aspiring writers and beyond to pursue their curiosity and entertain the varied interests that make each person unique, in order to follow a path of enlightenment that is equally as important, if not more impactful than pursuing a single passion.

Watch an excerpt from her SuperSoul Sunday talk.

On Writing Advice

“I believe that if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression, that you should take on this work like a holy calling,” she says.

“I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.”

This excerpt was originally published on Elizabeth Gilbert’s website. Read her full post here.

On Creativity

A few years ago, She Writes Press publisher Brooke Warner interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert leading up to her Writing, Truth and Community event. Brooke asked: What is one small thing that a writer can do if they want to summon creative energy, particularly if they’re stuck?

Gilbert replied:

"If you’re living a life where you allow yourself to engage in a daily manner with your curiosity, then you will start very soon to be living your creative life, and it’s your obligation, I think, to pay attention to your curiosity, and to ask yourself every day what you’re interested in.

That’s the juice right there, and I think the mistakes that people often make about creativity and inspiration is that they’re all waiting for the lightning bolt and for the big dramatic vocation, the calling, you know, the tower of flame in the desert, the passion, and that’s not what a creative life is.

A creative life is more of a scavenger hunt, following a trail of breadcrumbs than it is lightning in a bottle. So the trick in this is to respect your curiosity and to follow it and then to trust it, and to see where it leads. I can guarantee you’re going to live a much more expanded, much more interesting, much more engaged, and much less depressed life."

Read the full She Writes interview here. 

On Process

Self-forgiveness is as critical to a writer's success as discipline, she says as she describes a pattern of disappointments and broken promises in her writing process. 

"As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated," she says. "The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: 'I’m going to write for an hour every day,' and then you won’t do it. You will think: 'I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.' Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing Eat, Pray, Love, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: ‘That’s actually not my problem.’ The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”

This excerpt was originally published on Elizabeth Gilbert’s website. Read her full post here.

Photo Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

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