Reflections on TED Talk with Elizabeth Gilbert

For all you creative geniuses out there, the TED talk with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of  Eat, Pray, Love, posted below is most assuredly for you.  There is this pressure on those of us who are creative to be so every single second of every single day.  And if you’re not, then hell hath no mercy on ye!  Really, though, that’s the feeling. You sit staring at the computer (or the pen tip, maybe doodling a little) and guilt trip yourself into writing because you know someone is going to come home and ask what you have been doing and you don’t want to admit you’ve been day-dreaming for the last half hour trying to find your muse.  No, you feel guilty because you’re the creative one, you should have something to show for it, right?

“When I first started telling people — when I was a teenager — that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this same kind of, sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say, ‘Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success? Aren’t you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren’t you afraid that you’re going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing’s ever going to come of it and you’re going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?” Unlike Gilbert, I did actually let this get to me.  In all honesty, it is good to question being a writer or any type of artist in this day and age without some kind of back-up plan.  I paused my writing because I thought if I couldn’t make it as a professional career writer, what were my chances and what was the point? People kept asking me what would you ever do with something like that? Are you even going to make money? Being a little wiser, I realized I was perfectly in my right to turn around, look them in the eye and say, “So what?” I have been writing stories since I could figure out how to make letters, I think I can honestly say it’s a passion, it’s written in my blood. 

As for the last question, what about the corporate employee that climbs the ladder year after year only to find that she/he similarly ended in “a scrap heap of broken dreams”? The point is, I don’t expect anything to come of my writing.  I don’t expect to put on some idol’s mantle.  I don’t expect to make millions and earn fame.  I want to write because I want to share stories with people, I want to share ideas, I want to encourage creativity and thought.  If I accomplish this, even on a small scale, then I can earnestly say I have accomplished my dreams.  If I walk away, if I let others’ doubts engulf me, then yes I will be “filled with [the] bitter ash of failure”.

In the last half of her talk, I cannot say I agree entirely with what Gilbert says about the divinity of creativity.  Even for an atheist, nonetheless, I find what she says is of great import to all “creators” (my atheist friends, I know you will get why I put that in quotations). “A process which, as anybody who has ever tried to make something — which is to say basically everyone here — knows does not always behave rationally,” Gilbert said after a brief historical recount of the creative process.  Brilliant! While I don’t believe anyone should apply this logic, or lack thereof, to real life issues, it serves a purpose in the creative process.  When writing fantasy or science fiction, it is rather difficult to create a story arc without dispelling some of the binds of logic.  I have heard authors say you want to ensure it is believable, but isn’t that the beauty of Sci-Fi/fantasy? Isn’t that the duty of those genres to defy the boundaries of rationality and bring us to the unknown?  Quite frankly, I like the idea that a muse is divine inspiration simply so that I can blame the meddling sprite for not giving me inspiration when I need it.  And that, my friends, eradicates any guilt and leaves me more time for my musings.




2 thoughts on “Reflections on TED Talk with Elizabeth Gilbert

  1. I have been writing stories since I could figure out how to make letters, I think I can honestly say it’s a passion, it’s written in my blood

    I know that feeling! And I can safely say, knowing just a slice of your work, it is lightyears ahead of some serious crap circulating around out there which, by magic or some other dark voodoo, has managed to get published. In the absence of anything new by Robert Reed i am forcing myself to read other sci fi. Two I have returned in bored disgust, and am presently inching my way through a third, Starshine, which is, in parts, the written equivalent of stabbing myself in the eye with toothpicks.

    • D’aww, stahp :p Thank you, I’m so happy there are some people who enjoy it! I like the philosophy if there is nothing out there you want to read then write something you do and, more likely than not, someone else will like it too. (I’m the same with games too but unfortunately at the moment lacking the skills to follow that philosophy in that department) There will always be people who hate it and people who love it, but I have my own style and sticking to it darn-it!

      I’ve always been scared to venture outside the authors I know for that precise reason. I wish publishers could be counted on to produce better literature, but unfortunately even they are failing in their job.

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