This month a big group of us went to see Elizabeth Gilbert, of ‘Big Magic’ and ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame, to talk about Creativity and Fear as part of the Auckland Writers Festival.
The thing about Liz (we call her Liz round here) is that she is authentic, relatable and pragmatically & profoundly wise, all at once. Almost every second she was dropping truth bombs here and there, and she was doing it with such humour, aplomb and unapologetic human-ness.
Here are our key learnings that we love from Liz:
Lesson 1: Fear is like your overprotective big dumb cousin, jacked up on Red Bull and hell bent on protecting you from all real AND perceived threats. Love it anyway.
Every time you try and do something creative, you have to accept that fear is going to pipe up and come along for the ride, every. damn. time. Fear is like your big dumb cousin, hell bent on protecting you from ALL threats, whether they’re real...or whether you’re just writing a poem.
Usually, fear just needs to be heard. One way to open this conversation, she suggests, is to make the fearful voice in your head write you a letter. You don’t need to take fear’s advice; just acknowledge it, then keep forging ahead.
Lesson 2: Passion is overrated. Curiosity is a quieter, more powerful force.
This lesson was prompted by Jade asking Liz during Q&A: “What advice can you give a young creative who is trying to go for their dreams?”
And her answer was: “Forget passion. Follow curiosity instead.”
“Finding your passion” is a term that is often held high as a lifelong goal, but in yearning for that one passion, we usually ignore the little moments when curiosity was tapping us on the shoulder. Curiosity is a more sustainable source of inspiration and creativity. Passion burns and dies out. Curiosity drops ‘invisible breadcrumbs’ that usually leads, if not necessarily to greatness, then to a hell of a lot more interesting life.
Lesson 3: As women, we have an abundance of opportunity, agency and freedom, far more than at any point in the history of humanity. Don’t waste it.
For women in particular, putting yourself out there and striving for success can mean being vulnerable.
So why do it? Liz urges us that if not for us, then for the women who has come before us, who didn’t have as much agency, autonomy, education or opportunity as we do now. Whatever is stopping you from doing what you really want to do...do it! Don’t waste the freedom and opportunities you have in this day and age. At the very least, you won’t get burned at the stake for your opinions!
Our final takeaway from Liz, was having “What are you most excited about?” as a conversation starter, instead of our usual surface questions.
This question connects you straight to the heart of what that person is about – their hopes, values, what they love. A more confronting and intimidating question, yes. But through her experience, it has led to really surprising, more authentic human connections.
And those are the things we got from that night! If you want to hear more Elizabeth Gilbert truth bombs, we highly recommend her podcast series here.
Megs and Jo