Reflections on the Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk

As the video says, she is surprisingly moving and surprisingly charming. I know this is old, and this book is so uber-popular as to now be scorned by literary sorts. I fell for it entirely when I read it, but I hit upon it in the early stage of its debut and didn’t have to battle all the media hype in my head as I read it. It also helps that I was ready to identify with a woman who was  feeling stuck. I may not have been feeling stuck in my marriage, as Gilbert was, was stuck I certainly was: creatively, personally, professionally.

But whatever you think of the book, love or hate, the talk is wonderful. She is absolutely adorable, and well worth the whole 20 minutes, which is generally 18.5 minutes longer than I’ll give to a video I stumble upon on social media, unless it’s something for which I’ve actually searched. (Note to potential clients, do as I say, not as I do.)

Another reason I have for posting this: we keep hearing that Content Is King. Before you tell the world about your work, make sure you’ve got something to say, and that you’ve said it as well as you possibly can. How to access that creativity? How to sure you’re creating your best work,  reaching your most authentic self, finding that most unique expression that is your voice and no one else’s?

Gilbert addresses the source of creativity, and the fear and pressure that accompany any writer. The extreme popularity of her first book, Eat Pray Love, is almost a disadvantage going forward. “People treat me like I’m doomed,” she says, “It’s exceedingly likely that my greatest success is behind me.” Ouch. But rather than offer her our sympathies (as if!) let’s learn from her attempt to try to continue her creative journey despite her fears.

What is genius? How do we deal with the anxiety that comes from trying to access it? Gilbert is saved from despair by plugging away at a manuscript that shows little sense of ever becoming something people actually want to read. Not knowing whether it will be great, or good enough, or barely worth being salvaged by a team of editors and publicists and marketing gurus. Knowing that at that moment, all she can do is her best. Maybe the best is behind her? What if she is a has-been at 40? Here’s her answer, couched in the example of a flamenco dance:

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job, whatever that is. Continue to show up. Do your piece of it. If it’s to dance, do your dance. If the cock-eyed divine genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed…through your efforts, then Olé to you. And if not, do your dance anyhow. And Olé to you nonetheless… just for having the sheer human  love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”

God, I love her. And her advice. But shhh…nobody tell J.K. Rowling. 😉

1 Response to “Reflections on the Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk”

  1. 1 michaellangford2012 April 14, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    She comes across as authentic, not only in the video, but in her writing. Can’t say that about too many people these days.

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