author of Big Magic, Eat Pray Love and much more…
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born and raised in the Berkshires Hills, in Connecticut, on my family’s Christmas tree farm. I grew up around goats and chickens and gardens and woodstoves and an intense, nearly obsessive, ethic of frugality and self-sufficiency. Also: Books. Lots of books. I went to our local public school and then off to college in New York City just as quickly as I could get myself there. I am grateful for my hard-scrabble rural childhood because it taught me how to take care of myself, but I am not a person of the soil. I am a person of the Polis.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Writer, writer, and writer. And also all the years in between. And, one hopes, I will want to be a writer all the years to come. Because I have yet to find anything else I love more than this work. If I ever do, I will change callings. Till then, I’ll stick with this one.
That the rules of life do not apply to me. I tested every single one rule. Turns out, they all apply. It would have been a lot easier and less painful to have learned the rules of cause and effect without having to try them all out, but apparently I’m a real empiricist.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
a) Watching my father quit his day job in order to become a full-time farmer, and realising that — yes indeed — one can shape one’s own destiny.
b) Going off to live in New York City — otherwise known as The Field of Dreams — in order to cross-pollinate myself with the ideas of a bunch of other restless dreamers.
c) Getting divorced. Failing horribly at something terribly important. Having to process the shame and loss of it. Thus: Eat Pray Love
5. 1. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
Not obsolete yet, it appears.
Big Magic is a manifesto on creativity. It’s about liberating yourself from the tired-old artistic stereotypes of suffering, torment, perfectionism, anxiety and specialness in order to simply make things that ignite your soul to life. I’ve been wanting to write this book for over a dozen years, and only recently did I finally feel that I had the chops and the authority to sit down and say, “Listen, people. I’ve learned some stuff over the decades I’ve spent engaging with creativity in a positive and generative manner. Try doing your work THIS way.”
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
I would like my work to give people permission to live bigger lives.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
Sister Mary Scullion — a radical activist nun who lives and works in nearby Philadelphia, and who has single-handedly taken it upon herself to solve the problem of homelessness and addiction on the streets of her city. She’s a giant-hearted, funny, tireless, generous, ferocious powerhouse of a woman, and I love her.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
A very simple goal: I would like to acquire enough wisdom and grace to always know exactly the right way to behave in every different situation in life — no matter how difficult — such that I never cause any trouble or suffering for myself or for another human being as long as I live. Ever. I’m out of my mind, I know. But that is truly what I long for.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Don’t negotiate with the terrorists who live inside your head. Don’t believe a single negative thing that your mind ever tells you about yourself.
Your darkest voices have no idea what they’re talking about. Your inner critics are more deadly and more toxic than any external enemy will ever be.
Your inner critics will always ask of you, “What right do you have to be a creator? Who the hell do you think you are?” Stand up tall and tell your inner critics who the hell you think you are.
Tell them that you are a constituent of creation, and that therefore you have the right to participate in the ongoing story of creation. Tell them that you are a human being, and that human beings are a creative species by design, and that you are laying claim to your human inheritance by participating in the ancient practice of making stuff out of nothing, for no particular reason. Tell them that your work doesn’t have to be magnificent or world-changing; it just has to be DONE. Tell them that by creating anything — merely by remaining vital and productive— you have won as a human being.
Tell them that you have a spark of divinity within you that you will not allow to be extinguished and that you are a champion of inquisitiveness, and that your inventive spirit will not be daunted.
Then give your inner critics the finger, and keep writing.
Eye of the tiger, baby. Eye of the tiger.
Elizabeth, thank you for playing.
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert.
Now, this beloved author digs deep into her own life to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity.
With profound empathy and generosity, she ponders the mysterious nature of inspiration, asking us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.
Whether we are looking to create art, address challenges in our work, give ourselves permission to embark on a dream long deferred, or simply to infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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