The crowds gathered outside the theater were ninety-five percent women and hovered around the age of forty. Girlfriends were quickly chatting to each other with excitement, trying to catch up and cram as much connecting talk as possible into a small period of time. My mother, sister and I had just had a delicious Thai meal, and we were eager to hear what one of the great female voices of our day had to say to us on her Big Magic Tour.
When I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s most recent book, Big Magic, her manifesto on the creative process, especially on writing. I was so moved by her passion and stories that I started writing my own memoir. One of the magic parts of Elizabeth Gilbert are that her stories, and creative works spark creativity in others.
At the theater doors, we showed our tickets on our phone to the usher and entered the lobby. Here more excited women milled with drinks in hand. My mom and I spotted the rare male and exclaimed that someone must have dragged him. We headed into the theater and found our seats. The theater was packed and I looked up to the balcony, full of excited Elizabeth Gilbert fans.
Finally, the lights went down and Liz Gilbert came on stage. I feel I can call her Liz, now, after her intimate talk where I felt we became friends. She was immediately down-to-earth and chummy from the stage. She shared vulnerable moments, about how much she loved the heels she was wearing, but they acted as a 45-minute timer for her speech because she was in so much pain by that time and knew it was time to sit down.
She was an amazing story teller, letting us in on secrets of her earlier Big Magic Book Tour. She began by talking about the path of creativity vs. fear. And that one of the keys to life was just showing up.
I must add here that I was often accused in my high school and college writing of being too biased, being a fan of my subject. Perhaps I can be too idealistic or naive, but I am owning it and rephrasing those as positivity and enthusiasm. Well here again, I confess to being a fan-girl, of Elizabeth Gilbert, well aware that critical commentary must be found elsewhere.
Liz spoke at length about fear. She stated that fear can often hide in perfectionism, something I know well. She told us to watch if your fear is hyper-rational and is talking you out of something. Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, is about creativity, writing in particular. So often when she spoke of risks, it was in regard to following curiosity towards creating something. But I think her words on fear speak to all kinds of boldness.
"Meld your labor with mysteries of inspiration."
Liz went on to talk about creativity and how taking the risk might not amount to anything. So why do we do it? She said beautifully, “Meld your labor with mysteries of inspiration. Inherently worth wasting your time.” She went on to say, “The Universe is a work in progress and God is looking for collaborators.” The message is take the risk to be creative in your life—follow the path of creativity and not the one of fear.
She then warned us not to think that our life would begin later, when we lose weight or get a new job. She said that the action is here and now.
Liz then talked about her current book tour and how in the past she would take time off from creativity during touring months. However, she realized that during a book tour about a book on creativity, she couldn’t do that. She had to walk to talk. So she needed a creative project.
"What are you most excited about in life right now?"
In a way that combined bravery and genius, Liz looked at why she took time off from creativity during a book tour. She realized it was because there were so many people to interact with and meet. She courageously realized that her project had to be around encounters with people. She decided that she would make herself ask everyone she encountered “What are you most excited about in life right now?”
As I looked around the packed theater, to the upper reaches of the balcony, she had everyone laughing in their seats with honest, beautiful and sometimes gut-wrenching stories of posing this questions to various people, from make-up artists, to security guards, taxi drivers and German editors. The most beautiful moments, she says, were “life meeting life—creation in the moment”, when someone would share their passion. Often it was “an unexpected collision of two souls who didn’t want to be there” in their boring job or task. However, asking what they were most excited about elicited deep, connected moments speaking of what a person was most passionate about in their lives.
Crying in the Bathroom
Liz went on to talk about how series of questions can make someone realize that life doesn’t have to look like this any more. Liz spoke of her famous scene in Eat, Pray, Love when she’s crying in the bathroom and realized that she didn’t want to be married any more. This was the moment when she realized she had to change her life.
It was a juncture that spoke to so many women who have arranged their lives to have what they thought they wanted, only to realize they feel empty. Liz showed us how to have the courage to go out and find who we are and what brings us joy.
"This May Take A While"
In the theater, Liz spoke of a saying she has with her girlfriends—“this may take a while.” You may want change in your life, but it takes time and to accept that. She truthfully stated that “everything in life that is fascinating is ninety percent boring.” And that creativity fits in that bucket. She told us secrets of her process in writing a book. She recounted that she has to force herself to sit, for longer and longer periods each day, until her creative flow takes over. Liz reminded us that there won’t be joy in every action of creativity toward your dream, there will be a lot of drudgery. But that “something’s going to happen and it’s so going to be worth it.” So keep at your dream, despite the boredom, for those moments of magic.
Like a rock star, Liz was given a standing ovation as she ended her speech. We were all one glorious, lively, group of women (and a few men), inspired by brave, vulnerable words on how to live a creative life.
After ending the talk, in a fun, coming-together, collectively facing our fears kind-of-way, Liz Gilbert had us all sing Karaoke together. We sang John Denver’s Country Roads. Liz stated that the only way to look silly when singing Karaoke is to not go all in. As I stood beside my mom and sister, swaying and singing loudly and off key, I knew a moment of creative, community joy. It was a magic moment, created by Liz Gilbert, yet repeatable by all of us. A moment where we face our fear and despite daily drudgery, use our creativity to make something beautiful. As Liz proves to us, it’s worth it.
Bethany is a life coach with a weekly inspirational blog at http://bethanybilbrey.com She helps women who have lost themselves in the demands of everyday life. They are stuck and don’t know how to move forward. She helps them take bold steps toward new dreams so they can be happy.
Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lifecoachbethany/