Elizabeth Gilbert on Work, Fear and Time

“The work wants to be made and it wants to be made by you.”

Elizabeth Gilbert


This was an excellent interview. Never read her books, just became an instant fan. Below are some more quotes from this interview (I couldn’t stop collecting them).


On not enough time

One of the most important things I was ever given as a piece of advice was from a woman I was complaining to in my 20s about how I didn’t have enough time to pursue my writing because of all the other obligations I had in my life. The eternal complaint; you’re never going to meet another creative person who doesn’t have that essential, fundamental complaint. They’re dreaming of some slow, grass growing place where they can gently allow these things to ferment. Everyone fantasizes about that, it never comes. I was just sort of griping to her, and she said: what are you willing to give up to have what you really want? And it was such a searingly important question to me at that time. And she also said, “what’s your favorite tv show?” I said the Sopranos, and she said “not anymore! You’re done watching evening television. What are you willing to give up in order to have what you say you want?” Of course you have to know what you want.

On how the work feels about you

I love it when people let themselves love something that they made because it loves you, it wanted to work with you, it came to you because it wanted to be made manifest and it tapped on your shoulder and said “do you want to be a collaborator with me?” because it liked you. … Most of us like to be liked and so does inspiration and creativity. All this stuff likes to be appreciated. Just say “I welcome you, I love you, I want to work with you.”

On the voice of self doubt

I have an answer in the chamber when the dark evil demon in my head says, “who the hell do you think you are trying to do this!?” I realized long ago that that evil psychotic demon in your head who says that you’re worthless, that’s the only question he ever asks: who the hell do you think you are? But if you take the tone of voice away from him, maybe he’s just curious. Maybe because you’re insecure you’re hearing it as an assault, but he’s really, like, “hey, who are you? Who do you think you are?” And so, I just answer him now, really sincerely. “Hey, thanks for asking! I’ll tell you who I am: I am a child of God just like everyone else and I am a constituent of creation and therefore I have every right in the world to participate in its unfolding.”

On marriage partner expectations

Here’s what you’re putting on (your spouse): they have to be incredibly sexually exciting to me forever. They have to be my best friend. They have to be my soulmate. They have to be my intellectual match. They have to be the perfect parent for the kind of parenting I want to do. They have to fit in to my family and my community and all my friends and be interested in the same stuff that I’m interested in. When you start to quantify what people are expecting out of this it’s kind of overwhelming and maybe a little bit unrealistic.

On the big fear mistake

Here’s the mistake we make with fear: we hate it, we fear it, we resent it and we want it gone. And the biggest mistake we make with it is that we don’t start by showing it our enormous gratitude. Because before everything else, before we bitch about how it holds us back and stopping us, start with ‘you’re here because your fear has saved your life.’ You literally owe your life to this thing. You’re here because your ancestors survived because they were terrified enough to save their own life. You’re here because you didn’t get into the car with that guy, because you got out of the ocean when the waves were too big. And all you want to do is be mad at it, the most loyal protector of your bodily life. So, before you start hating on it, just take a moment and say to it, ‘thank you so much for all the times that you stood in front of that car for me, took a bullet for me, stopped me from doing that stupid thing. I owe you literally everything.’ Start with that. When your fear rises up, start there, say thank you. And then explain what you’re doing and why you don’t need its services right now. ‘Thanks so much, I know you’re concerned for me, but you can wait offstage and I’ll come join you when I’m done.’ That’s what I’ve learned about fear: respect it, admire it, thank it and then just ask it to stand down, no ones going to get hurt, I’m just writing a poem.

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