In this talk, Elizabeth Gilbert tells us about reactions she faced when her career-defining memoir Eat Pray Love was published. She remarked, “Like, they come up to me now, all worried, and they say, ‘Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to be able to top that?’” It’s not different from what she faced as a teenager, she reveals, when she declared her aspiration to be an author. “People would say, ‘Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success?’”
She admits, “Yes, I’m afraid of all those things. And I always have been. And I’m afraid of many, many more things besides that people can’t even guess at, like seaweed and other things that are scary. …And what is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each other’s mental health in a way that other careers kind of don’t do, you know?”
Talking about her creative process, she related her encounter with American poet Ruth Stone, who “would catch the poem by its tail” before it could pass through her. She also mentioned dancers who performed on moonlit nights in the deserts of North Africa, centuries ago, where one would become fired with divinity, prompting the audience to chant “Allah, Allah, Allah, God, God, God.” In Spain, this pronunciation, she says, changed over the centuries to “Olé, olé, olé”.
Gilbert concludes, “…don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then ‘Olé!’ And if not, do your dance anyhow. And ‘Olé!’ to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it. “Olé!” to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”
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