18 March 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity | Video on TED.com

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity | Video on TED.com

Now this is not spiritual in the evangelical sense whatsoever, but it is a 19 minute discussion of the writer's internal life that is perhaps one of the most freeing things I've ever heard. Elizabeth describes the angst of the eternal what-if that torments the writing life. What if this book is no good, what if I'm no good.... And she follows this with a discussion of how some parts of history viewed the muse. She doesn't use the word muse but I'm using that to abbreviate the idea of the writing life. If I can apply this, I think it take me to a new place with my writing life. Imagine being able to sit down and rather than a weight on my chest of fear and what-if, that I could simply enjoy the craft and, yes, put in the hard work of editing but without the emotional trauma that I have made go with it.

Oddly enough, this also applies to my missionary (aka fund raiser) life. I have been very unbalanced as of late. The same voices that have tormented me as a writer (and perhaps as a perfectionist) have tormented me in this alternative world I live in as well. What if I haven't done enough? What if I'm not doing it right? What if I'm just bad at this and the enterprise fails? It's a really worthy thing I feel compelled to do here and I don't want it to fail - because of me.

So what if I could convert all this emotional energy into something useful? In her monologue, Elizabeth sort of refers tongue in cheek to fairy dust and speaking outloud to this thing, this creative torment that for many accompanies the process. I know that for us with a belief in God that we would say, oh no that's wrong, she's praying to something that is not God. I disagree. Her intent, the way I view it, is more about speaking to the fears that lie within and putting them in their place than addressing someone other than God.

I want to say to my fears or my creativeness or I've heard another writer refer to it as the internal editor -- I want to say: I showed up. I did my part. The outcome is not my fault. It just is what it is. And yes, if I am at all capable of doing so, at this point I would like to put it in to God's hands, and if it is possible for my personality type, leave it there.

In writing, another what-if exists. It is the what-if that makes good stories. You see something in a shop, or a thought goes through your mind, yes, but what if this character suddenly did this or what if circumstances turned against her and then this happened? Ooooooo, and then you start pulling at the string that makes the story in your mind.

What if I could live out the ideas I have just described?


  1. I got through watching the video and I think I'm with you on a lot of this, mostly from the perfectionist angle. My job isn't really a what is traditionally thought of as a creative job, but I am still able to see myself in some of this. It's real easy to be in the middle of some complicated issue, get stuck, and think that this is going to be a horrible failure. Separating, at least partially, from the credit and the blame is a huge weight off the shoulders.

  2. I need to put this separation of blame and credit into practice is so many ways in my life, but especially in writing!