Elizabeth Gilbert on Self-Loathing and the Art of Working
Paul Holdengraber Calls the Author of Big Magic on the Phone
Elizabeth Gilbert—whose most recent book is called Big Magic—takes time out from a brief vacation in Miami Beach to talk to Paul Holdengraber for episode seven of A Phone Call From Paul. Things get rather deep, rather quickly.
Elizabeth Gilbert on vocation over vacation….
I’ve realized that I really love my vocation. I really love my work as a writer. And so, I’ve now given myself to permission to work on my writing while I’m on vacation because otherwise I’ll be lonely from not having it, you know? I used to think, I should put that way, I should just relax, but actually the happiest I could possibly be is when I’m working on a new book.
Elizabeth Gilbert on what farming taught her about the value of boredom…
I think what I saw in my parents was, even when the working was boring—because a lot of farm work is very boring and repetitive—it’s interesting if you do it long enough. If you stay through the tedious part, you get to the really interesting part. Which is also what I think writing is…I think a lot of what I see people calling artistic anguish is actually them just not being able to deal with tedium…The tedium is also part of the work and part of the creativity. Don’t mistake it for anguish, it’s merely tedium. It’s only boring. It’s not gonna kill you.
Elizabeth Gilbert on complaining as the enemy of inspiration…
And [complaining] also drives away inspiration which is the heart of my whole magical thinking about creativity, this idea that inspiration is this strange otherworldly force that wants to work with you just as much as we want to work with it. And like any sentient force in the universe, it likes to be liked. And if you walk around all day complaining about how awful it is, I think you push it away. I think it says, well look, I’ll go somewhere where my services are welcome. I’ll go to an artist who’s happy to receive me and deal with me and doesn’t just want to complain about how awful I am. I think it drives the work away, and I can feel that in myself whenever I start complaining, my inspiration channel kind of closes off.
Elizabeth Gilbert on overcoming self-loathing…
I always say, we all want to go out there in the world and be kind, compassionate, forgiving—all of us do, we’re all good people, we all want to try and be good people and kind people. And conveniently, there’s somebody who you live with 24 hours a day that you can practice all that on, all the time, and it’s yourself. And it’s the last person we ever think of to practice it on. But it’s such a good patient that you’ve got to work with.
NEXT WEEK: ELIZABETH GILBERT, PART TWO