How Elizabeth Gilbert Uses Creativity to Cope with Failure
When you think about the best-selling novel Eat, Pray, Love, you probably think about delicious Italian food, Julia Roberts wandering around India, and the book’s author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who was propelled into stardom when her memoir hit shelves back in 2006.
Elizabeth experienced wild success thanks to the book, which included an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was even being named one of Time Magazine‘s 100 most influential people in the world. Sounds like she was living the fab life — but with great success comes the fear of inevitable failure, and Elizabeth worried that her next book wouldn’t live up to the huge response to Eat, Pray, Love. Luckily, Elizabeth tackled her fear of failure head on — by getting back in touch with her passion for writing, and giving herself room to be creative without worrying about the critics.
“I had to find a way to make sure that my creativity survived its own success,” Elizabeth explained during a TED talk in March. “And I did, in the end, find that inspiration, but I found it in the most unlikely and unexpected place. I found it in lessons that I had learned earlier in life about how creativity can survive its own failure.”
Elizabeth realized that in order to conquer her fear of failure, she had to find her way back “home” — and in this case, her home was writing.
“Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself,” Elizabeth said. “So that might be creativity, it might be family, it might be invention, adventure, faith, service, it might be raising corgis, I don’t know. Your home is that thing to which you can dedicate your energies with such singular devotion that the ultimate results become inconsequential.”
Thanks to “going home” and embracing her creativity, Elizabeth was able to write another book without being inhibited by the possibility that she might be panned by critics. And in fact, she was panned. To quote Elizabeth herself, the book “bombed” — but its failure didn’t stop her from pursuing her creative passions. She wrote another book that was a success, and plans on writing many more in the years to come — some of which will succeed and some of which will fail. To Elizabeth, the only way to cope with both the inevitable success and failure in her life following her big hit is to stay focused on her love for creative writing.
“If you should, someday, somehow get vaulted out of your ‘home’ by either great failure or great success, then your job is to fight your way back to that home the only way that it has ever been done, by putting your head down and performing with diligence and devotion and respect and reverence whatever the task is that love is calling forth from you next,” Elizabeth said. “I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience in every direction, I can assure you that it’s all going to be okay.”
Elizabeth’s message is simple: find your passion and stay true to it, regardless of the success and failures it may bring you. And if all else fails, you can always take a page out of her book (literally) and re-invent yourself with a pasta-eating tour of Italy!
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