The phenomenal success of the 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love bestowed Elizabeth Gilbert with a following of over 10 million readers, recommendations from Pulitzer-prize winner Jennifer Egan and the priceless endorsement of Oprah.
On the flipside, success also brought critics such as Maureen Callahan, who, in the New York Post argued that Gilbert’s memoir served as “an excuse to have that extra glass of wine, and…abandon all critical thinking.”
So what happens when your whole reputation is built on one book, and the biggest creative and financial success of your life is likely behind you?
Gilbert answered this question herself in one of the most popular TED talks ever given. Her answer is to stop seeing creativity as a rational thing that writers and artists are always capable of, because it’s that kind of perspective which is likely to send a novelist with writers block into the warm embrace of a bottle of whiskey.
Instead, Gilbert sees creativity as a kind of book the library of the universe loans you for a little while. All you can do is keep your part of the bargain, get up each day and keep trying, with the faith that success or failure doesn’t rest on your shoulders alone. ”My suggestion,” she says, “ is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line.”
She will be discussing these ideas and more at her upcoming talk on January 19.