What would a bestselling author advise her younger self?

I spoke to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, while she was walking her dog one crisp winter morning in the woods near her home town of New Jersey. It was midnight on a hot summer night in Sydney. She was gracious, inspired, very smart and a bit puffed going up the hills. I asked what advice she’d give a writer beginning her career. This is what she said.

“Stay out of debt. Never go into debt to be an artist – it’s not fair to your art. Try not to ask your art to support you financially. Art is the only realm of human endeavour that doesn’t work on the simple principle that if you’re really good at it and you work really hard you’ll do well at it. So much of it is about luck and randomness. It’s about giving the project the time and space that it needs and not pressuring it to pay your electrical bill.’’

“Really expensive creative writing masters programs that people come out of with $75 000 worth of debt to be a short story writer… someone should be arrested for that. People do it to themselves as well. (They think) I’m going to quit my job and write my book and my book will pay for the years I didn’t work. You have to find another way to get by.’’

“Don’t go to war against your creativity. Recognise that if an idea comes to you it’s because it wanted you and it wants to help you, it really does. It’s not the inspiration that is tormenting me it’s my own obstacle. It really wants to be born; it wouldn’t have come and tapped me on the shoulder in the first place otherwise.’’

“Always choose creativity over fear. They’re conjoined twins. You can’t have creativity without fear but you have to make fear know it’s not making any of the decisions. It will come along and it will but it doesn’t get to decide things.’’

Elizabeth is in Sydney to promote her new novel The Signature of All Things. My full interview ran in mX Newspaper today.

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