Tapping into Your Creativity: An Interview with Elizabeth Gilbert

bigmagic Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the bestselling Eat, Pray, Love book, is out with her latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, designed for those hoping to live a creative life. Gilbert is also the presenter of one of the most watched TED talks of all time, Your Elusive Creative Genius (well worth watching). Gilbert was recently interviewed by Dana Rousmaniere, managing editor of the Harvard Business Review’s Insight Centers, and I found many of her answers quite insightful, and so I want to share some of the highlights of that interview. Q: What’s your advice for getting out of a creative rut? A: The trick to reigniting that spark is to let go of the idea of passion and to focus instead on the idea of curiosity… If you can consistently do that, not just once or twice, but every single day, and be diligent about following your curiosity wherever it leads, you’ll find that creative spark. Q: You wrote your first three books while still holding down a “day job” — or sometimes, several day jobs. How did you find the time to be creative on the side? A: You have needs and your family has needs and the bills have to be paid. There’s dignity in taking care of those things, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have any creative aspect to your life whatsoever. Set your alarm a half hour early every day and work on that book or that new business idea. You (also) have to say no to things you do want to do. Q: What are some other practical things that people can do to enhance their own creative thinking? A: If you want to think more creatively, ask yourself “What do I want to play at?” Combinatory play can be anything — a pickup basketball game, baking something, making pottery, or just doodling or going for a walk. Q: How do you balance the need for solitude to think and work creatively, with the need to collaborate, brainstorm, and learn from other people? A: There’s a season of collection, and then a season of reflection — where you have to start saying no to social engagements, you don’t go to the bar, you stop the interviews, and you start processing. You close your door and turn off your electronics and go deep inside. Q: What’s the role of others — mentors, peers — in your creative process? A: Go find three or four of your most generous peers and create a sounding board for support that you can use for the rest of your life. Q: What would you do even if you knew you were going to fail? A: The freedom to fail — as long as you’re failing in interesting ways — makes for tremendous success. After reading the interview, I put the book on my reading list; it sounds great. Every time I see Elizabeth Gilbert’s name, it reminds me of the time my wife and I decided to visit Two Buttons, Gilbert’s decorative imports store in New Jersey. This was after the huge success of Eat, Pray, Love, and my wife had heard that Gilbert still worked at the store, and actually greeted visitors by offering them a glass of wine. So we drove out on a beautiful Sunday, and almost as soon as we walked in my wife pointed and exclaimed, “There she is!” My wife, who loved the book, was starstruck. She somehow managed enough courage to get a glass of wine from Ms. Gilbert, but didn’t say anything other than “thank you”, and then proceeded to walk around the store. I kept trying to get her to go back and introduce herself and tell her how much she loved the book, but she just couldn’t get up the nerve to do so. I must admit that I had no idea who Elizabeth Gilbert was, or what her book was about, so I was no help. So after spending a good amount of time walking around her wonderful store, we finally just waved goodbye and went our merry way. But now I’m thinking the tables have turned; since that visit I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed Eat, Pray, Live and I really liked what she had to say in her TED talk. Once I finish Big Magic, it looks like it may be time to visit Two Buttons again (before it closes!) but this time I’ll do the talking…

3 thoughts on “Tapping into Your Creativity: An Interview with Elizabeth Gilbert

  1. Jim, Great post. I will watch her talk on YouTube and have added her to my reading list. Your blog makes a difference, thanks!


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