Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert: On Fear and Creativity

rear view of young woman staring at abstract sketch of left and right brain concept (analytical vs creative)

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creativity, fear, and more in the latest episode of Women Amplified. While this conversation was recorded at the end of 2019, what she says about fear, in particular, is a welcome balm in this moment.

Here are highlights:

“I think we live in a society that really fetishizes the idea of being fearless and that you’re constantly being told that in various, really violent, almost aggressive language to kick fear in the ass and to punch it in the face and to show it who’s boss and to wrestle it to the ground. It’s this constant war. The language is one of war.

But in my experience, anytime I have fought against my fear, it has won because it fights back harder. It just digs in, and it shows me who’s boss—which it is. And, the only way that I’ve ever been able to “conquer” fear has been to allow it to exist and to come with a much softer energy and to see it for what it is, which is not really a terrorist monster, but an orphaned child, a small little part of you that just is so fearful.

And, to just mother it and to say:

‘Look, I can see that you’re really scared, and I see that you don’t think that you’re worthy, and I see that you are terrified that this whole thing is going to bomb and blow up and that everyone’s going to know that you’re a fraud. And, I acknowledge and respect that as being very real and you are part of this family. You, fear, are part of this family and you have a place here and you’re just as much a part of the family as creativity is. You’re just as much part of the family as longing and all the other human emotions. I will never tell you to leave. You get to be in the minivan with the rest of the family. I just can’t let you drive because you’re seven years old. You’re too little. You’re not allowed to drive. You can be with us, but you’re going to have to sit in the back with the other kids: anxiety, panic, terror, all of them.

They’re all in the minivan. They’re always going to be in the minivan, but we’re doing this anyway and you can come with us and you’re going to do this anyway. And I know, fear, that your role in the family is that as we’re on this road trip toward creativity or adventure, the new or the big new thing that we want to do, I understand that your role is to sit in the back and scream that we’re all going to die, and you do it really well; and you just keep doing that, and we’re going anyway, and I love you.’

There’s something about the ‘I love you, you’re welcome, you’re part of this’ that somehow makes it quiet down. It doesn’t go away, it just quiets. I think all it wants is to belong like the rest of us. It’s just the part of you that doesn’t believe that it belongs. And, you just have to keep coming at it with that really mothering tone.

And, when I say mother, I don’t mean the mother you actually had. I mean the universal loving, compassionate, kind mother that you wish you had. The one who said: ‘Whatever happens, I love you. Whatever happens, you’re welcome. Whether this is a success or a failure, you belong to me, you’re mine.’ That sort of language that we have to learn how to bring to ourselves because all too often we actually didn’t get that when we were kids because we were raised by people who themselves were terrified.

So, it’s just a love contest really in the end, I think. And, it’s not the way that our culture teaches you to deal with fear, but it’s the only way I’ve ever been able to get anything done.”

Listen to the entire episode on Women Amplified.


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

How to Unleash Your Creative Genius – with Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert

This episode will make you feel GOOD—and we’ve got some exciting Conference news, too! Tune in.

Take an exciting and inspirational journey with Eat, Pray Love phenomenon Elizabeth Gilbert in this episode of Women Amplified. This intimate conversation will explore challenges facing women today, and offer insights to better navigate decision-making, productivity, communication, relationships, career paths and so much more.

Don’t think about fear as something you have to—or can—beat, says Elizabeth Gilbert. If you fight against fear, it will fight back harder and win. The better bet is to take a soft approach. Make room for your fear. Let it come along for the ride with you. Just be damn sure you don’t let it get into the driver’s seat.

Offering invaluable advice and real-life experiences, Gilbert will help you to embrace fear, unleash your creative genius and feel empowered to use your voice with confidence!

 


“I’m a big, walking permission slip …telling women that it’s okay, yes I do also think you should write a book, yes I do think it’s okay that you want more for yourself than this marriage is giving you. I agree. Do you want an authority figure to say that it’s okay for you to take a risk or to change your life? I am delighted to provide that role in your life. Until you have the courage to be your own permission slip, I am happy to be it for you.”Elizabeth Gilbert


 

This Month’s Guest:

ELIZABETH GILBERT is the author of Eat Pray Love. Exploding onto the scene in 2006, the best-seller famously chronicled the year Gilbert spent traveling the world after a shattering divorce. Translated into more than thirty languages, Eat Pray Love has sold over thirteen million copies worldwide, and in 2010, was made into a feature film starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem. Her writing has been published in Harper’s Bazaar, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine. Gilbert was a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and her work was anthologized in Best American Writing 2001. Her first book, Pilgrims, was a New York Times Most Notable Book, and won a Ploughshares prize. Her first novel, Stern Men, won the Kate Chopin Award in 2001. The Last American Man, which compellingly explores America’s long-standing intrigue with the pioneer lifestyle, was a finalist for the National Book Award. In Committed: A Love Story, the anticipated follow-up to Eat Pray Love, Gilbert tells the story of her unexpected plunge into second marriage. The Signature of All Things, Gilbert’s first novel in over a decade, was named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, NPR, and Time. Out of the period of introspection following Eat Pray Love, came Gilbert’s brilliant nonfiction treatise, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Her newest book, City of Girls, a love story set in New York City theater world during the 1940’s, was released in 2019. @gilbertliz

Our Host:

CELESTE HEADLEE is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me MoreTalk of the NationAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @celesteheadlee


 

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