Last week I had the pleasure of attending an inspiring talk given by bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert. You might be familiar with a little book she wrote called Eat, Pray, Love? Or the movie of the same name? It was the kind of book you either love or hate. For the record, I loved it (although admittedly I am somewhat biased when it comes to stories about eating pasta in Italy).
Regardless, I’d go so far as to say any writer or creative would enjoy her thought-provoking 2009 Tedx talk on “Your Elusive Creative Genius.” It has been viewed more than 8 million times and is one of the most popular Tedx talks ever. I recommend you check it out if you haven’t already seen it.
Gilbert was in Brisbane to discuss how she came to write her latest novel, The Signature of All Things, her first in more than a decade. Seems like your average author talk, right? Wrong. Gilbert’s journey to publication was far from smooth and she shares her struggles with great honesty and humour. Her story also happens to perfectly illustrate her views on the ephemeral nature of creativity that she espoused in her Tedx talk.
How do ideas come to us? For Gilbert, incredibly, the idea for The Signature of All Things was right under her nose – in a family heirloom that she rediscovered when helping her mother move house. A 1784 edition of James Cook’s voyages, written after the third voyage, provided the spark for what I think is her greatest work to date.
Here are some of my favourite quotes from the night:
“In creativity, a certain amount of magical thinking is required.”
“Thinking that there aren’t enough ideas to go around or that someone else might take your idea away are ways to murder creativity.”
“When ideas aren’t coming, you’re not listening right.”
“As a writer, you depend on miracles.”
“Finding a new idea is like a butterfly hunt, you just have to be ready to see one.”
“You can’t be too aggressive or desperate about hunting an idea down… Create ecosystems which are open and welcoming – in your business, life and family.”
“The forces of creativity fight for us just as much as we fight for them.”
“The next great idea could be yours, you just have to go and get it.”
Have you read of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books or heard her speak? I’d love to hear your thoughts.