MEET THE MUSE: An Interview with Elizabeth Gilbert
Hi this is Liz.
Hi Liz, it’s Amanda Stuermer. Thank you for taking this time to muse with me.
Liz: I am sorry it is so short. We’ll do what we can.
Amanda: Yes, it does feel a little bit like a speed date.
Liz: Ha, that’s cute.
Amanda: Several people think I am interviewing Melissa Gilbert today. I wish I had a Little House on the Prairie questions for you! We’ll stick with Liz Gilbert. Let’s start with our speed date questions. What two words best describe you?
Liz: Stubborn and high strung.
Amanda: What trait do you most cherish in yourself?
Amanda: What trait do you most cherish in others?
Amanda: I know you love karaoke; what’s your favorite karaoke song?
Liz: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. There is no other. Why would you think of any other song besides that?
Amanda: I sang it so many times back in high school.
Liz: I guarantee you, put a hairbrush in your hand and stand in front of the mirror and you will be transported and you will still remember every breath of that song.
Amanda: I would have to find some of that scrunchie hairspray and get the permed look going again.
Liz: Treat to yourself to watching the video. It is so good.
Amanda: Thank you for that inspiration. Now, on to “Big Magic.” Thank you for this book. It is lovely; it felt so much like a conversation with a really good friend. I would even pour myself a glass of wine before starting to read it in the evening, so we were basically hanging out having cocktail hour together. And you had me from the first page when you described creativity as the relationship between a human and the mysteries of inspiration. I am a self-proclaimed inspiration-junkie. So I want to ask you a few questions about the mysteries of inspiration (aka: creativity). How do you stay open to it on a daily basis with the laundry and the dishes and all that other stuff calling for your attention?
Liz: It’s funny, someone asked me once, “at what age did you start to trust your creativity?” And I said that’s not the interesting question; the interesting question is, “can creativity trust you?” Can creativity know that you are there for it, that you are wake and aware, open and receptive? Then it will come to you, but you have to prove that it can trust you. Creativity has to know that you are trustworthy. If you want creativity to have trust in you, you have to find time for it. So for me, the way I stay open to creativity is that I show it I can be trusted, that means devoting a certain amount of time to it every single day to let it know that it can count on me and I’m not just talking a bunch of smack. Like right now while I am on book tour, I still set aside 20 minutes a day to do research for the next novel I am working on. I don’t really have the time, but it is important that creativity knows that I am still with it. It’s little actions like that to let it know that you are still there.
Amanda: Basically that is relationship advice for any sort of relationship, right? We take those that we love for granted and we don’t realize that it is sometimes those small tokens of affection, those small fragments of time that can mean so much. We have to nurture all of our relationships that way.
Liz: Agreed, actually all of the relationships in our life are made up of those accumulated small fragments of time and those tiny little gestures. I mean we all want the tower of flames and lightening in the bottle, but with love and creativity both it is really just a trail of breadcrumbs – tiny, tiny little things that add up to that great big scavenger hunt in the end.
Amanda: Right, and in both love and creativity sometimes the timing is just off. I love the story you tell about Tom Waites having a song come to him while he is driving to the grocery store and he’s like “wait muse, don’t come to me right now. Can’t you see I’m driving? Go visit Leonard Cohen.” I find that my muses often come to me at around 3 am and at first I think it’s just a hot flash, so I kick off the covers. Then I realize there is actually an idea that wants to connect with me. But I don’t have the attention at that moment. So what do you do when the timing isn’t right, when it’s some absurd hour of the morning or night?
Liz: Well, you can keep one those pens with a little flashlight next to your bed. Then simply write down a few words that will remind you of the idea the next day. At 3 am, that is all you really owe it! I mean it was very rude to come and wake you up like that. But we are in the inspiration game, so give it that much, but no more. You don’t have to get up and make a pot of coffee and begin. But I do think you have to hold yourself accountable. The way I hold myself accountable is I ask myself, “do I have the piece of paper and pen ready when that idea comes, and the next day, do I give that idea some thoughtful consideration?” The idea’s part of the contract is making sure it comes when you are best prepared. I say that to inspiration all the time, “You guys, you know I am at my desk several hours a day. You are very welcome to drop in at any time.” And if they don’t, then they aren’t taking me seriously.
Amanda: I love that message from “Big Magic,” the permission to have a real conversation with inspiration, or what I like to call my muses. You gave voice to that so beautifully.
Liz: Thank you. I mean everything in the world is a collaboration, right? Why would it be any different with inspiration?
Amanda: I was listening to your TED talk this morning, and I love the idea of people having genius rather than being a genius. It’s the same with creativity or inspiration. We aren’t born creative or inspired people; we cultivate those aspects, we develop those collaborations. I like to think that when our muses visit us (unless it’s 3 am), we have to be ready to dance. “Big Magic” is such a lovely invitation to dance. I want to thank you for that.
Liz: Well thank you. I feel like lately I have two jobs. One is to write books and be this creative person; the other is to go around and write permission slips for people so that they can be creative too. I feel like a lot people really feel like they need that permission slip, and I am happy to give them one. So that’s been really fun.
Amanda: Not only have you given us permission to dance with our creative muses, in “Eat, Pray, Love” you also gave us permission to have our bathroom floor moments, which are equally important in life. I think that is why you have resonated with so many readers. You give us those “me too” moments. Thank you.
Liz: Thank you.
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