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Blog Briefs: On Burnout, sort of, from Elizabeth Gilbert

A friend sent a link to this warm & inspiring TEDx talk on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EAT PRAY LOVE. It’s a fabulous reminder to honour the creative spirit that ‘possesses’ you:

The tricky bit comes the next morning for the dancer himself when he wakes up and realises that it’s Tuesday at 11am and he’s no longer a glimpse of God, he’s just an ageing mortal with really bad knees and maybe he’s never going to ascend to that height again and maybe nobody will ever chant God’s name again as he spins, and what is he then to do with the rest of his life? This is hard. This is one of the most painful reconciliations to make in a creative life. But maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe in the first place that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life, to be passed along, when you’re finished, to someone else.


Don’t be afraid, don’t be daunted. Just, do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine cock-eyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment through your efforts, then olay. And if not, do your dance anyhow, and olay to you none the less – I believe in this and I feel we should be teaching it – olay to you none the less, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.”


And via Gilbert’s website comes this piece which fits well into our Burnout series – hence its inclusion here:

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

– Elizabeth Gilbert