On this episode of On Being with Krista Tippett, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love, talks about what it’s like to live a creative life by choosing curiosity rather than through passion. When we choose curiosity, we allow life itself to become a creative process. By constantly staying curious, the journey through life becomes its own reward.
Read this if…
- You pursue creative endeavors
- You’re in a creative slump
- You want to learn more about the creative life
Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the global bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love. She has written widely in her career, from The New York Times to O Magazine to GQ. She has published seven books, including, most recently, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Her book “The Last American Man”, published in 2002, was nominated for a National Book Award.
the distilld lessons (extended)
We tend to think of creativity as a special gift or talent bestowed only upon the chosen few. In truth, creativity is innate in all of us. Everything we do, make, or build has an element of creativity to it.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestselling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love”, reflects on how creativity is present in both art and life if we only choose to be curious instead of afraid. According to Elizabeth, fear makes people irresponsible. Fear makes people shut themselves away from others. When we are afraid, we keep ourselves from being curious. Curiosity is the impulse to take a closer look at the things that fascinates us. It is how we access the innate creativity within all of us.
Here’s the distilld lessons inspired by the “Choosing Curiosity Over Fear” episode from the On Being podcast:
1. Feeding your curiosity
We’ve been raised to believe that we must be passionate about something. But this has limited our ability to explore other things as “following our passion” often means devoting ourselves to a single pursuit. Passion is also usually associated with intensity or an “inner fire” that we should keep burning.
When we are passionate about something, there’s a level of expectation attached to it. These expectations can be a timeline of when we should reach our goals, or a specific image of what success should look like.
Curiosity, on the other hand, expects nothing from us. We are only encouraged to find excitement and joy in discovery. It keeps us moving forward, not because we’re expected to achieve or succeed, but because it’s something we want to do.
Curiosity invites us to examine things more carefully or to try something new that interests us. We are not limited to a single pursuit. We can let our curiosity lead us to where it wants us to go. When we are curious, we venture into opportunities outside of our comfort zones. This allows us to create unique, well-lived lives. Life itself becomes a work of art, a product of our innate creativity.
2. The creative process can be boring
We need to let go of the common misconception that creativity is always interesting. The creative process isn’t always fun, and certainly not always easy. Just like everything else, creative pursuits can be quite boring at times.
To counteract this, we need to practice ‘stubborn gladness’ in the creative process. We should be persistent in remaining curious despite the negativity surrounding us. We must make an active effort to create even when we are discouraged by our lack of progress. ‘Stubborn gladness’ is the idea of pushing through no matter how difficult a task may be.
It’s easy to give up when something is difficult, or when we start to find it boring. But this is when we can test our ability to move forward. This experience is part of finding your creative spark. The key is to work through this moment of hardship and through to the other side where creativity becomes transformative.
3. Ideas and hard work go hand-in-hand
The creative process relies on two different things: inspiration and hard work.
Think of ideas as the main ingredients of our pursuits. But where do ideas come from? For Elizabeth, ideas are conscious living things floating around and looking for someone who will turn them into something real. Ideas demand actualization. The challenge for us is to work on them to make that happen.
This is where hard work comes in. It’s not enough to have a head full of ideas. They need to be transformed into something that others can perceive. Consistently working to make our ideas a reality just as important as having a great idea.
4. Being more curious than afraid
More often than not, we are afraid of what we don’t know. This fear can keep us from trying something new. But the challenge of living a creative life is staying curious despite our fears. When we work through our fears, we become bolder in our choices.
Our circles also expand because we start engaging and reaching out to people who are not like us. As a result, we open ourselves not only to them, but to possibilities they offer. Being part of a bigger community exposes us to varied experiences. When we gain insight to how other people live, we’re able to enhance our creativity.
5. Loving yourself is part of the process
Disliking ourselves can slow our creative process. We become our own harshest critics, especially when we think we aren’t achieving our goals. Instead, we need to embrace our flaws and failures. We should focus on what’s going well for us.
We should consider the way we speak to ourselves. Would you ever speak to a friend the way you speak to yourself? If not, then you should consider being gentler and kinder and temper your inner critic.
Living a creative life can be difficult, and it only gets worse when we treat ourselves as failures. When we love ourselves, we are patient with ourselves. We have faith that we will get through a rough patch. Having this faith can even fuel creativity because we trust ourselves to keep trying despite the obstacles we face.
Loving ourselves is crucial to living a creative life. When we love ourselves, we are more open to the ideas that come to us. We learn to trust our own hard work. In that process, we emerge as truer, better versions of ourselves. Even if we never reach the destination, get a final product, or the result might be different from what we intended, the journey would have been enough.
For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.