MaryKate:

People who know me best know that I am obsessed with reading and always have been. That being said, I recently finished The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (think: the author of Eat, Pray Love, which I have never read, incidentally) and absolutely loved it (don’t worry, this post isn’t a plug for any novel or memoir, so please bear with me). I found something very powerful in Gilbert’s story about Alma Whittaker and her long road to self-discovery, and I’ve been thinking about “it” ever since. What was it about the novel that felt so…important to me? I felt like I wanted to know more about the author in order to answer this question and I just happened to go online to see if Elizabeth Gilbert had a presence on social media. What do you know? She’s very active on Facebook, Goodreads, and her blog, among other platforms. I’m not much of a “fangirl” in general, but I just wanted to see if I could find out more about Gilbert’s ideas and motivations and, luckily, she posted a link to her recent TED talk, “Success, failure, and the drive to keep creating” on her blog.

The message of this talk hit me right away and I knew that I and many people I know could benefit from it, and I see a lot of this message in The Signature of All Things. I have to gush just a little bit: the woman is pretty awesome. Gilbert talks about how she’s been writing for, literally, her entire life and how she worked as a waitress at a diner while she wrote and submitted her work to various magazines. She remembers the piles of rejection letters she received, but then she addresses the success of Eat, Pray, Love–how it was her “big break.” What impressed me most is what she says next: she had to find the courage to write her next book that she knew would be a “failure” no matter what. Because of the immense success of Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert says that fans of the memoir would hate her next book because it would not be Eat, Pray, LoveShe then says that those who hated Eat, Pray, Love would hate her next book because it would “provide evidence” that she was still alive and writing (ha ha). But seriously, she makes a great point: she had to gain the courage to make sure her creativity survived its own success, in her words. I’ve had experiences like this my whole life where I’ve succeeded at school, at work, in my personal life, and then I’m afraid to take another leap because how could I possibly live up to that initial success? I have to remind myself that I have a choice: I can either keep working and reaching towards my goals or I can stop, curl up in a ball, and shut out the world to protect myself from failure. We all know that’s impossible, so really, the only real choice is to keep going.

Elizabeth Gilbert then goes on to say that she overcame the fear of her own success by doing what she loved more than everything, including herself: writing. She tells the audience to find something you love more than yourself and go there, go “home.” For her, writing is “home.” Going there, doing that thing, will bring you down to Earth and keep you grounded. This affected me personally because I used to write creatively all the time, and you know why I stopped? Honestly? Because I’m scared. I’m afraid of judgment and rejection (which is why I write for a blog where anyone and everyone can read it, right?), but I still love to write. This TED talk made me dig out a very old, very beautiful journal from the depths of my garage and shake off the cobwebs (that goes for both myself and the journal).

Failure isn’t the end of the world, and neither is success.

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Check out these links to Elizabeth Gilbert’s website, a review of The Signature of All Things, and a HuffPost interview with Gilbert:
1. http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/
2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/elizabeth-gilbert-signature-of-all-things_n_4221782.html
3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/books/review/elizabeth-gilberts-signature-of-all-things.html

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