don’t be the tadpole: wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert

Friday night with Elizabeth Gilbert was delightful!  i had doubts, imagining she’d be smug and haughty.  but she was comforting and fun.  i’m so grateful i saw her live. 

here’s a rundown of highlights from her talk, Q&A, and what i’ve read so far in Big Magic.  

my lecture notes

my lecture notes

on our problems (real and imagined):

“the crazy starts almost before i open my eyes,” Gilbert said, then pointed to her head, “it’s a dangerous neighborhood to walk around in at night.”

once the laughter subsided, she explained.  her challenge, and ours, is sorting out a peaceable kingdom in the mind.  transforming the chaos into a healthy family, one that includes all conflicting ideas.

she suggested viewing our problems not as “demons” but “orphans.”  they’re lost, lonely, scared, and confused.  talk to them with love and they’ll eventually calm down.  ignore them and they'll act out.

another gem: consider life a mission stewardship of your self, your soul.  

fundamentally, you are your own creative project.

on our fear:

my friend was running late, but miraculously i was early, so i started reading my signed copy of Big Magic before the event began.  almost immediately, i found one of her first great points: “fear is boring.” 

anyone can be scared.  it isn’t skillful.  it’s unoriginal, typical, and forgettable.  she notes that even a tadpole knows fear, becoming startled of your shadow when you move close. 

don’t be the tadpole!

clearly, fear needs to be recognized and handled.  but there are two dilemmas.  one is how cleverly fear hides.  if we’re honest, we know that beneath the dopey but comprehensive disguises it’s always fear holding us back. 

it wears masks of this convoluted nightmare is my process, not self-sabotage,” “i'm not creative,” “where do i even start?”  by believing fear we collude with it, and become accomplices in our own failure.      

that's almost as bad as behaving like a tadpole.

but you can’t just expunge fear.  because fear is creativity’s companion, its “conjoined twin,” said Gilbert.  if you kill one you hamper the other.  instead, unmask fear and politely call it out.  Gilbert likens fear to the third, and thus undesirable, member of a road trip.  she and creativity are passengers one and two but fear is tolerated and allowed a voice.  otherwise it will go rogue and deceptive.  so you just hear it out then ignore its recommendations.       

on singing:

little-known fact: over the past year, Gilbert has gotten into karaoke.  in a big way.  she’s such a fan of group singing, she led us in John Denver’s “Country Roads” to close the evening.

and she point out—this is the first period of human history where we don’t sing together.  

religious groups do, of course, but that’s a sliver of the population these days. 

think about it, when’s the last time you sang with others? 

probably the last time you did karaoke, or went to summer camp, a concert, wedding or club.  do not split hairs with me.  those experiences are the exception for most of us, not the rule.   

a well-known benefit of singing collectively is how it pulls you outside yourself, showing you how you fit in the world through coordinating with and paying attention to others.  it also releases oxytocin, the attachment chemical linked to social bonding

is karaoke the new church?  maybe.  try it when you have a chance, or make it a weekly event with friends, as Gilbert does.  it’s an intriguing concept and an excellent lead in to tomorrow’s post, about finding your power song. 

see you then.