Last night I went to a Sydney Writers Festival Talk with two of my close friends. It was a Friday night and for awhile, I was simply impressed by our choice of weekend activity. SO Grown -Up.
That was until the usher had to tell me twice I was not allowed to take wine into the recital hall.
“No ma’am. Not even if you have tipped it into a plastic water cup.”
This was only a minor speed-bump. Unlike Friday evenings spent talking to Suits in a bar…last night, we didn’t need to be drunk to stay interested.
We were there listening to a writer who has changed women’s lives around the world. She didn’t start a women’s rights campaign or save an African village or become a minister for change. In her early 30’s she had a nervous breakdown. She left her husband and went to discover the world, humanity and herself. Luckily, she wrote a book about it. Called ‘Eat. Pray. Love’. (Theeeen … Julia Roberts had a crack at being her.)
At first I thought I was there because of something I had done. ‘Eat. Pray. Love’ had a huge impact on my life a few years ago. It was once the flame to my firework. Unfortunately this firework took its time to sprinkle the sky and looked a lot like an explosion for the most part. But never the less … the match that lit it were the words written by the woman in front of me. To my surprise, when my courage catalyst began talking … about life… about writing… about creativity… I realized I wasn’t there because of anything I had ever done.
I was there because of who I am. And what I hope to do one day.
Elizabeth Gilbert is a mind-blowing, heart-punching, hilarious, blonde bundle of truth. She is so on point that sometimes you are nervous she is actually going to stop and point… directly at you. Then say.. “You know who I’m talking to little slacker.”
There were a few things Elizabeth said last night that resonated in my fairy dust veins.
Ideas are like butterflies.
Elizabeth spoke about believing that ideas have a life of their own. An energy. A yearning to come into existence. She spoke about them fluttering around the world like flashes of colour. She said we have to catch them like butterflies and look after them and keep them warm. We have to work hard to bring them to our reality. We have to reach into the other world, where all these stories already live, already breathe, already are… and pull them… through words and patience… to Earth.
I liked that. I don’t want to say I have imaginary friends. Because that’s embarrassing. But I have something close to that for sure. I have stories I go to in my head, when the sea is flat and my emails are done. I go there and watch as the gaps get filled with conversations and movement and moments. I know the people. I know their fears. I know their fate. What I don’t know though… is how to do the ‘work hard’ bit. I don’t bring them to Earth. I keep them to myself. Until they leave me.
This is another belief Elizabeth converted us all to. If you don’t give ideas the proper nourishment… they will leave you… and find someone ready. They are fleeting. So when something inspires you, sit up and listen. That is an idea, fighting hard to be created, to be noticed. When the hairs on the back of your neck go up. When you get goose-bumps. When a dream lingers. That’s an idea saying ‘Hi’. They won’t all be formed and they won’t all end up being yours. What most people get wrong… is the arrogant belief that an idea originates from a single mind. What Elizabeth explained last night, oh so eloquently, is that ideas are from across the universe, from another planet, not bounded by atmosphere or oxygen or facebook. They are timeless. And they are free.
I am searching for Magic. And don’t get me wrong I DO mean the Hogwarts kind.
Once again I have to state an embarrassing fact. That I do believe in magic. I love fairies and mermaids and Narnia and Harry. Unfortunately as I have gotten older, I have learnt to stop looking over my shoulder on snorkeling escapades… hoping to spot a shell adorned, long haired, aqua-tailed new friend. (That old habit took awhile to break. Sometimes I still sneak a peak.) What my age has not shaken though… is the search for enchantment.
Through trial and error I have discovered that a world without the mystical is not a place I like very much. My enchantment comes from things some may call coincidence or curiosity or elongated childhood. Whatever the name, looking at raindrops on the ocean and seeing diamonds dancing… keeps me alive. Going into ancient Fijian caves and being shown where the witchdoctors did their voodoo and the underwater cathedrals where the freshwater gods sleep … keeps me alive. Trusting that my dreams are psychic and waking up with an excited sense of witchery in the morning… keeps me alive. These things do not need to proved by science, as they been proved over time to exist somewhere. In the space between despair and happiness. They may not be biological or physical but they affect chemistry. So they are something.
These things, ‘the unexplained’, these are the things that save me. From myself.
When Elizabeth said she unabashedly believes in magic, it automatically struck a chord on my ukulele heart strings. She spoke about this constant ‘wonder’. She also recognized that following this marvel and exploring the depths of different time-periods and imaginary worlds saved her also. Finding inspiration in the miraculous… pulling the ‘imaginary’ out of the air and into formation, well, those are the flames to her fireworks.
She said, “if I am not making something. I am breaking something.”
That’s when I knew this chick had it wired.
Get out of your own way
Elisabeth described herself as an introvert soul trapped in an extroverts character. An old writer spirit with the personality of an air-hostess. She said if she wasn’t creating something into life, she was creating something in her life. Drama, anxiety, relationship after relationship (I told you there were times I thought she was going to point!). When she wasn’t pouring her heart into her work, she was abusing it with obsessions over an ex, jealousy over another girl, issues and sagas that have no business in the world or her head-space. These thoughts are innately selfish. When they take control of you, they want your attention all to themselves. They are not inclined to share their space with 18th Century Florists, Shipwrecked Circus Families or a Moon-Child named ‘Liana’.
Elizabeth said that once she learnt how to choose her thoughts, to let her own insecurities take a walk, to let other people get on with their own journeys… those magic ideas came knocking down her door again.
She was asked if she could give advice to women everywhere, what would it be. She said.
Get Out Of Your Own Way.
Get on with it. Do the work. If you want to be a writer. Be a writer. That means writing. 9 to 5. Don’t be your own boulder in the road. Life has enough of them. Make your mind as beautiful as your bedroom. Let go of perfection. It exists only in a fairytale state. And just like it’s antithesis… a world without fairy-tales at all… It is also a place that no one would like very much anyway.