Elizabeth Gilbert: The Art of Being Yourself


– Hey everybody, what’s up? It’s Chase. Welcome to another episode
of The Chase Jarvis Live Show here on CreativeLive. You all know this show. This is where I sit down with
the best humans in the world and I do everything I can
to unpack their brains with the goal of helping
you live your dreams whether that’s in career
and hobby or in life. My guest today you will
recognize her immediately when I say the first thing
out of my mouth which is, she wrote “Eat, Pray, Love”
a considerable time ago. Then, she was named one of the Most 100 Influential
People in the World by Time Magazine. We’re here today to talk about creativity, to talk about building and
living on a life that you love, and her new book called “City of Girls.” My guest is the inimitable,
Elizabeth Gilbert. Welcome to the show.
– Hi Chase. (upbeat music) (applause) – [Offcamera Audience
Member] They love you. – Hi. – That was a very dramatic introduction. – Ta-da! – It was like, (makes jazzy intro sounds) Let’s put on a show! Thank you for having me in. – Thank you so much,
congrats on your new book. – Thank you. – A novel. – A novel, yeah. Yeah, that’s my roots. – I know it, no. – Yeah, it’s funny ’cause
I think it’s very cute when people come up to me and they say, “I loved your first book so much.” And I’m like, “I don’t think you loved my “tiny, obscure collection
of literary short stories “that I published in 1995. (laughs) “I think you’re thinking
– You’re really thinking, like my third book.
– “about ‘Eat, Pray, Love.'” You’re thinking of (mumbles). But I did get my start in fiction and this is my fourth work of fiction. I love it, it’s so fun for me. It’s my home. – Did you feel like you went back to it or was it just always, and is it fair to say your
wrote a non-fiction book about creativity last time for just… Was that the deviation
and your roots and line? – I guess it’s just
like project to project. I don’t know, I just follow
the magnet in the sky that tells me what the
next thing to do is. And I don’t overthink it too
much about what the genre is. What is the story that I wanna tell? What is the best form in which to tell it? And this is a novel
about promiscuous girls, which is a story I’ve wanted
to tell for a long time. It’s set in New York City in the 1940’s in the theater world. But, it’s really a book about girls behaving really
recklessly with their sexuality and not being ruined by it, which is not an easy book to find in the annals of Western history. Because normally,
– Yeah. – the sensual girls are ruined.
– Did you write this as an antidote to all?
– I did. – Okay, interesting.
– Yeah. It’s like a palate cleanser
from “Anne Karenina.” (laughs) It’s like, “Guess what?” ‘Cause I feel like all those books are… I love all those books, “Anna Karenina” and all the Henry James books and Emma Bovary and Hedda Gabler. And there’s this whole history of books about ruined women, ending in disgrace because they dared to have sensual desire. And I’m like, “So unfair.” It’s like, one orgasm and then you’re under the wheels
of the train, you know? So I wanted to write a book celebrating how you can do very stupid and reckless sensual things and
actually survive yourself and turn into a really interesting, seasoned older woman, which is what this book’s about. – Can we make logical
extensions from that? Or is it just about sexuality? What’s your point here? Is it just the sexuality part? – It’s… How do you become yourself? That’s also what the book is about. – [Chase] Yeah.
– You know, it’s about a young girl moving to New York in 1940, when she’s 19. – [Chase] After failing out of college? – After dropping out of college. I moved to New York in 1986 when I was 19, not to drop out of college. But, I know the feeling of being young, hungry, yearning, craving. And wanting to know, where are my people? Where is my tribe and where am I gonna go to become this thing that I wanna be, and I don’t even know what it is yet? But I’m drawn, somehow, to this metropolis or that metropolis or this
answer or that answer. So, it’s a coming-of-age book as well. – There’s a line in there and I might get one or two words wrong, but it was remarkable to me. “You can only move to New York “as a young woman once.” – Yeah. You just get to move to New York for the first time in your life once in your life. (laughs) And, it’s a big deal.
– [Chase] Yeah. It’s a big, big deal. – So, what parts of the book are memoir-driven?
– [Elizabeth] Yeah. – And, is it just weaving
in and out of your life? Or, is it specifically fiction? – It’s fiction because it’s a novel but if you want to know who I am, read it. That’s what I would say
about all of my novels. Because there’s an adage and
I think it’s wise and true, that if you wanna write an honest memoir, write a novel. And the reason is, you’re not protecting yourself from anything. So you get to actually tell, if not the actual letter
of the lost story, the feeling. This book was about
what it felt like for me to be in my twenties. It doesn’t matter that it’s in the 1940’s and they’re both showgirls in the New York City theater world. It’s, I know what that
feels like to be that girl. And that’s something that I wanted to revisit and recreate. – Why that as the backdrop? Was that because it was a time where all of these things were more taboo? Or, why did you choose? And the theaters and the
theater world, Vivian. Actually, I probably
shouldn’t say too much about the book ’cause
you should go read it. But, she moves to New York and she gets rubbed up in the theater world because of her Aunt Peg. Is it theater and creativity because that connotes a specific something that you wanted about the character? Give me your thoughts. – You know, you’re on it. You got it. I mean, first of all, it’s
New York City in the 1940’s. And that to me, just feels like the most impossibly glamorous moment of my city’s history. I love the New York that I moved to, but there’s always a shadow of a New York that used to be there that I’ve always been fascinated with. So, New York during the war is a really moment for me, it’s also a really interesting moment for women in New York. Particularly, because they were working. The men were all gone. And so, all these social
mores that had existed that were were really limiting to women, were gone. When the men left, so did the mores. So there used to be rules like, a respectable girl cannot
walk down the street after a certain time of evening, if she’s not on the arm
of a respectable man. Well, there weren’t any then. So all of a sudden, these women were free. And they had jobs
working in the naval yard and they were earning good money. And there was just this moment of freedom and opening,
it closed after that. The ’50s came, the men came back. And the women
– [Chase] McCarthyism, yeah. – were sent back home, to wear big dresses and pearls and wait for their husbands to come home. But, there was this period during the war. And there’s a line in the
book where Vivian says, “One thing that I learned
with my girlfriends, “was that when women are
together with no men around, “a woman doesn’t have to be
this thing or that thing. “She can just be.” And I feel like New York
in the ’40s was a time when there were a lot of women who could just be. And that’s an aspirational
thing for me, too. What would it be like to be a woman who could just be? – Just be. – Just be. Not have to be a thing, just be. – And does that come out of, going back to the comment earlier about this being an antidote, is implicit in that… That in this book, you can just be. Is that also antidotal to the world that we’re in today? Where, we have to be, you know, you can list
a long list of things of what we’re supposed to be. And we’re supposed to
dress like and look like and wear and talk and walk? – How many free people do you know? Like, truly free? – [Chase] Very few. – Yeah, me neither. – And how many relaxed people do you know? – Also, very few. – How many relaxed women have you ever met in your entire life? – Handful. – Yeah. (laughs) Right? That’s what I’m into. What would it be? And this is the question that I’m living into my own life as well. I think the most revolutionary thing that a woman could be,
in this world or any, is relaxed. So, my book is largely
about a woman becoming that. I think, if you’re gonna meet one, ever, she’s likely to be older. Considerably older, where
it just gets to point where they’re like,
“Oh, fuck it.” (laughs) – (laughs) – “I just can’t anymore. “You know, like I used to, eh, I can’t.” You know, there’s a certain
age that a woman will get to. And I feel like I’m on the brink of it, but I’m not quite there yet. But my greatest aspiration,
aside from being… My really greatest aspiration, which is to be love in
every room that I’m in. My other aspiration is to be the most relaxed person
in every room that I’m in. – [Chase] Wow.
– And to actually show women what it might look
like to be at ease. (laughs) – Is that a response to an earlier and different time in your life? – Well, I’ve been a
really high-vibrationally anxious person my whole life. But I also see that everyone is. And this is also a moment
in history where I think anxiety is nearly universal. – It’s just peak.
– Peak. Everywhere in the world,
everywhere in the world. I mean, it’s a product of westernization. And it’s a product of, like
when I first went to Bali 15, 20 years ago, it wasn’t like that. I’m there now, Balinese
people are stressed now. I was like, “We have exported this. “It’s a fucking virus.” Stress is this virus that has somehow colonized the world and
it’s killing everybody. And there’s really, really good empirical reason for it. I mean, we are in the
approaching Armageddon. Welcome to the catastrophe of a dying planet.
– Yeah, my God. – And the dumpster fire that is politics. All of that is true. And if you walk around in this world as every in a woman’s body,
that’s all heightened. ‘Cause you’re always sort
of in a sense of danger. And yet, there’s some stubborn
part of me that’s like, “Yeah, but what if I just didn’t “drink your anxiety lemonade? “And what if I found my own
way to be in my own skin, “where I was okay always, no matter what? “Wouldn’t that be somethin’?” (laughs) – [Elizabeth] Wouldn’t that actually really be somethin’? – How’s that going? – It’s going better than
it’s ever gone in my life. – We’re meeting today for the first time. You greeted me with a huge hug, we’ve been friends for a long time. Is that part of the universe that you’re trying to lean into? – I mean, that’s kinda just
– Is that just natural? – what I’m…
– Me, too. – I’m like, basically
golden retriever. (laughs) – (laughs) I’ve been described as
that, so we’re the same. And we share the same birthday. We just figured that out.
– I know, we’re super
– Yes, it’s right. – That’s right.
– sensitive Cancerians. We just wish everyone would be in a pile together on the floor. So, that’s my nature.
– [Chase] (laughs) – Why is everyone not hugging all the time?
– [Chase] That’s right. – But, that’s my nature. But to feel comfortable and relaxed, it takes a lot of really radical, it’s an interesting pathway. It takes foundational,
unbelievable honesty. You have to kind of be telling
the truth all the time. Which is weird, because you
think that wouldn’t be relaxing. But what it does in the end, is it gives you a lot more time and space to not be doing the hustle. That’s a line I’m guided by, is that grace can take you places where hustling can’t. And at the center of grace, is just this integrity
of great truth-telling. This isn’t working for me, this thing, this situation, say no. But saying it just like, “It’s okay.” It’s like, “Yeah, you can
ask, but no.” (laughs) I spend most of my day saying no. That’s a large part of me, learning how to be relaxed. Just say, “Nope.” – When you’re talking truth, is that truth to yourself? Is that truth to other,
presumably it’s both, but to what degree did
this start to take shape? Is it what you realized, that you were a better self when you
started talking truth to yourself first? And then manifest itself outwardly? Or was it, you had to start being really honest with people about
external commitments and that gave you the
space and the freedom to get internal? – Well, you should definitely try to have a completely honest relationship with at least one person in your life. And probably best if
it’s yourself. (laughs) It’s a good place to start. I can’t speak anybody else’s truth. I was guided by this, really schooled in this,
intimately for years in my relationship with my partner Rayya, who died a year and a half ago. Before we were together as a couple, we were best friends and she had been a heroin addict and a speedball junkie on the Lower East Side, in Rikers Island and years living on the streets and prisons. She’d just had this really
horrific, brutal early life. And she ended up,
astonishingly, getting clean and staying clean for 19 years. And her path to that was,
of course, truth-telling, which is the cure for addiction. Not cure, but treatment. And she embodied it in
this really remarkable way. And she had an adage. And she was the person in the world I was always most relaxed around because she only every told the truth. She always knew where you were. We never had to guess. And everyone in the room was safe, ’cause Rayya was always telling the truth. Whatever bullshit else was going on, there was one center of very dense gravitational truth-telling
always happening. But the line that she lived by, and she passed it to me. And now, I live by it because I can’t not, is she used to say, “The truth has legs. “It’s the only thing that’s gonna be left “standing in the room
at the end of the day.” Everything else will blow up, everything else will disintegrate, everything else will dissolve into drama. The truth is where you’re going to end up, inevitably. So since it’s where we’re going to end up, why don’t we just start with it? – And then save time?
– And save the drama. Let’s just
– Now I get the time comment. Yeah.
– start with it. I’ve repeated that with
people so many times where I’m like, “Well, why
don’t we just begin with it?” Create a judgment-free
zone, start with it. And it saves your life, because it saves so much pain and agony and drama. If there’s pain to be
had, let’s just do it now. And that’s been transformative to me, and actually has made me
be a more relaxed person. I think when I was
younger, I used to think, “I can’t tell the truth
because the world isn’t safe. “It’s not a safe place for the truth “or for my truth.” And now, I’ve realized, you make the world a safe place for you
by telling truth in it. That’s how your world becomes safe, is through your own honesty. – When did you start that process? – Around the time I turned 30. Because, the first major
truth that I had to tell, the first truth that I
didn’t tell for a long time and didn’t know how to tell and thought that birds would drop dead out of the sky and rivers would run
backwards if I said it, was that I didn’t want
to be married anymore and I didn’t want to have a baby. And I had got married very young at 24 and had promised my
then-husband that when I was 30, I would settle down and
stop being a traveler and have a baby and buy a house. And instead, I lost my mind. (laughs) – [Chase] And 30 came and that wasn’t… – I lost my mind because I couldn’t, what ended up happening and what will end up happening when
you don’t tell the truth, is that your body will break down. My physical body actually broke. My mental health broke down and my physical health broke down. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t
eat, I lost 20 pounds. This is what not-truth does to you. I mean, you get to a
place where it’s like, “Die, or tell the truth.” And I finally did. And instead of making me
die, it brought me to life. And he survived it. And if I had fuckin’ said
it two years earlier, it would have been a much
greater gift to him as well. I cost him two years of his life while I couldn’t say those words. So, that was my biggest lesson in, you’re not doing anybody any favors by holding this in. If there’s something that
you know about yourself that if, an intimate
person in your life knew, they would change their whole life, they should know. You’re not doing them any favors by not telling them that. The sooner you tell them that, the sooner that they have
agency over their life again to figure out what
they need to do now. And that’s been a game-changer. – That’s a power pellet that I just got from you right there. (laughs) – [Elizabeth] (laughs) – I’m just like, “Uh-oh.” (laughs) – It’s intense.
– [Chase] Wow. – I think a lot of times,
we lie and dissemble and manipulate, especially
Cancerians like us because we’re people-pleasers. But when I actually
discovered what the real, what you should actually
call a people-pleaser, is a people-manipulator. And that’s what a people-pleaser does, is they manipulate people
for their own safety. – Ah-ha. – They’re not pleasing other people. They’re keeping themselves
perceived as safe. And you’re not doing the
other person any favors by doing that, they should
know who they’re talking to. And they should know
what’s actually going on. – What role does this play in creativity? “Big Magic,” your previous book, was a lot about fear. Opens talking about
how you were afraid of, I think you basically say you’re afraid of everything.
– [Elizabeth] Everything. – As a young person.
– Yeah, afraid of everything.
– And you had parents, was it your mom that eventually, I think you say, kicked you
in the butt or something? – She never indulged my fear
for a single minute. (laughs) – (laughs) – She was like, “How did I get this kid?” This terrified bundle of
nerves is what I was born into. Truth-telling and creativity, that’s an interesting question. I haven’t thought about that. I think I was always a creative person. It was often an escape for me. It was a place to go and run to and hide. I liked my imagined worlds
better than the real one. – In school, in playtime?
– In school, at home, I grew up on a farm. There was a lot of work to be done. I grew up with really
pragmatic, responsible people. There was a lot of intense
responsibility put on me from an early age. And so, escaping into a dream world was way preferable to
being here in this place. In this very cold farmhouse
with a lot of chores and a lot of jobs and a lot of expectation that you should be able to do everything already. So for me, I think my early
creativity was escape. But I think, as you’re saying, I’m just kind of spit balling as you’re
saying this, but I think, people ask me all the time why “Eat, Pray, Love” was so successful. And I always say, “I don’t know.” But it could be that
it’s the story of a woman learning how to tell the truth. It’s a story like that, is what happens in the first pages of “Eat, Pray, Love.” That, here’s this woman
sobbing on the bathroom floor for the 90th consecutive night
in the middle of the night, unable to say the words, “I don’t want to be married anymore.” Who, finally says those words. And that is the beginning
of my actual adult life. So I think maybe that
creative truth-telling can be liberating for a lot of people, not just for the person doing it. – And does it, for you,
did the truth-telling unlock a new world of possibilities, a new world of creativity? What do you feel like it unlocked? – It unlocked two years of
highly medicated depression. (laughs) – So you got that to look forward to, all this truth-telling, folks.
– The way is hard! The way is hard. Joseph Campbell says, “You have to give up “the life that you planned, “to have the one that’s waiting for you.” But when you give up the
life you have planned, and you don’t know what’s waiting for you, – That’s scary. – There’s an interim where there’s no ground under your feet. And, I also love that the great, great spiritual writer, Stephen
Mitchell, and translator, who’s translate the
Bhagavad Gita beautifully, and the Tao Te Ching and who’s
a Zen practitioner himself. And he says, “The way, the great way “involves this. “First, the rug gets
pulled out from under you. “And then the floor gets pulled out “from under the rug. “And then the ground gets pulled out “from under the floor. “And now, you’re getting somewhere.” “Now, you’re getting somewhere. “You’re getting somewhere
to the recognition “that there is no ground.” There is no ground. And that is the beginning, but it’s awful to feel that when you
thought you had security. And you thought you had something fixed and then there’s like
(makes surprised sound). You’re like a Warner Brothers cartoon character running over a cliff. And all a sudden… – (makes hurried, stepping sounds) – There’s that thing that happens!
– Yeah, Wiley Coyote? – Yeah, and your friend
and mine, Bernay and I have talked about how we live in a culture that bandies around this
very easy kind of ideas. “Jump in the net, we’ll catch you!” But, all of us know that we’ve jumped and broken 10 bones, you know?
– [Chase] Bounced, yeah. – Yeah.
– Hard. – Or, not even bounced.
– Or splatted, yeah. – Left an imprint in the cement, you know? And we all know that there are… I’m not sure we come to this
world because it’s safe, I’m not sure that it’s meant
to be particularly safe. So, I think we do a disservice when we try to inspire people by saying, “Yeah, just do it, man! “Just go for it!” As if there’s no
consequences, and no cost, and no difficulty in that. And so, I’m always really careful to say “Yeah,”
– [Chase] Jump in, it’s gonna suck. – “Jump,” and it sucked
for two years, you know? And then, I slowly,
slowly, excruciatingly, with a lot of help, found my way. And that’s how it works. – What’s the relationship between… I was struck by something you just said and it made me think of vulnerability. Because there’s the floor
there you’re gonna hit. Is truth-telling a path to vulnerability, which is a path to something else? Or, what’s the relationship between… Because, do you have to be vulnerable to tell the truth? – Yeah! I mean, especially if
you’re telling a truth that you are afraid is
going to hurt another person and you’re an empath. I mean, that’s the most devastating. Those are the most devastating truths I’ve ever had to tell. And I am an empath, so I’m sitting with you in the pain I just brought to you because of the truth
that I have to tell you. That is the Seventh Circle of Hell for me. – [Chase] (laughs) – And the only reason that I do it, is because life, in all of its grace, has been kind enough to teach
me through brutal lesson, that all the other ways
are worse. (laughs) This is the Seventh Circle of Hell, but all the other things that aren’t this are the Eight Circle of Hell. It’s the domain of oblivion in which no one is safe. And so, there’s a tremendous
faith that has to come in believing that the real is the right way, even if it doesn’t look
like it in this moment. And to stop arguing with reality, and to figure out how are we gonna now live in accordance with reality, you know? This is the reality. So now, what are we gonna do? Rather than, let’s pretend
this isn’t the reality. (laughs) Let me take whatever drugs I have to take to pretend that this isn’t the reality. You go do whatever you have to do to hide, to pretend that this isn’t the reality. And then, let’s just see where that leads. One thing I’ve discovered about myself is that’s a grace,
(sirens in background) and it’s horrible as it’s happening, my being, my actual being,
will not allow me to stay in a situation where I’m
out of my integrity anymore. I will break down,
(sirens blare louder) mentally, emotionally,
physically, and spiritually. And I will be back on that bathroom floor. (sirens fade)
And eventually, I’ll be beaten down to the point where
I have to start telling… And I’m like, “Fuck, do I have “to tell the truth again?” (laughs) – And now, you’re just like, “I’m short circling that, “I’m not gonna…”
– I thought I did this already, I mean, that’s the thing. You think you did it once and you’re done. But life, again, in all her grace, is like, “Now, I’m gonna give you “another chance.”
– Here’s a gift. – Here’s a gift. Now’s another chance for
you to be really brave and to know that the only way out, is through honesty, do it again. Do it again, do it again. And it’s getting easier, honestly. Because I trust it now, I trust it. – You mentioned, stepping into some of this truth-telling, at the age of 30, what role did Rayya play in… Is this another, you did
a couple of the cycles that we just described between 30 and 46? And, your experience with the partner that you loved dying from cancer? Do you feel like you finally learned the truth?
– You know what it is, is that… So, she’s the most important
person of my history. She was the great love of my life and also my great teacher
and my great friend. And the reason that I gravitated to her, and it took years for that to develop.
– These are friends for a long time?
– We were friends for a long time, we were
acquaintances for a long time. And then we became
friends, and then we became dear friends, and then
we became best friends, and then, for about four
or five years there, I didn’t even know what to call her. I just called her my person. Even though I was married, and very loyal and
faithful in my marriage, this was my person. My person, to me, meant, who do I call? Who’s my first phone
call in every emergency? Who’s my first phone
call when I need advice? Who’s my first phone call
when I wanna celebrate? Who knows everything about me? Who is the one person
in the world who I feel completely safe around? And, it was Rayya. And the panic, the existential
panic and terror and horror that I experienced at her diagnosis, knowing that that person… I mean, I can still feel in my body what it felt like for all those years, when Rayya would walk into a room. And my whole body would relax because I would be like, “Rayya’s here, it’s all gonna be okay. “She’s got it.” ‘Cause she was so tough and strong, also. And so loving. In every room that she ever walked into, the strongest person in the room. And so I just wanted to be around her so I could feel that safety. And what I realized, I got this panic the
first year of her illness. I had this urgent, craving
panic where I was like, “I have to download you. “I have to download you
because I don’t know “how to do life without you. “And, I need to learn quickly.” I thought I had time to
learn how to be like her, but I was like, “I gotta
get it all in me now!” Because no one else can…
– [Chase] That’s right. – Yeah!
– Help. – I basically became
an addict of wanting to shoot, smoke, inhale, eat, imbibe her. And what ended up happening, is that as she got sicker, and as her own terror and fear grew, and she couldn’t take care
of me anymore of that way, I had to become her to take care of her. And what I’ve realized, my beloved friend, Martha Beck, said after Rayya died, “What I’ve seen happen to
you two over the years, “is now, she’s braided into you. “And you have an essential
DNA strand of Rayya now.” And that is the download. But it didn’t come the way I thought it was gonna come. It didn’t come from her
teaching it to me, empirically. It came from me having to step up. That’s what I said at her
memorial service, too. ‘Cause she that role in
a lot of people’s lives. There were probably 10
people who would have said she was the most important
person in their life that they couldn’t live without. – [Chase] Wow. – And I said, “Well,
what’s now asked of us “is that we have to “step up and we all have to be that, now.” And I find that I can truly say that I am. – Yes. You’re, what’s looked from the outside, as just this amazing,
courageous, stepping into the sharing-of-the-process was so powerful from where I was sitting. Do you feel like that was
part of your assignment? Was that like this process
that you were talking about, weaving this strand of DNA through, for her last weeks and months? I don’t know. Is that part of your assignment? – Yeah. (laughs)
– [Chase] (laughs) I think it’s always been
part of my assignment. Okay, maybe I think
assignment is grandiose because I’m not sure. I don’t know how the universe works. I’m not sure I know what my assignment is. But I will say this. I will say that the distance in time and space between the moment when
I learned something that helps and saves me, and how much time I can allow before I desperately
wanna put it out there in case somebody that day needs it, that’s a very short time span for me. And I feel that I have to. And I don’t feel that I have to necessarily out of responsibility to them. Because again, I don’t
know if it’s useful. I just know that, it starts
to hurt me to not share it. It actually feels like pain. I remember my guru in India used to say, “Any talent that you
have that you do not use “becomes pain.” But I also think any wisdom
and insight that you have that you do not share, becomes pain. Why in the world would I not share it? I know so intimately
what it’s like to suffer. I know so intimately,
deeply in my bones and skin, what it’s like to not
know what to fucking do. If I’ve been given one
little glimmer of light, why in the world would I be like, “You want this?” (laughs) – I got somethin’ for ya, take it! – I’ve been so helped
by people who have been generous enough to learn in public. You know, I think learning in public is such a generous thing for people to do. Because, we look to it and we’re like, “Bernay learns in public, “Glennon learns in public, “Cheryl Strayed learned in public.” My friend, Rob Bell, Martha Beck, they’re all brave enough
to learn in front of us so that we can maybe get something. – There’s a strong creative thread in a lot of the people
that you just talked about. And I’m still trying to connect, maybe poorly, but to connect creativity to that. Is that a mechanism for teaching? Is your ability to write,
your ability to write not just a novel or a non-fiction book, but a Instagram post, is
that your public teaching? Is art your vehicle for teaching? Or, what role does
creativity play in that? – Yeah, I mean, I guess it is. I didn’t plan it to be. – [Chase] No problem,
you can take that away. – (laughs)
– [Chase] (laughs) – No, I didn’t plan it to be. I did it because I wanted to do it. And I still do it ’cause I wanna do it. And I still feel, I still truly do not
feel the slightest bit of responsibility to my
readers or my followers at all. And that’s why I’m so relaxed with them and why I love them. If I felt responsible to them, I think it would be really heavy on me and, weirdly, on them. But I feel like, I don’t feel responsibility to you guys. I love you. I love you. But, I don’t feel the
slightest bit of responsibility to you so that means I get to do whatever I want, creatively. And that you, my readers, get to decide whether you wanna come with me. Which is why 12 million
people came with me for “Eat, Pray, Love.” – [Chase] That’s bonkers.
– But when I wrote my novel, “The Signature
of All Things” about a 19th century botanical
virgin who studies moss, a couple hundred thousand
people came with me on that. But, it’s elective, you know what I mean? They don’t have to. And I don’t have to write,
“Eat, Pray, Love,” again. You know, everyone’s free. – [Chase] That was part of your TED Talk, right?
– Everyone’s free, yeah. – When you really realize
that the most popular piece of work that you’ve
written may be behind you. But, stepping into whatever’s next for you has to be authentically you, right? – It’s gotta be.
– You can’t chase that. – I can’t do that again. I don’t know how I did it the first time. But the teaching came kind
of after “Eat, Pray, Love,” where I felt like people… I think, if you’re called to be a teacher, you’ll know because people
will keep asking you stuff. That’s what happened! (laughs)
– That’s the most simple definition of a teacher, right? – People will gravitate and be like, “Hey, what do you think about this?” And at first, I was really I was like, “No, I’m just
a dumb girl went through, “I can’t!” (makes silly, unsure noises) But I feel like, after a certain time, if people keep asking you something, it’s really disingenuous
to keep being like, “I don’t know.” (makes
silly, unsure noises) Did you like that sound? – (laughs) Yeah, that was a good one! – [Elizabeth] I think it’s
– You captioned that, right? We gotta check.
– more respectful to actually take a swing at the question, you know? And say, “I’ll take a swing at it.” And if people ask me questions that are just beyond my pay grade,
– [Chase] (laughs) – I’ll send them elsewhere. If people ask me about, how to work in the corporate world. I’ll be like, “Go talk to Bernay, “I’ve never had a job.” (laughs) I was a bartender, I have no idea. If they ask me about
parenting, I’m like… “Glennon’s right over here.” So, I feel like we all
shuffle ourselves around to each other as well. Like, “This is probably a
better question for you.” – I wanna go back to that fear part that you opened “Big Magic” with. The connection between creativity and fear for you. Do you feel like that’s common? Why did you write “Big Magic?” – I wrote “Big Magic,” actually, because people kept asking me
questions about creativity. Especially, after I gave that TED Talk. And that is the one book that I could say that I honestly wrote, precisely as a self-help book. Because it’s the one
subject where I feel like, “I actually know about this.” I’m completely comfortable talking to you and giving you advice about creativity. I’ve been doing this my whole life. And I have a relationship with it that’s a lot less tormented than most of the relationships that I see people having with creativity. So, let me be an expert
here, you know? (laughs) Let me put on an expert
hat and actually say, “Yeah, I’m a middle-aged woman. “I’ve been doin’ this a long time. “Let me tell you some
stuff that I’ve learned.” But the fear piece is, I think, intensely sensitive people
tend to experience fear and everything at a heightened level. I experience everything,
I’ve experienced love, and passion and lust
and sorrow and despair. I drop something on my
foot and I experience it at a high level. It’s all an opera around me. (laughs) So the fear is just part of that. But, my saving grace in the whole world and in myself, is that
afraid as I am, and I am. I’m 1% more curious than I am afraid. Thank God when they doled
out all these traits to me, they gave me a dose of
curiosity that was just… All it has to be, is this
much bigger than fear. It doesn’t have to be a lot bigger, it just has to be enough bigger that it’s worth it to take the risk. ‘Cause you’re more interested
than you are scared. And that’s why, I think, that my working definition of creative living, not creativity in general,
not meaning you have to do watercolors or take a macrame class. If you wanna live what I
think of as a creative life, my definition of a
creative life, is any life where your decisions are routinely based more strongly on your
curiosity than your fear every single day, in all your realms of your life. And then, your life itself
will become a work of art. And, it doesn’t matter
what you make or produce or weave or influence, it’s just that you will create a life that
will be really interesting for you. Which is,
– Beautiful. – the person who you want to keep the most entertained.
– Yeah, right. That’s beautiful, beautiful.
– I would imagine. – You said that you were very comfortable giving advice on creativity?
– [Elizabeth] Yeah. – So, knowing who’s on
the other side of these… We’re in their ears right now, they’re watching this
video or listening to us. Without retracing all
the steps of “Big Magic,” ’cause that’s a 260-page book or whatever, what is the advice that
you have for people? ‘Cause there’s a lot of folks out there who are stuck or blocked. Or, they go from zero to one trying to figure it out from the beginning. Or, they identify as
creator and then they’re trying to go from one to 10. – Mercy, I think is the fundamental word that is coming to me as a
short answer to that question. If you want to have a healthy
engagement with creativity, if you want to have a healthy
engagement with yourself, if you wanna have a healthy
engagement with others, mercy has to be at the foundation. Mercy for self, mercy for others, mercy for the inevitable disappointment that you’re gonna feel
when you make something, and it’s not what you wanted it to be. My beloved friend, Ann
Patchett, the novelist, has this great way of describing this. She says her favorite part
of the creative process is when she’s in the dreaming state of it. And she gets to be alone
with the idea for the novel. And it follows her for years, and she’s thinking about it. And it’s growing in her head. And it’s with her when
she’s washing dishes. It’s with her when she’s
going through the car wash. It’s with her when she’s
at somebody’s wedding. She’s just constantly
got this lovely dream. And in her imagination, the
thing that she’s going to make, she describes it as a
tourmaline butterfly. Like a butterfly made out of gems, that it catches the light so beautifully, it’s so exquisite, it’s so perfect. This is gonna be the one, right? This is gonna be the
one, that when I make it, I’m gonna actually achieve that platonic ideal of the thing. And it’s gonna be so beautiful. And then, she says, the worst
part of the creative process, is day one of making it.
– [Chase] (laughs) – ‘Cause what you have to do is – So true.
– pluck the tourmaline butterfly out of the sky, put it on the desk, take a mallet, and smash it into a thousand
pieces and let it go, because it can never exist. And then you make the approximation of your
tourmaline butterfly, which is made out of used chewing gum and baseball cards and twigs and a tin can and a hinge. And you’re like, “Here’s
my butterfly I made!” It’s like – (laughs)
– (makes funny, silly noises) And you’re like, “I made
it by myself, look!” “I did it, I did it!” And I think the merciful artist, the merciful creator, the merciful human, is the one who can say, “You know, “no one’s ever made one
like that before.” (laughs) – Good job, self! – And maybe there’s a reason. But, the boring thing would be if we all made tourmaline butterflies. The interesting thing is, truly, no one’s ever made
one like that before. And the mercy and the
empathy towards yourself is what gets you… I always say, on day one,
everyone starts day one really excited about their project. Everyone on day two, looks
at what they made on day one and hates themself. The only people who get to day three are the people who have mercy. So beyond anything else. And that is going to be the same whether you are a master or a beginner. Everyone’s day three is that’s where the rubber meets the road. You’re gonna keep going and
keep disappointing yourself, or you’re gonna stop. And my suggestion is that you
keep disappointing yourself and be very, very gracious
toward yourself about it. (laughs) – Is that an aspect of bravery or is that curiosity or is it vulnerability?
– It’s compassion. – Self-compassion?
– It’s compassion. It’s compassion, yeah. I mean, it’s really the foundation of compassion which says, the imperfect is the perfect, you know? – [Chase] Say more of that. – Well, in a way it’s like
the end of the argument. It’s the end of the argument
against reality, you know? The reality is, you probably can’t make the thing in the way that you dream it. The end of the argument
against the pain of that is, “So what?” Make it anyway. I’m gonna hatch my weird
little steam-punk butterfly. (laughter) – That’s pretty good. Tin can, hinges, bubble gum,
baseball cars and duct tape. Did you have duct tape in there, maybe? – I don’t know why I
didn’t, but yours should! I think that putting yourself
in alignment with reality, rather than in a constant war against it, is actually what compassion is. And that’s also how you find compassion for the other,
for the people in your life. Instead of me needing you to constantly be an entirely different
human being than you are, I can put myself in
compassionate alignment with the reality of what you are. I can put myself in
compassionate alignment with the reality of what I am. I wanna be 10 different
things than what I am today. But, this is what we’re workin’ with. (laughs) You know? This is what we got! This is what we got. Flap, flap. Piece falls off. (makes silly sounds) This is what we got, you know? – How do you do what you do right now? You’re just like, truth zingers. Is it just repetition? Of the first time it’s hard, the second time it’s 10% less hard? The third time, it’s… Or 1% less hard? – I don’t know if anybody realizes what percentage of my life I spend taking care of my mental health. That’s my full-time job. And writing is a hobby
that I do on the side, every once in a while, I write a book. The rest of my life, an enormous percentage of my day is spent managing this neighborhood, warring neighborhood. (laughs) This dysfunctional family that I carry inside of my mind. And everything that I’ve learned that has any taste of wisdom and grace, is from the front lines of this, you know? And I mean it, today. That’s what I was doing
on the plane today, was managing my mental health today.
– [Chase] Wow, wow. – There are practices
that I do every single day in order to keep myself happy and loved and connected. And I do them. I have to save my life every single day. – [Chase] Wow.
– I have very few days off from
trying to save my life. – I have to ask.
– This is very immediate, what I’m talking about.
– Yes. I’m not talking about what you have to do. I’m talking about what I do. – On the way here, yeah. – Yeah. (laughs) – I have to ask, what are the things? And I understand that you’re
– No, I don’t mind talking about it.
– talking about a whole life. – Because, look, if it helps? – Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of people who will take your guidance.
– The most important relationship that I have in my life is a dialog that I launched 20 years ago between me and Love, capital L, Love. That I have continued
nearly everyday of my life, over the last 20 years. And it came in the
deepest depression where, I was in that deep, God-sized hole, of just wanting somebody to comfort me. Wanting somebody to save me. Wanting somebody to make me feel safe and make me feel like it was okay. And I have beautiful people in my life but no one, and I know this for a fact, because I have looked for it. No one can handle that in me. (laughs) Nobody. Because sometimes, people have to sleep. They have to get a sandwich and they have to go to work. And I’m like, “Wait! (laughs) “Where are you going?” Nobody. You have no idea how needy I am. And I do. And this was a period of
my life where I was alone. And so, what I did was, sit down in the middle of the night in my slough of despair, and take out a notebook. And this was this great
leap of imagination. What are the words that I’ve always wanted to hear somebody say? Can I say it to myself? And, I started writing those words to me. I am right here. I have got you. I will always have you. You are precious unto me. I don’t care if you stay depressed for the
entire rest of your life. I still love you. I don’t care if you never fix this. I don’t care if you never get better. I don’t care if never create another, I don’t care if you live
in a box under a bridge. I am yours, you are mine. I have got you. You are my boo. I was with you when you were born, I will be with you until after you die. I will never leave you. You are mine, belonging imprint. Belonging love. Love, ownership, forever. You can’t tire me out. You can’t tire me out, we can do this all night. You will get tired before I do. I love you so much. This is what I’ve always wanted to hear another human being say. And, it’s a little much to ask. (laughs) – Yeah, I’m like… – And so, I’ve learned to bring it. And when I figured out what that voice is, it’s love. It’s universal human love. And that is the most important relationship in my entire life. And I write a letter to myself from that every single day of my life. – Is that the number one vehicle, is writing yourself that Love letter, capital L, love? – Yeah. And lots of times, it’s
dialogue, you know? And the dialogue will go like, me be like, hysterical, I don’t know what to do. It’s all falling apart. I’ve failed again. I’ve lost again. I’m unlovable, I’m
untenable, I’m unmanageable. I’m back at zero. Help, help, help, help, help. And Love’s like, always
says exactly the same thing. Always begins with, “I’m right here. “I’m right here, I’m right here. “I’m right here, I’m with you. “I’m not going anywhere, I’ve got you.” And then, I will say, “What should I do?” And Love will say, “I don’t know, “that’s not my department. “I just love you.” And then, I will say, “Tell
me how this is going to end.” And Love will say, “I have no
access to that information, “but I will be with you
through it, whatever it is.” And then, I say, “If you
can’t tell me what to do, “and you can’t tell me
how this is gonna end, “what the fuck use are you?” And Love says, “I am company
for you in your darkest hours “and I always will be. “And that is my use,
that’s what I’m here for.” And then, I can begin to breathe. – [Chase] Wow.
– Begin to breathe. And I don’t know whether
that thing, that voice, is God talking to me, Rayya talking through me, angels on my shoulder, my heightened imagination that creates and it’s own trauma, the thing it needs. I don’t care, it works.
– Yeah, it works. You’re like, “It doesn’t matter, “I’ll take it.”
– It works. And I’ve learned that by
being able to hold myself that way, I can also be, not with anyone, but I can be in the
room with almost anyone at this point. ‘Cause I can just be like, “I don’t care “if you ever sort this out. “You’re a wreck, but I’m right here.” And they’re like, “What do I do?” I’m like, “I don’t know but
I’ll be with you. (laughs) “I’ll just be love in the room with you.” And if they’re like “It doesn’t help,”
– [Chase] So powerful. – I’m like, “Well, okay but I’m here. “I’ll just sit here.” The thing that I’ve learned about Love, capital L, Love, about
that, over the years, is that Love, real Love, doesn’t need anything in the room to
be different than it is. It doesn’t need anything
to be different than it is. It never says, “Here’s
what you have to go do now. “Here’s how you have to change. “Here’s how you have to grow.” Doesn’t need it, doesn’t need it. – Way, way more powerful. – Yeah, it’s like, “You
just keep doin’ this “and I’m just right here, I got you.” And that is how I have survived my life. – Is the manifestation always writing or are there any other tools that you use? – Writing is the thing, you know. I think it’s the most direct for me. It slows the mind down. Most of us, all of us,
have minds that move at just the speed of
light, literally, or more. No, I guess nothing’s faster than that. Thoughts move really,
really, really, really fast. So, writing slows it. So, I can bring my panic
to the page and say, “I have this very
deliberate question, help.” And then, Love will say,
“I got you, I’m right here. “It’s okay, it’s gonna be all right. “It’s gonna be all right even if it’s not. “Even if it’s not, it’s
gonna be all right.” – So you mentioned being on a plane, were you writing to yourself on a plane? – [Elizabeth] Yeah!
– Yeah? I mean, I’m not kidding when I say I do this every day. – No, I like these foundational practices. It’s a really common thread in greatness and creativity and
there’s a self-care that, I think it’s a complete myth. This sort of horrified
artists who’s trying to dive into that in a unhealthy way. That healthy way of trying to manage it that you’re talking about. It’s gonna create the work.
– I have no interest in being a tormented artist
or a tormented person. I often am one. But when I am, I will do anything I can to help myself get out
of it as fast as I can. Or, to reach to somebody who can help me. I will relentlessly… This is one of the things that Love says to me all the time,
is, “I will make sure “you get whatever you need. “Whatever care you need, we
will make sure you get it. “We will make sure you get it, “starting tomorrow.” (laughs) – I read a thing that you scrapped an entire novel. – (laughs)
– Is that true? – Well, it wasn’t a
novel, it was a memoir. But, I did, yeah. Yeah. But a lot of people have that.
– Was it lacking authenticity? Why would you do that? – It was the book that came
after “Eat, Pray, Love.” And it was just tortured because
it was so self-conscious. Because I was like, “I’m the author “of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ now.”
(makes uncomfortable sound) I just had no natural voice in it. And it was just strangled. Every sentence felt really strangled. And it wasn’t an easy thing. I wept and wept when I
realized that I was so off. And I also realized,
this is not worth even trying to save. And it was a very painful truth-telling moment
to my publishers to say, “Guess what I have for you? “Nothing.
– [Chase] Nothing. – “And you can’t see what I’ve done. “And I can’t tell you when
I’m gonna have something. “And I don’t know what, if ever.” And then, I spent the next year gardening. Without a plan. And just like faith, I’m just
gonna do something else, now. I’m just gonna plant things. I don’t know. And it wasn’t like, “I’m gonna do this “and then I’ll have a great idea.” It was like, “I’m just
gonna do this.” (laughs) Like, “This is fun. “Water, plant, watch it grow. “This is very funamental. “It’s a lot easier than writing a book.” – [Chase] Wow.
– Literally grounding. Getting your hands in the dirt, you know? And then, by the end of
that season of the garden, inspiration started to
come back and I found it. I didn’t know I would. – You have to believe it.
– Yeah, yeah. – How do you know the work to do when you don’t know what work to do? – Something else. (laughs) – [Chase] Yeah, just like, anything else? If it’s over there, you run the other way.
– Something else. And I would suggest doing
something with your hands. – [Chase] Yeah, I have that sense of building, too.
– We’re in our heads so much. And most of us, at this moment of history, we’re so disconnected from our bodies and from the world. And we really do think of our bodies as a broomstick that we carry a jar with our brain in it around on, you know? And so, I would say
anything that you can do to embody work. Whether it’s exercise or to make something. – [Chase] Physicality. – I love that story, there’s this author, Clive James, this British author. And I tell this story in “Big Magic.” He had an enormous failure where he literally bankrupted his family to produce a play, that ill-advisedly was a play that mocked every single literary person in London living at that time,
who were all his friends. So, he lost all his money
and he lost all his friends. And, it was terrible. – And he didn’t see this coming? – No,
– (laughs) – ’cause he was like that cool guy who, everything he touched turned to gold. And he thought it’d be really funny. – [Chase] (makes defeated sound) – And, it was actually just rancid. And he fell into a severe
depression for months, and couldn’t even get off the couch. And then one day, his little daughter came in and said, “Daddy,
I want a bicycle.” And they went and bought
a bicycle for her, but he didn’t have any money. So, he had to buy this junky bicycle. She was embarrassed to ride it around. And so, he said he’d fix it up for her. So, he fixed it up and he ended up getting all the rust off it and painting it midnight blue. And then he got this other
little, tiny paintbrush and he painted thousands
of tiny stars on it like it was Merlin’s cloak. And she rode off on it and the next day, another little girl in the neighborhood came up and said, “Can
you paint my bicycle “the same that you did
with your daughter’s?” Then, there was a line of kids asking him to paint their bicycles. And he did that for weeks. And then he was like, “You know what? “I figured out what I’m
supposed to do with my life. “I’m supposed to paint
bicycles with my life.” And, he just relaxed. And then the next day, he
had an idea for a novel. (laughs) So the answer is, go paint bicycles. Just do something else, walk away. Walk away from the
thing that’s not working and do something mindless and satisfying. – Can I confess something to you? – Yeah! – When we leave here, I’m also, I’m stuck, creatively, right now. I’m working on a couple
of things and stuck. I’m gonna go power wash my friend’s driveway.
– Hot! (laughs) – It’s the best!
– (claps hands) – It’s literally, it’s a medicine.
– Oh my god, that sounds great! – And you see progress.
– Yes! – And it’s hypnotic progress.
– [Elizabeth] Yeah. – It’s so embarrassing for me.
– I would suggest going around the neighborhood, and power washing everybody’s
driveways for a while. Why stop with your friend? Just do that for the summer. I guarantee you, something
great will come out of it. – (laughs) – Be that guy! – Oh, my God.
– Just be that guy. – That’s so embarrassing to confess, but it’s so true.
– It’ll drop you out of the drama and into the present. And that’s when the ideas start to kick in.
– I borrowed the pressure washer from my dad. I had to go get special gas before our conversation,
– [Elizabeth] (laughs) – so that I could go do this. – I’m so jealous. I’ve called friends at
times and been like, “Can I come and clean our your closets “or organize your kitchen? “I’m having trouble writing.” So, yeah, something else. Perfect, you got it. It’s all gonna be all right. – Awesome. Thank you very, very much
– You’re welcome. – for sitting down with us. Congrats on the new book. It’s so inspirational to read. It’s so timely. It’s such a powerful piece of work. – [Elizabeth] Thank you. – Thank you very much.
– Thanks for having me on the show! – I’m looking forward, I
haven’t finished the book. I wanted to sit with you first. – [Elizabeth] Okay, I’m glad
I didn’t spoil it for you. – Yeah, I was worried,
I didn’t wanna go there. So, for those folks at home, go check out “City Girls”. Thank you so much for
being a guest on this show. Really, really appreciate it. – You’re welcome, I loved it. – Awesome.
– All right. – See you again, probably,
hopefully, tomorrow. (dramatic techno music)

10 comments

  • Toma Andreea

    Do it again, do it again, do it again until we became honesty.

    Reply
  • realradiant1 R

    Elizabeth, thank you for your incredible bravery, your incredible honesty, and your ability to share what you’ve learned from the experiences you’ve gone through in such an intelligent, Articulate and realistic way. You are so incredibly inspiring. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Reply
  • Mark Cunningham

    This is such an inspiring and insightful interview with Elizabeth 🙂 I'm taking these words into all my future relationships "if there's paint to be had, let's just do it now…" WOW, this is truly empowering. Thanks for this awesome interview Chase.

    Reply
  • A Mishel

    What’s the snarl at the end of the intro all about?

    Reply
  • Zaira O

    Wow what a great interview! Interviewer is remarkable!

    Reply
  • Monica Kade

    Absolutely loved this conversation (especially being a fellow Cancerian).

    Reply
  • Jenny Sansouci

    one of the most impactful Liz G interviews I’ve ever heard. I just love this woman. thank you!

    Reply
  • Jen T.

    Unfortunately in our world as our ecosystems breakdown so does the lost of large numbers of indigenous people who would be the mots relaxed peoples on the planet.
    Also many poor people in undeveloped countries who have access to food , clean water and shelter they are also very relaxed.
    They are not concerned or worried about the rat race. They understand that they have the most important things and money should not have to buy those things. This is why so many wealthy people are unhappy. Money cant't buy happiness or love.

    Reply
  • Tenzin Yangchen

    THAT WAS A WONDERFUL INTERVIEW. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HOSTING IT. THANK YOU !

    Reply
  • Westcoast Wanderess

    She is literally glowing! Beam of light.

    Reply

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