I didn't actually read it. Elizabeth Gilbert herself read it to me. I've recently started listening to audiobooks for my daily 25-minute walks to and from work, and I've enjoyed a couple of bestselling novels over the past few months, like The Martian and The Girl on the Train . But I kind of resisted Big Magic for some reason.
"It's only 5 hours and 6 minutes long," I told myself. "Less than half the length of the other books I've listened to so far. I can get more bang for my buck elsewhere."
"It sounds hokey," I added, "I'm not sure it's for me."
That sort of thing.
It was a series of circumstances that led to my eventually downloading it. I went to YouTube's homepage sometime last week, as I do pretty much every day. One of my 'recommended videos' that day was a Ted Talk by Terri Trespicio, a branding specialist, called "Stop Searching for your Passion."
I loved what she said. As someone who has repeatedly dreaded the question, "What are you passionate about?" I felt a pinch in my chest, right around my heart. I, too, LOVE not knowing where I'm going to be in 5 years. And I, too, don't want to wait around any more for passion to show up--I want to be useful and generous and spend my time and attention solving my favorite problems. I don't WANT to follow my passion--I want IT to follow ME.
It resonated so much with me. So much so that I Googled her, went to her website, tracked down her email address, and sent her a note:
This might sound strange, but I just want to say Thank You TO you. I have been thinking recently about some changes I want to make for 2016 (professional growth, be braver in relationships, publish my first novel, etc.) At the heart of it, every fear or hesitation around every big change I've ever been afraid to make has stemmed from the but-I-don't-know-HOWness that I have become so intimately familiar with by now.
Your TED talk was a suggested video for me on YouTube today, and I'm so glad I watched it. I'm sure it took a lot of work and drive (and, dare I say, passion!) to get you not only to a point where you could deliver on that topic, but also to a place where you could share that positive message with others. And by thanking you, perhaps that can act as a first step for positive change for me.
And so, thank you, for putting out hope. Thank you for putting out inspiration and encouragement.
I wish you a wonderful 2016 full of happy surprises. Happy (slightly early) New Year!
All the best,
I've never sent an email like that before, but I think sometimes it's just nice to say thank you for the things that move me. It reminds me to notice smaller things.
What I wasn't expecting was that she would write back a couple days later:
"What a sweet note! And no, it's not strange :) With so many views over the past few weeks, of course i've heard from some nice folks who wanted to say thanks, and I appreciate you being one of them! IT didn't take as much courage to do that talk since I LOVE doing it and was itching to get my counter opinion out there--but I have plenty of projects that I stall on too (including my own book) because of fear. So you're not alone!
Read Liz Gilbert's Big Magic--seriously. Do it now."
Her mentioning that book -- which I'd been resisting for weeks, in spite of it popping up here and there in my life -- was like a smack in the face from the Universe. Ok, I get it. I hit "Buy."
I'm not a book reviewer. Others will do it better than I ever could, pointing out things I would never have noticed, praising sections I've already forgotten. I can't dissect Big Magic's meaning or compare it to great works of literature. All I can say is how it made me feel: understood. Supported. Perhaps a little bit braver, and more curious about my own creativity. I like not knowing where I'll be five years from now, but I especially love knowing: no matter what, it won't be HERE. There's too much out there to play with and explore and make.
Elizabeth Gilbert will never read my blog (I mean, my readership predictably hovers in the single digits, let's be honest! And that's ok!)
So maybe I should write her a thank you note.