Friday, 14 March 2014

Author talk: Elizabeth Gilbert

Last week I attended my first author talk*. The author was Elizabeth Gilbert, who is best known for writing the international phenomenon, Eat, Pray, Love. However, this evening wasn't about her previous book. Instead, it was a discussion about her latest creation, The Signature of All Things.

Prior to attending the author talk, I had watched an interview with Gilbert online. She spoke so eloquently about a number of different subjects -  from what it's like to become an international phenomenon after being an underrated writer for many years, to what it's like being a female writer in this day in age - that I was completely charmed by her by the end. Thus at the interview's conclusion, I thought to myself 'I would very much like to meet this Elizabeth Gilbert - she's so intelligent, witty and delightful to listen to.' So when the opportunity came up to be in an audience at one of her events, I had to attend.

While the main topic of conversation for the night was Gilbert's new novel, I've actually decided to focus on another aspect of the evening instead. That is, the wisdom and knowledge Gilbert shared with us incidentally as a result of the questions she was asked in question time. Some of the thoughts she shared came from her own life experiences and the values her family instilled in her, some that friends have shared with her throughout the years, and some were from the research she conducted for her most recent novel. The points I've focused on are ones which resonated with me the most for one reason or another, and Ms. Gilbert, if you happen to come across this post and feel that I've completely butchered your words, I sincerely do apologise.

So without further ado, I'll now share the points that resonated with me the most from the night:
1. Throw yourself into what you want to do confidently and wholeheartedly. Gilbert related this to females in particular, who she thinks can sometimes be detrimentally cautious and hesitant in trying things they haven't before. Without wanting to perpetuate negative stereotypes, Gilbert compared such an approach with that which men take, who can often be unnervingly confident in their own abilities, regardless of their experience in a particular area. More women should confidently throw themselves into new situations.
2. Get out of your own way. It's another way of saying not to be your own worst enemy. The context of this comment was an audience member's question to Gilbert, asking what advice she would give to budding authors who are nervous about publishing their work. Gilbert's response was that she couldn't imagine why someone would work on something so hard only to not have it published due to nerves - if you've created something, share it with the world! Don't allow yourself to be the last obstacle that's stopping your creations from being shared.
3. Done is better than good. An extension of the previous point, Gilbert's philosophy is that if you have something creative in you that you want shared with the world, then finish it and share it. It's ok if it's not exactly how you envisaged it to be - perfection is rarely attainable. But at least once it's done, it's out there for others to enjoy. 
4. An author creates jewellery for other peoples minds. This beautiful analogy resonated with me so much because it articulates how special I think books are. The fact that I also really like jewellry helps.
5. We were given imaginations because a mysterious source wanted a way of communicating with us. This idea is paraphrased from the evolutionary theorist Alfred Russell Wallace. While 99% of evolutionary theory can explain why humans are the way we are, it cannot explain why we were given imaginations and the abilities to be as creative to the extents that we are. Thus, this was Wallace's suggestion. It blew me away.

It was advice and ideas like the ones just mentioned that made this evening such an enjoyable one. I felt stimulated, empowered, and excited about the future of women's writing. It also confirmed how knowledgeable, entertaining and thought-provoking Elizabeth Gilbert is, not to mention how wonderful she is to listen to in person.

My own shiny new signed copy of Gilbert't latest book

If you haven't attended an author talk yet, I would highly recommend it as well. It's such a wonderful opportunity to spend some intimate time with an author; to get a sense of the person behind the jewels your mind has enjoyed. This event was organised through The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. To find out about more upcoming events such as this one, visit their website.

*I have to say that I feel like 'author talk' is quite an awkward expression for an event of this nature. Doesn't it sound awkward to you? However, Google assures me that this is the correct term, and I haven't got any better ideas, so it'll have to do for now. 

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