What if giving voice to your creative spirit unlocked not just your potential, but also brought beauty and meaning to the world?
What if overcoming the fear within you allowed your unique gifts to shine through?
What if saying yes to your curiosity opened up possibilities beyond your wildest dreams?
These are some of the invitations and provocations explored by my guest today, Elizabeth Gilbert. Liz found global acclaim with her memoir Eat Pray Love, which resonated with millions seeking their own journey of self-discovery. Since then, she’s illuminated the path to fearless creativity and fulfillment, shared her journey through profound elevation, loss, grief and revelation in books, talks and conversations.
I had a chance to sit down with Liz and, as often happens with these Good Life conversations, we ended up going all sorts of places I’d never planned. We touched on the power of curiosity and the fallacy of passion, where creativity comes from, what stops us from doing the thing we’re here to do, the importance of caring for your vessel, what happens when you think you’ve reached the end of your capacity and her powerful lens on what it means to live a good life.
This is a deeply moving, revealing, insightful and sometimes pretty funny conversation. In fact, we begin with a reveal of a relationship that Liz had kept secret for more than four decades. Listen in as we explore the exhilaration that comes when you dare to unleash your creative potential.
If you’ve ever wondered how to step into a creative life, how to get that thing in your head and heart out into the world, this is an absolute “do not miss” Best Of conversation. It may just give you the courage to bring your gifts fully into the world.
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photo credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Liz Gilbert (00:00:00) – The fork in the road is always going to be the thing that makes you curious and the thing that makes you scared. And a creative life is a life where you routinely choose the path of curiosity over the path of fear. Not like twice or three times or four times, but daily. Rarely. Systematically, systematically. It becomes your habit and your practice to say, I don’t even know why I’m interested in this, but I’m interested in this and I’m going to look into it.
Jonathan Fields (00:00:26) – So what if giving voice to your creative spirit, that impulse inside of you unlocked not just your potential, but also brought beauty and meaning and connection to your world and the world? And what if overcoming the fear within you of sharing what’s inside and just yearning to get out allowed your gifts to finally shine through? And what if saying yes to your curiosity opened up possibilities beyond anything you imagined? Well, these are some of the invitations and provocations explored by my guest today, Elizabeth Gilbert. So Liz found global acclaim with her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, which resonated with millions seeking their own journey of self discovery.
Jonathan Fields (00:01:11) – And since then, she has eliminated the path to fearless creativity and fulfillment, shared her journey through profound elevation loss, grief and revelation in books, talks and conversations. And I had a chance to sit down with Liz. And as often happens with these good life conversations, we ended up going all sorts of places I never planned. We touched on the power of curiosity and the fallacy of passion, where creativity comes from, what stops us from doing the thing we’re here to do. The importance of caring for your vessel. What happens when you think you’ve reached the end of your capacity and her powerful lens on what it means to live a good life? This is a deeply moving, revealing, insightful and sometimes pretty funny conversation. In fact, we begin with a pretty funny reveal of a relationship that Liz had kept secret for more than four decades. So listen in as we explore the exhilaration that comes when you dare to unleash your creative potential. If you have ever wondered how to step into a creative life, how do you get that thing in your head and heart out into the world? This is a don’t miss best of conversation.
Jonathan Fields (00:02:18) – It may give you the courage to bring your gifts fully into the world. So excited to share this best of conversation with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project. There’s something that I need to bring up right away. Okay. It’s a relationship I recently became aware of that you’ve had apparently for more than four decades that you’ve kept hidden. And I’m talking, of course, about one. I was.
Liz Gilbert (00:02:46) – Six. Oh, Stinky Brownie, Mick Bear. This is a big secret.
Jonathan Fields (00:02:55) – This was like a huge breaking story.
Liz Gilbert (00:02:57) – Oh, my God. This just in. Gilbert still has her teddy bear, for which, my gosh, You.
Jonathan Fields (00:03:04) – Know, it’s so funny, though. It’s like you posted that picture of it and all these other people are like, Oh, my God, I have a teddy bear from when I was like 4 or 5. Also, it was like the floodgates open. It was awesome.
Liz Gilbert (00:03:14) – Oh, he’s a very important spiritual guide. Embedded within his home.
Jonathan Fields (00:03:22) – Is the wisdom of the ages.
Liz Gilbert (00:03:24) – Oh, the hugging capacity of that particular teddy bear. He’s very he’s. He’s designed he’s really it’s not great looking because he has a hunch. He’s got this weird hunchback. So he really is not like a striking figure, but he fits. You can spoon on him and he fits just right against the human torso. It’s all about fit in. It is all about fit, you know?
Jonathan Fields (00:03:46) – That’s what he’s kind of like a life lesson in there. And so some stinky crinkled up like like delicious old way. But, you know, it’s kind of funny, though, is that it’s almost like something like that. And for those who haven’t seen the picture, just go check out Liz’s Instagram. She posted like this teddy bear from her youth, from.
Liz Gilbert (00:04:05) – My youth and my middle.
Jonathan Fields (00:04:06) – Age. And your middle.
Liz Gilbert (00:04:07) – Aged is he’s still teddy bear.
Jonathan Fields (00:04:08) – Right? We won’t reveal the fact that he’s actually in your bag right now.
Liz Gilbert (00:04:13) – If he was a little more travel size, he would be.
Jonathan Fields (00:04:16) – You almost feel like, you know, the more that something like that has been around, the more it takes on the energy of like all the different parts of your life. And it’s almost like a radiates on. It’s like we did we do retreats every once in a while in Costa Rica, a couple of years back, and we went to this place. They said there’s we have two rooms where you can spend the next five days, you know, like one is gorgeous and it’s new and it’s like a picture window looking out. Stunning thing. The other one is nice. It’s about 15 years old there. But there have been people like practicing yoga and spiritual practice in that room for the last 15 years. So I went into one. I’m like, Oh, stunning view. Yeah, they went to the other. It’s just like you can feel it in your bones. There’s like an energy that just seeps into it. Yeah, I’m thinking Stinky probably has some of that.
Liz Gilbert (00:05:03) – He does. You know, that reminds me of the difference of the sensory feeling between creative work that is original and creative work that is authentic.
Liz Gilbert (00:05:12) – And the difference is that when I see creative work that’s original and it’s really well made, I admire it the way that you admired that view and that beautiful room, and you just of course, you admire it. It’s very well done. You know, you just stand there and you think it’s really well, it’s cool how you did that. I admire. I admire your work. But when you encounter creative work, that’s really emotionally authentic. It’s it moves you. And I don’t want to just be walking around admiring stuff. I want to feel my humanity. I want to feel my own life reflected in your life. I want to feel moved and touched and stirred. And the work might not be as good, but it’s as polished as professional. But it’ll probably like change me in a way that looking at something that’s just very accurately done will not. Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:06:07) – That makes sense. Feel that. Also, I think everybody feels that it’s like the reason why, you know, somebody can walk into a museum and walk through the halls and kind of walk out saying somebody else can walk in and just like melt into tears.
Jonathan Fields (00:06:19) – Yeah, there’s something about certain or you can or.
Liz Gilbert (00:06:23) – Food that, you know, you go get like, what is that? What is that macro, What is that new kind of food made that’s like science, food or things come in beakers and it’s like.
Jonathan Fields (00:06:33) – Something molecular molecular.
Liz Gilbert (00:06:36) – Gastronomy, right? Which is cool. I’ve been to some restaurants that serve that and it’s a very cool and interesting experience. It is a very different experience to go to my friend Margaret’s Italian mother’s house and be served food that makes you want to cry in your plate, you know, And and that’s not there’s nothing original about it. Yeah, it’s gnocchi, but it’s not. Except it’s not, you know, just in that sense, it’s like it’s imbibed with humanity.
Jonathan Fields (00:07:03) – But you’ve seen the movie, Chef, I have to imagine. Oh, my gosh, you it twice. And it’s like that, right? It’s like you can.
Liz Gilbert (00:07:09) – Grilled cheese and chef, I still dream about that. Grilled cheese.
Jonathan Fields (00:07:12) – You can almost smell it talking to you right now.
Jonathan Fields (00:07:15) – It’s like, all right, interview is over. We’re going to get grilled cheese right now.
Liz Gilbert (00:07:19) – Grilled cheese all around.
Jonathan Fields (00:07:21) – It’s so interesting that you bring that up because it’s it’s so true. I think there’s such a there is. I think we have the tools to try and pursue Polish now. Yeah. So readily available to so many people. And sometimes we equate that with the end goal rather than just how do I let people feel my heart through what I put into the world and in some way feel in their own hearts through that too?
Liz Gilbert (00:07:48) – Yeah, I had a conversation just the other day with a guy who said, Yeah, I got two ideas. He’s a successful writer already, a successful public figure. He said, I have two ideas for two different projects and he’s just sitting on the couch. We were talking about it and he’s like, you know, one of them. And he laid it out and he said, You know, my agent, my publisher think this would be really marketable because it’s kind of like a cool way to brand this idea.
Liz Gilbert (00:08:12) – And it and it was as he told it to me, I thought I could totally see that working. You know, people would like that. That’ll sell. That’s good. And then he said, But you know what I really want to do? And his whole face changed and his eyes changed and his voice changed. And he leaned in and he just all of a sudden was ignited and started telling me about this thing he wants to do. That doesn’t even make any sense because who would ever buy it and it doesn’t want to sell. And I was like, Dude, if you could see the difference in what your face looked like five minutes ago and what it looks like now, you would have no question about what it is that you should be doing for the next two years of your life. I mean, you can do the thing that is proven to be a brand that will successfully sell such and such a number of units, or you can do the thing that reminds you that you’re more than just a producer and a consumer, that you are a constituent of creation and you were part of an unfolding universe and something is unfolding in you while you’re making this thing that makes you so jazzed that your hair just stood up while you were talking to me.
Liz Gilbert (00:09:13) – I want you to do that one and I also want to read that one. That’s the book I want to read the thing that did that to your face. I want to walk me through that. I want a bit of that. Let’s rub a little that on me. So that’s it.
Jonathan Fields (00:09:28) – She can do it or not?
Liz Gilbert (00:09:29) – I think he is. I think he is. He was like, Yeah, you’re right. That’s probably the thing. But.
Jonathan Fields (00:09:35) – But can we take this a sort of like a level deeper though? Because, like, if. If somebody feels it that viscerally when they’re just talking about this thing, then why do so many and so many of us do? Why do so many of us then kind of say no? What is it in your mind?
Liz Gilbert (00:09:53) – You talk yourself out of it and you, I have to say. The reason you talk yourself out of it is because you get rational and. And rationally, what you’re doing doesn’t make any sense. And there’s no argument that can ever hold up against that.
Liz Gilbert (00:10:12) – Because you’re right, whatever the rational part of you is that says this doesn’t make any sense to do, this is absolutely.
Jonathan Fields (00:10:19) – So the moment you start making the pro con list, it’s almost like you lose.
Liz Gilbert (00:10:22) – It’s absolutely you’re absolutely right. Which is why you need to have a mystical or spiritual dimension underneath your creativity to combat the rational thought. Because the second that I mean, I always say this because I was marvel at this, any act of pure creativity is the most irrational thing you can possibly do with your time. So you’re going to have an existential crisis because it doesn’t make any sense. Essentially what you’re doing. Like here, let me break it down for you what this guy is about to do. If he says yes to the thing that ignited him, he’s about to take the single most precious thing he possesses, which is his time. We’re mortal. We have a very short amount of time here. And how you spend that time matters and what you give it to has enormous consequence in your life.
Liz Gilbert (00:11:07) – We’re deeply aware of the ticking clock. So he’s going to take the one thing that can never be replaced, which is his hours and days and months of his short, mortal life. And he’s going to devote an enormous amount of energy and resources and power and trouble to creating something that nobody wants or needs that nobody has asked him to do. It is a fundamentally, really weird thing to do. So why would you in the world do that? And I guess it’s because when the moment that you do leave the party comes, you’re not going to be lying in your bed saying, Man, it was so short, my visit here on Earth, and why didn’t I do the thing that ignited me to life? Because that was actually the only thing. And the rest of it and all those rational ideas of stuff that was more important. I don’t even remember what that stuff is now. Why did I do that thing? Why did I do that thing I was called to do? I never want to be in that position.
Liz Gilbert (00:12:06) – I want to be in the position where I can say, I did all that stuff. I said yes again and again and again to the irrational. Plan rather than the rational one.
Jonathan Fields (00:12:19) – I so agree with that. But it’s it’s like if you step into that place and it’s interesting as you’re talking, I’m like, what do people respond to when you see somebody doing that? You know, and my sense is also that. What we respond to when we see somebody going after it on that level is that it’s so rare that when we see somebody who’s lit up, who’s like literally become a beacon, we almost don’t care what it is they’re doing right. We just want to participate in it. So it’s like if it’s a book about, you know, like hermetic gnome sculptors from lint, we want to know about it just because they’re so lit up by that. Like maybe we can get that lit up too. And I think they’re so little of that life.
Liz Gilbert (00:13:06) – It’s such an interesting point. And I was having a conversation with my friend Rob Bell today about the greatest, greatest, greatest guy about this the other day.
Liz Gilbert (00:13:15) – And he was saying one of the things he thinks stops people from indulging because that’s the word they seem to feel in their pure creativity for no reason whatsoever, is that they feel like it’s selfish and that they are sort of taking something away from the world by devoting that time to this thing. But he made this great point that I had never seen before, and now I wish I could put it in a codex at the end of Big Magic, because it is the big magic, he said. And the few opportunities in your life where you’ve ever had the chance to meet a creative person who inspired you. You know, like, what was the first thing you said to them? Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. The first thing when I met Tom Waits, the first thing I said to him was, I don’t even know how to thank you for your work. And meanwhile, I’m buying it with my money. I’m subsidizing his life. Right? So he, like, really, he should be thanking me, right? Because I’m the consumer who’s making it possible for him to live off his music.
Liz Gilbert (00:14:15) – But we all know that it’s me who has to be thanking him because of watching somebody do something so great made my life better. And so if you can permit yourself to do the work that you’re being called to do, it’s ultimately a gift in a in a really weird way. I mean, I’ve never every great I mean, I met Hilary Mantel the other day who wrote Wolf Hall, my favorite book. You know, I’m on my knees practically thanking her for that work. Why? What did she do for me? She doesn’t even know me. But by watching somebody live at their highest, most creative, most magnificent potential, my world was a better world. So use that as a justification to do the thing that you’re called to do. It’s an act of community service.
Jonathan Fields (00:14:59) – Yeah. It resonates so strongly with me. You speak about this in Big Magic? I think one of the things that stops so many of us and so many levels is some form of fear or the fear of judgment and fear of failure like we’re mired in.
Jonathan Fields (00:15:17) – But what if you know, what if I do this like rather than what if I do this? And it’s okay and it succeeds. And actually I’m okay. And I do the thing. Yeah. We just. We immediately spin into what if it fails? What if I suck? What if it sucks? What if people don’t want it?
Liz Gilbert (00:15:37) – Call it the worry tank. Yeah, it’s like a think tank, but it’s just a committee in your head full of. Full of voices that just say everything that can go wrong. Like, let’s have a meeting in the worry. Take one of this happens.
Jonathan Fields (00:15:48) – So worry tanks, stat, all hands.
Liz Gilbert (00:15:50) – On deck. Let’s call them the best warriors we have. Like, we.
Jonathan Fields (00:15:54) – Don’t have enough. We’re calling from the outside.
Liz Gilbert (00:15:56) – You know, bringing the warring Marines like this is, you know, we really need this. Yeah, it’s always fear. It’s always fear that stops people from doing it. And I think the biggest for me, like the best lessons I’ve ever had about fear.
Liz Gilbert (00:16:09) – And I think what I regard is the biggest misconceptions going on out there about fear is that fear is something to be conquered. And I really have come to hate the language that grows up around the conquering of fear, like the the sort of like extreme outdoor sports language that’s sort of like kick fear in the ass, punch it in the face, you know, wake up and tell your fear who’s boss. Yeah, it’s really aggressive and it’s really macho. And I don’t know about you, but my experience in life is anything that I fight fights me back harder whenever I come swinging at anything.
Jonathan Fields (00:16:40) – I mean, it’s like basic physics. It’s just a reaction.
Liz Gilbert (00:16:43) – It’s like I’m under threat. Let me show you how terrifying it can be now, right? That’s when my fear doubles down is when I try to attack it. And so I’ve realized that the point for me is not to. So I said to me the day, Tell us how you conquered your fear. I was like, It’s adorable that you think I’ve conquered my fear.
Liz Gilbert (00:16:58) – I’m terrified all the time, but I walk next to my fear, hand in hand with it. I’ve befriended it, and the first way that I befriended it was by recognizing what a magnificent force it is and how much I owe to it. I mean, all of us who are alive at this moment where adults were alive because at some point in our life, fear saved your life. There was some point in your life when fear said the river current is way too strong. Today, we’re not going kayaking, you know, get out of that boat. Don’t get in the car with that guy. You know what? Maybe this like, whatever. There’s the thing that just says don’t do that thing. It’s not safe. Don’t walk down that street. Maybe it’s not a good time to go to Egypt on vacation in the middle of the revolution. Maybe like whatever the thing was that stopped you from doing something where you were genuinely in danger. So whenever I feel my fear arise instead of hating on it and being afraid of it, the very first thing I say to it is, May I take this moment to thank you for everything that you have ever done for me and my ancestors? I’m also here because my ancestors were afraid and their fear saved them enough that they survived long enough to propagate so that I got to be here.
Liz Gilbert (00:18:06) – So thank you for my life. I owe you literally my life. It’s the first thing I say to fear whenever I feel it. And then I say, But in this moment I need to let you know. Because I know you don’t have a lot of subtlety, Grandfather fear. I don’t really need your services right now because all I’m trying to do is write a poem like no one’s going to die. So thank you so much for. I know you’re just trying to be my really super over vigilant bodyguard, but it’s. It’s okay. I’m just. I’m just trying to create a thing. You can come along with me. Me and creativity are doing this thing together. I know you’re always around. It’s okay. But I’m going to do it anyway because I need to do it. And somehow that voice, just that voice makes fear be like it drops the gun. It’s like, Oh, there’s nothing here that I have to kill. I’m like, There’s nothing here. You have to kill.
Liz Gilbert (00:18:55) – You know, It’s just a really hyper vigilant bodyguard. It’s a Secret Service man, thinks every shadow is here to kill me. So I just talked to it all day. Literally, while I’m writing. I’m literally talking out loud to my fear. Thanks again. Yeah, I know you’re worried, but it’s going to be okay. It’s just a novel. It’s not literally a battlefield, you know?
Jonathan Fields (00:19:16) – No blood will be shed.
Liz Gilbert (00:19:17) – We’re all going to be all right. We’re all going to be all right.
Jonathan Fields (00:19:21) – And the other thing is that. The and you said I think you said it differently. But my experience is fear has energy. You know, so and I so agree. I think you know that I’ve seen so all over the place like the same thing conquer fear and also fearless which I don’t I don’t I so strongly disagree. Like, I don’t want to be fearless because to me, fear is a signal. Yeah. It’s an energy and a signal and it’s a signal that I’m invested that there’s some there’s some heightened level.
Liz Gilbert (00:19:49) – Skin in the.
Jonathan Fields (00:19:49) – Game. Yeah. Like there’s something happening here. And, and then, you know, part of what my job to do is figure out like, is this the fear that’s telling me to run like hell? Or is this the fear that’s telling me that this matters fiercely and I need to to walk into it? And then if I decide to walk into it, like, how can I take the energy of fear, Right? And actually, like use it as more gas in my tank to create what I want to create rather than just walk away from it? So to me, it’s like to to conquer it or to kill fear or to like, it’s like you’re, you’re leaving behind you know, like a unit of potential energy to fuel you to do this thing that you’re being called to do. Like what if you actually thought about it differently and figured out, how can I harness this right? Rather than let it pummel me? Like, how can I take this and somehow become an alchemist of fear, Right? And like, use it to move me through this thing.
Liz Gilbert (00:20:43) – But oh, and that’s building, I think, what you do with that energy when you put it in the pistons and turn it into something to harness, is that you’re, you’re using it to create courage muscles, you know, and that it really is a muscle, you know, it really is a muscle that can be trained. And I feel like every brave thing I’ve ever done, like courage is contagious. And every brave thing I’ve ever done made me go do another brave thing. And then after that, another brave thing. And it wasn’t like it’s not daredevil stuff, you know, I don’t need to like, I don’t need to go bungee cord jumping in Guatemala to know that I’m alive. I just need to I need.
Jonathan Fields (00:21:25) – To walk down a street in New York City.
Liz Gilbert (00:21:26) – Exactly. I just need I just need to wake up and have immediately my mental illness start in my brain and be like, all right, how are we going to cope with the shit show of my.
Jonathan Fields (00:21:34) – Like, Oh, yeah, I’m alive.
Liz Gilbert (00:21:35) – I’m alive. Believe me, I’m aware. You know, like, how am I going to deal with this crazy person whose body I live in today? Like, that’s that’s really the fundamental question every single day. And what’s the bravest? And mostly for me, what’s the most interesting way to do this? Like, is there a more interesting way to do this? Well, let’s do it the more interesting way, whatever that may be. Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:21:59) – What’s behind the what’s what’s the most interesting way to do it?
Liz Gilbert (00:22:02) – I want to have an interesting life.
Jonathan Fields (00:22:05) – It’s literally just that.
Liz Gilbert (00:22:06) – I have an interesting life. And, you know, to me, I have such a simple definition of creativity. And I often hear people say, I don’t have a creative bone in my body. It’s a cliche that you hear people say, it’s like it’s an expression. It’s a thing people say. And and I always say to them, like, I don’t want to fight you about that. I totally disagree.
Liz Gilbert (00:22:24) – I believe if you’re alive and you’re a human being, you’re a creative being. It’s the hallmark of our species where the creative monkey. But okay, I’m not going to try to fight you on that. What I will do, though, is ask you to take the word creative out of that sentence and replace it with the word curious and see how insane that sentence sounds when you say, I do not have a curious bone in my body. Whoever said that, that’s not a thing anybody would ever say unless they were really in the jaws of a terrible, debilitating, serious depression. You know, if you’re at all alive, if you have any vitality at all, of course you have curiosity in you. And the way that you craft a creative life is by respecting, following and trusting that curiosity and curiosity only asks you to just turn your head and look a little closer and see if it’s worth investigating and go a little deeper into it and see what it is. And on the other side, the sort of split the fork in the road is always going to be the thing that makes you curious and the thing that makes you scared.
Liz Gilbert (00:23:18) – And a creative life is a life where you routinely choose the path of curiosity over the path of fear. Not like twice or three times or four times, but daily.
Jonathan Fields (00:23:29) – Really, systematically.
Liz Gilbert (00:23:30) – Systematically. It becomes your habit and your practice to say, I don’t even know why I’m interested in this, but I’m interested in this and I’m going to look into it.
Jonathan Fields (00:23:39) – Have you developed any practices that you feel like they help you make that systematic choice day after day after day after day after day?
Liz Gilbert (00:23:48) – You know, I feel like if I and I don’t I don’t always succeed at this. Like I certainly haven’t succeeded this in the last two weeks. But generally speaking, I know this about myself. I know that if I can take care of what I call my animal and my animal is the human body that I’m in, which is just an animal body, it’s a mammal and it’s warm blooded and it’s a female mammal. Like it has all these characteristics of the female of the species.
Jonathan Fields (00:24:20) – Remarkably like a human.
Liz Gilbert (00:24:21) – Liz I know it’s a 46 year old female. It’s a 46 year old female homosapien, right? It’s. Which is the animal that I am. Yeah, right. Because we are. And then inside of that animal, for reasons that none of us will ever know, there’s a supercomputer that not another animal on Earth has. Right? We have that crazy. We’re aware of our awareness. We have that consciousness. We have sparks of divinity within us. We’ve got all this extra features, but all of that is the software. Yeah, the hardware is just like these bones, these muscles, this digestive system, you know, this this animal. And if I can first and foremost, take care of that animal and make sure that that animal is treated as I would treat any animal in my care, that it gets a soft place to sleep and healthy food and nice walks in the sunshine and that it’s not being traumatized or abused or stressed or hurt in any way or being pushed beyond what it can do.
Liz Gilbert (00:25:24) – Like if I had a like if I had a horse, I wouldn’t work it till it collapsed in the saddle. If I had a dog, I wouldn’t beat it, you know, like I wouldn’t I would take care of it. It would be my responsibility. So if I can take care of the animal that Liz lives in, then. The supercomputer functions really well and the supercomputer and the consciousness, once the animal is taken care of, will know what to do next and it will make good decisions and it will make the most interesting decisions and the most creative decisions and the most worthwhile decisions. So the practice is really like. Are you healthy? You know? Because none of the other stuff is going to work. If the animal that you live in is just a broke down nose, you know, and and I say that saying that I don’t always do it. I’m really busy. I have a book coming out in a week. I’ve been traveling. I’m tired. My animals run down right now.
Liz Gilbert (00:26:19) – And I know that when that happens, I don’t believe a word my mind tells me because when my animal gets really tired, my mind is a big liar. The committee.
Jonathan Fields (00:26:30) – Reconvenes.
Liz Gilbert (00:26:30) – That’s when the committee starts saying, like, there’s no point, there’s no purpose. Don’t you know? So so that’s the practice. And I’ve had to learn that, though. I look, I’ve learned it by the school of hard knocks. I’ve learned it by treating myself like a rented mule and then losing my creativity, losing my inspiration, losing my faith, losing my certainty. So that’s it, man. Starts there and then everything else will be much easier. Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:26:55) – And what’s so interesting also is I think one of the things that tends to happen the most when we get to that place where we’re like, I need to create on a higher level, I need better ideas, I need to, you know, whatever it is that you’re making, whether you’re an entrepreneur or writer or a painter, that very often the time where we think we need to access the next layer of creative output.
Jonathan Fields (00:27:17) – Creative capacity is the time where we abandon the vitality practices, right? Because we’re like, I don’t have time to do this, not really realizing that that’s that’s the container. That’s the.
Liz Gilbert (00:27:28) – Container that.
Jonathan Fields (00:27:29) – Makes like your brain, like, you know. Yeah. Receptive to your magic.
Liz Gilbert (00:27:34) – Yeah. That’s the last thing. Yeah. To not be taken care of.
Jonathan Fields (00:27:38) – I wish I look, I’m driven all the time also. Right.
Liz Gilbert (00:27:40) – I know exactly. You know, but I’m better. I’m so much better. And I think also, as I’m getting older, I’m just getting less dumb, you know? And and a lot of what that is, too, is about the spiritual practice of setting boundaries on other people’s expectations for what you’re capable of doing. And that’s very hard when you are a person like me who just wants to please and deliver for everyone, you know? And so as I’ve gotten older, too, I mean, I just had a conversation with my publicity director in Canada because I’m going on my book tour to Canada for one day.
Liz Gilbert (00:28:14) – And she had laid out this huge publicity schedule because that’s her job. And I wrote back and said, Go through all of those and pick the two most important ones, and I’ll do those two. And she wrote back and said, basically, like, I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t I move them around so that they’re all sort of in the same area and we’ll do these three at the same time while we’re all in the same studio. And you know, the ten year ago version of me would never have been able to hold that line because I would have thought, Oh, it must be really important that I and I wrote her back and said, you know, or you could just narrow it down to the two most important ones and we’ll do those. And because I’m going to be on book tour for three months and you I know you only have me for one day and so you want to get the most out of me that you can. But this animal has to go through three months of this, and I’m not going to do that to this animal and make this animal have a breakdown and get pneumonia and fall apart, because that doesn’t serve me and it certainly doesn’t serve anybody else.
Liz Gilbert (00:29:10) – The only way, like my whole thing right now is all I want to all I’m ever trying to do is help people be more free. And if they see me enslaved, then anything I say has no meaning. You know, if they see like an exhausted, beat down, like rundown person who’s giving all of her energy away to everything everybody else wants her to be, then what authority do I have to stand there and say to them, Don’t let this happen to you? Right. If I if I’m going to be smoking what I’m selling, that’s the only way it’s going to work. It is.
Jonathan Fields (00:29:43) – It is. But I don’t disagree in any level. What’s frustrating for me, and I don’t know if you see this also is that it’s it’s so not the norm. Yeah. You know, and like I said, I’m human. You’re human. Like, I blow through like, you know, I have a long term devoted meditation practice, which for me is one of the things that allows me to go to that place where I’ve got to live in heightened levels of uncertainty for a long period of time and be baseline, okay, Not completely, you know, be swimming with a lot of blood in the water.
Jonathan Fields (00:30:12) – Right. But it took me, you know, decades to learn how not to bleed out along the way. And every once in a while I forget and I go back, but I still see so much. And I was hospitalized a few times, like as, you know, a friendly reminder, you know, along the way. It’s like, you know.
Liz Gilbert (00:30:31) – You got to dear friend, life is just trying to help you. It’s just trying to help. And sometimes you have to go back and do that grade again, Right? Exactly. It’s like life. Life will keep teaching it to you till you get it. It does.
Jonathan Fields (00:30:42) – It’s the whole.
Liz Gilbert (00:30:42) – That’s the beauty of life. She just wants you to know what’s going on.
Jonathan Fields (00:30:45) – The lesson never goes away until it’s learned. It’s just. It’s the nature of the process.
Liz Gilbert (00:30:49) – Mind if you repeat second grade 20 times? She’s just like, We got to do this again. We’ll do it again. Back. You go back you go.
Liz Gilbert (00:30:55) – Oh, good. How many more times do we have to do this before you start to see a pattern? It’s not.
Jonathan Fields (00:31:00) – Her beast.
Liz Gilbert (00:31:01) – Yeah, we’re lunatics. It’s fabulous. And what a great trick for God to hide inside us. Because a human being’s the last place you would look for God because we’re insane. But. But, but. There it is. It’s in there, you know? And. And what? What a great magic trick that is to put divinity in a psycho monkey. Yeah. It’s the best trick the universe ever did yet.
Jonathan Fields (00:31:25) – It certainly.
Liz Gilbert (00:31:25) – Is.
Jonathan Fields (00:31:30) – You talk about. It’s interesting you brought up you referenced depression and curiosity. And it reminded me of a conversation I had a few years back with a guy named Chip Conley. And during the conversation, there was the first time I’d ever heard somebody offered that there might be a relationship between those two. He said, Look, you know, people think the opposite of depression is happiness, right? He’s like the opposite of depression Is curiosity, right? Because the moment you have a spark of curiosity, it becomes fiercely impossible to stay in a state without possibility.
Jonathan Fields (00:32:01) – Right. Right. And I never really thought about that. And you just sort of like brought that whole conversation back.
Liz Gilbert (00:32:08) – Well, yeah. And that’s why we have to be makers, too, is because we are made to live in a state of vitality. You know, we live in a universe of motion. All evidence points to the fact that we live in a world where things are changing every minute, every second, every, every. I mean, what is it? Every five years you have a totally new body like that, you know, because you’re shedding cells and growing cells. I mean, it’s all in motion. And so, again, my friend Rob Bell has a great line where he says despair is a spiritual condition because despair is the mistaken notion that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today. Like that’s when you fall into despair, when you’re in a place in your life where you’re like, okay, this is just all it’s ever going to be. It’s just going to be this every single day the same.
Liz Gilbert (00:32:54) – And it’s it’s a lie because all history points to the fact that tomorrow is actually not going to be at all like today. Like the whole thing is shifting and moving the ground under our feet is in motion all the time. And what all of the universe is asking you to do is to step back into that current and participate with it in in creation, in becoming, in unfolding in the movement, in the change. And as soon as you can start to believe like, oh, maybe it’s not always going to be exactly like this and maybe my actions matter because maybe the choices for how I’m spending my time will affect how tomorrow is going to be different from today. That’s when you begin to reclaim your life. I remember when I was in the deepest part of my own depression, and I remember I was sitting in the corner of my couch. As I had done for months and months and months, middle of the afternoon, weeping, just a little pile of mess, just a little pile of lostness.
Liz Gilbert (00:33:51) – And it was a very comfortable corner in a way. I was I had chosen like an animal, the most comfortable corner to fall apart in. And and I remember just thinking, this is all I do now is I just sit I just, like, curl up in this corner of this couch and I cry and it’s always the same corner and it’s always the same tears and it’s always the same story in my head. Everything about this scene, I’m just in Groundhog Day here. It’s just repeating and repeating and repeating. And then I was like, I have to alter something about this. And I thought, What can I alter? Because I felt so crushed under my life and so trapped. And I thought, I can stand up and walk to the middle of my living room floor and stand on one foot and cry. And that day was such a victory for me because it was this return of agency. I couldn’t stop crying because I was really sad. But I could. I was like, I have agency.
Liz Gilbert (00:34:49) – I can choose where I cry. So I stood there in the middle of my living room, standing on one foot crying, and I was like, I changed something. So now what can I change tomorrow? What can I change? The next day? Baby steps, you know? And then I cried actually that day and sort of laughing because it’s absurd. After a while you look at yourself standing in the middle of the room, one foot and one foot crying like, obviously, maybe this is not as bad as situation is. I think it is. Right. And maybe we can maybe we can change literally everything about the situation that I’m in right now if we can change that. What else can be altered? Yeah, and that’s the beginning of renewal, you know, and that’s the ultimate creative act is resurrection, resurrecting your own lives.
Jonathan Fields (00:35:35) – You also distinguish between curiosity and passion.
Liz Gilbert (00:35:39) – Yeah, that’s a big one for me. Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:35:41) – Take me through that conversation a little bit. You know.
Liz Gilbert (00:35:43) – It’s this has been a big change in thinking that I’ve had in my life over the last few years because I used to be a big fundamentalist preacher about passion and certainly would tell anybody who was stuck near me listing that that that was the truth and the way and the alpha and the omega and the only, the only manner of living and that you had to find and identify that one thing within you that made you feel like your head was on fire, that one thing you would jump off a cliff for, that one thing you would sacrifice every thing for, and you had to put every molecule being behind that one thing. And that’s the only way. You know, I was really a preacher about that. But I had my I was given an awakening about it through a letter that a woman wrote me on Facebook after she had come to see me speak at an event. And she said, after hearing you speak tonight, I have never felt like more of a loser because I don’t have one of those.
Liz Gilbert (00:36:35) – I don’t have a passion. I don’t have one thing that is so clearly everything to me, one thing that I would risk everything for, I don’t. And it isn’t because I’m lazy and it isn’t because I’m depressed. I’ve spent my life tearing myself apart trying to find my one tower of flame. That would be the guiding principle for everything to follow. And it’s I’m telling you, it’s not there. I’m interested in a lot of stuff in very light ways. I’ve never been able to land on one thing and stick with it. I feel like I feel like a failure. I feel like a freak. I feel like there’s something missing from my DNA. And I came to hear you tonight looking for guidance. And you just made me feel like an idiot. And I was like, Oh, my God, how many people have I done this to?
Jonathan Fields (00:37:16) – Right. When you get something like that from somebody after just what how does it how do you feel? I mean, what happens inside of you?
Liz Gilbert (00:37:26) – Grateful because it is so rare that I change my mind about anything because I am such a certain person.
Liz Gilbert (00:37:33) – I’m such a freaking jackhammer. And if somebody is able to wave a flag in front of me that even my blinders can’t ignore to the point that it radically changes my whole paradigm. That is one of the most those always one of the most interesting moments of my life. Because I just thought, wait a minute. Like really, when was the last time, Liz, that you took this truth that you believe to be the only true thing in the world and actually looked at it to see if it even is true? Is it universally true? It’s true for you? Is it the only truth? Is there an only truth? And then I started thinking about all the people who I know and admire and love and the lives that they’re living and. None of them have had a path that was clear and straight with one burning tower of flame in certain passion that they never veered from. They’ve they’ve lived these lives that look like pinballs and pinball machines. They’ve tried this. They’ve tried that. They failed here.
Liz Gilbert (00:38:26) – They got fired from this thing. They accidentally stumbled into this thing. Many of them have very unusual and convoluted paths on the way to finding where they were ultimately supposed to be and the way they got through all those convoluted, strange mazes and paths was by following their curiosity until their curiosity took them where they were meant to be, which meant sometimes a long and tricky and often painful journey. And so that’s totally radically changed what I preach. And so now, I mean, also I found I realized finally that telling people to follow their passion, it’s kind of a useless piece of advice because if you have a central burning passion, you are doing it. That’s the definition of what a passion is. And if you don’t have one and someone tells you to do it, it’s.
Jonathan Fields (00:39:08) – Frustrating as hell.
Liz Gilbert (00:39:09) – It just makes you feel like you’re being judged. And and so I just say just take passion off the table and just follow your curiosity, Trust it, take it wherever it wants to go, believe in it, and and know that whatever it leads you to, it’s going to make for a bigger and more interesting life.
Jonathan Fields (00:39:24) – Yeah, I love that. I’ve gotten really curious about Curiosity over the last few years. One of my big questions is, is it teachable? And if so, how? And so I want to hear what you have to say. Yeah.
Liz Gilbert (00:39:37) – Well, I think everything is teachable because we’re the most influential of monkeys. As humans, everything is contagious and everything is teachable. So fear and insecurity and self hatred and racism and rage are all teachable. So obviously then love and compassion and grace and curiosity and exploration inquisitiveness have to be teachable as well. And, you know, we learn it by modeling ourselves after people who are living the way that we want to live, like that whole sense of I want some of that, you know, when we’re around somebody who’s radiating. A kind of full on engagement. Don’t you just want to like. Bill. I want that. Shouldn’t walk me through that. Show me how that thing. And I think it’s actually totally okay to approach that person and say, walk me through this.
Liz Gilbert (00:40:27) – How are you that.
Jonathan Fields (00:40:28) – What’s going on?
Liz Gilbert (00:40:29) – How did you get I want to think I want that thing. Like whatever the thing is, whether it’s their inner peace, their excitement, their compassion. I have a friend who’s like the biggest role model in my life right now because she lives in a state of such total acceptance and forgiveness of other people at the same time as being really good at setting boundaries and knowing her limits and telling people when to back off. She lives. She does not. She literally does not judge anyone and she is never standing in self righteousness ever. And that’s a thing I struggle with. And so, you know, I literally say to her, walk me through that. Show me how you do that. Show me how you do that thing where somebody disappoints you and you let them know that they disappointed you. And you guys have a weird fight. It’s awkward and then you let it go because I can’t get to the let it Go part a lot of time. Like, how do you, you know, teach me like the stuff I want to learn.
Liz Gilbert (00:41:27) – I will go to the person who’s the best at that and sit at their feet. And just because I believe I can be taught, I mean, I think maybe it starts with believing that you that you can be salvaged. You know, if you don’t believe you can be taught, then why would you bother?
Jonathan Fields (00:41:43) – But and also, I think it’s coming from a place of like having a beginner’s mind, You know, we’re so terrified of, like, uttering the words. I don’t know, you know, because it’s like all of a sudden, Oh, and then you’re like, you’re a weak son of a bitch if you don’t know that, you know? And once you get this far without knowing that. Exactly. You know, it’s like, you know, a mutual friend of ours, Brené Brown, like her work on vulnerability and shame. We’re so mired in that that we like, we instead of stepping into an opportunity to just ask, Yeah, well, how? You know, Like what? Just tell me something here.
Jonathan Fields (00:42:15) – We’re just like, No, no, I’m good, I’m good. Yeah. You know, And then like, I’ll Google it or something like that. I can figure it out on my own. I know that.
Liz Gilbert (00:42:22) – Terrible sense of you’re on your own, right? Exactly. Like, yeah, don’t you dare let anybody know what you don’t know how to do. Yeah. You know, but that’s, you know, when you come to the end of yourself is where all the interesting stuff starts, you know, and.
Jonathan Fields (00:42:39) – Talk to me more about that.
Liz Gilbert (00:42:40) – Yeah. I mean, I always think. Where I where I feel like I’m collapsing is when I come to the end of myself where I literally just don’t know what to do, you know? Like I’ll be in a situation with somebody in an interpersonal level and we’re having a problem with each other. And I’ve tried all the quivers in my bow, you know, I’ve tried A, I’ve tried B, I tried C, I tried D, and I feel like we’re not getting anywhere.
Liz Gilbert (00:43:05) – And now that means when you come to the end of the quivers in your bow, you’re at the end of yourself, you got nothing left. And that’s a point where you can either fall into total hopelessness and despair, or you can say, This is really interesting, Help, help! And then you ask for help from somebody who has the thing you need. You call on the wisest person you know and go, okay, this is what happened and I don’t know what to do. What do you think? You know, you just you just open yourself up to the point that, well, this must be a place where I need to learn because I don’t know what to do. I just failed. And I’m so ashamed of myself, and I feel like I really blew it. And I have no future. I’m at the end of myself. So now you reach for someone else, right? When you’re at the end of yourself, you reach for someone else, whether that’s a human or a teacher of the ages or God.
Liz Gilbert (00:44:03) – That’s where the interesting part starts. But you can’t stop there because then you’ll never. That’s it. Then you’re done. That’s where you like. You see people get to the end of themselves sometimes and just pitch a tent and they’re like, Well, I guess this is where I live now, you know?
Jonathan Fields (00:44:18) – And it’s like, it’s not so bad. Yeah.
Liz Gilbert (00:44:21) – I’m like, Well, I mean, I kind of love yourself. Acceptance, but also, like, you got another 40 years to live and wouldn’t it be more interesting to kind of.
Jonathan Fields (00:44:28) – Not just like.
Liz Gilbert (00:44:29) – Dig, dig a like dig a foxhole and just live there at the end of yourself and be like, well, I guess I’m an alcoholic. I’m just going to drink every day forever. Well, what if you you know, maybe you don’t have to. Don’t you want.
Jonathan Fields (00:44:44) – To? What if there was something? What if there was something?
Liz Gilbert (00:44:46) – What if there was change?
Jonathan Fields (00:44:48) – It’s funny. When when I get to that point and I’ve had this conversation with a few other people, sometimes it’s helpful for me to kind of say.
Jonathan Fields (00:44:57) – What would somebody else do? You know, should they land in this same point? If it wasn’t me, like, what would what might they do? Get past you here? What would I just bow in front of? Anything to.
Liz Gilbert (00:45:10) – Do here? What would. Yeah. That’s why we need heroes.
Jonathan Fields (00:45:13) – It’s almost like it allows you to step outside of yourself and say. Okay. It’s almost like if I was giving advice because we can always tell somebody else what to do at that moment. Right, right, right, right. But like, well, what would I tell them? You know, what would they, you know, the logical thing to do here, which I’m utterly blind and incapable of seeing or doing right now. Yeah. And then what might have happened if I actually did it? No, no, no. That’s not for me.
Liz Gilbert (00:45:34) – But maybe all the stuff you have been doing doesn’t work, you know? I mean, that’s the other thing I. I do now is when I’m really in a dilemma about how to behave or what to do, I think what would past Liz have done? And then I do the opposite because like a George.
Jonathan Fields (00:45:54) – Costanza opposites thing.
Liz Gilbert (00:45:56) – If I’ve been in this scenario like this before and you probably have because life repeats and repeats and repeats. So if I like, you know, going back to interpersonal stuff, say somebody has disappointed me terribly and I’m really upset and hurt and I don’t know what to do because that’s where I shut down because I just have no idea how to cope with that. Then I would think, well, what would 24 year old Liz have done? Because I know what she did in circumstances like that, and I know it didn’t lead anywhere good. So why don’t you do the direct opposite of that? And it’s terrifying because that’s my habit. That’s my go to place.
Jonathan Fields (00:46:35) – That’s my safe place there.
Liz Gilbert (00:46:37) – It’s my safe place. Except it isn’t safe, because once I do that action, I live in regret forever about it. And I hate the way it turned out. So if you always like if a situation a arises and you always act, you know, with like reaction. B And the result of that is always C you can’t stop situation A from occurring, but you can trade out the B for a different, you know, a different value like put in D, put in F try.
Liz Gilbert (00:47:04) – You know, this is why I loved the greatest thing that my my guru in India always says has become a scientist of your own experience. Try out another way. And it might not work either, you know. You know, what’s that line from Rumi? Your life has been a mad gamble. Make it more of one. You’ve lost at the dice a hundred times. Roll the dice 101. You know, just. Okay, this didn’t work. Okay. Oh, wow. That hurts just as much. Oh, that’s even worse. That was just what I was always afraid would happen. But I’m not going to do that again. But, like, I tried. Yeah, I tried. You know, all I’m trying is to just learn as much as I can. Yeah. By doing a new thing.
Jonathan Fields (00:47:47) – There. It’s so we stopped short like so it’s interesting, like in the world of entrepreneurship, the aspiration for so many people is what they call the hockey stick moment where you kind of work and work and work and work and then all of a sudden, boom, something happens and we have explosive growth.
Jonathan Fields (00:48:00) – But if you talk to any given founder who have the hockey stick moment the day before they hit that moment, the honest ones will almost do. The one tell you, I couldn’t have told you whether we were about to fold the next day or whether we’re about to take off. Right. You know, so and like, literally, like every day they’re like asking the question they’re living in, like, just massive, massive state of uncertainty in question and just trying something new and trying and hoping and praying. But, you know, then people kind of like hit against that, you know, like, when do I hold? When do I fold? Question I think we we hit against that in life also, right? And it’s this was so frustrating for so many people and I Yeah, there’s no answer there but no yeah.
Liz Gilbert (00:48:45) – You can’t know and I see people wanting promises for me when they say they kind of like they want a blessing for me, they want a benediction from me that says if I pursue this creative path, that’s all going to work out and I can never give you that.
Liz Gilbert (00:48:59) – I don’t know. It’s too weird. It’s too random. I know this. I know that inspiration would love to do something with you and that inspiration would love to take your hand and jump off a cliff with you because inspiration loves doing that. And the net may or may not catch you. Inspiration doesn’t care. You do because it’s your life at stake, right? So you may fly, you may fall, you may end up with a billion broken bones at the bottom of the cliff. And then the next thing that’s guaranteed to happen is that inspiration is going to come over and see you laying at the bottom of the cliff and be like, Oh my God, dude, that was so much fun. You want to do it again? You want to do it again? And you’re like, I’m destroyed. And it’s like, I know it’s not so much fun. Did you see how far we jumped? Wasn’t that amazing? And your initial reaction is, No, I never want to do that again.
Liz Gilbert (00:49:52) – If this is what it feels like to give 100%, then no thank you. No, thank you. And you sort of like wrap yourself up and tend to yourself and you go back to your life, at which point you either never do anything again and you’re safe. Or one morning because inspiration is there every morning. Inspiration does that thing where it peels open your eyelid and looks in and goes, Are you still alive? And you’re like, Yes. And it says, You want to do it again. And finally one day you’re like, Oh, fuck it, let’s do it again. You know, let’s do it again. Because the.
Jonathan Fields (00:50:24) – Original thing is far enough away.
Liz Gilbert (00:50:25) – Like, you know, and then you do it again and then there’s still no guarantee. Right? But, but the alternative to me has always been like, what else are you going to do?
Jonathan Fields (00:50:34) – Yeah. So agree. So what else are.
Liz Gilbert (00:50:36) – You going to do? Not anything ever. I mean. Okay.
Liz Gilbert (00:50:42) – But really? Yeah. Is that life? Yeah. Is that really, really, really what you want? Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:50:48) – You speak of inspiration as if it exists outside of the individual. And you also speak about ideas as if they exist outside the individual, as if they’re sort of floating around, you know, like their own independent animals looking to become I think your language is manifest through the vehicle of people. And it was interesting. Um, reading that from you, I had a chance to sit down with Steve Pressfield a couple of years back and were and we were talking about this over some organic pancakes in a cafe in Santa Monica. And because.
Liz Gilbert (00:51:22) – Of course, they were organic. Of course, it was a cafe in Santa Monica. You didn’t have to say organic, completely redundant. Um.
Jonathan Fields (00:51:31) – So yeah, because his his idea of the muse is that it exists outside of you and that, you know, with, you know, your job is to show up every day and to do the work and to prove to the muse that you are worthy.
Jonathan Fields (00:51:45) – And I was saying to him, I was like I said, that’s on the one hand, that’s terrifying to me because you’re acknowledging that the genius is not in you. You’re just a vehicle, which means you have no control over that. And he says, Yeah, but but here’s the flip side of this. He’s like, you know, it’s also really freeing because in your job is not to come up with the awesome stuff, just to sit down and prove that you’re worthy and do the work. And I was like, Huh? I never really kind of thought about it that way. And then I stumbled upon your sort of lens on ideas in the ether, you know, sort of like looking for people, looking.
Liz Gilbert (00:52:23) – For the universe is looking for collaborators. Maybe it’s a universe that is becoming and it needs help and it wants to work with you. It wants to be made. And and for me, the reason that is not a scary idea is because I don’t ascribe to a sort of narrow view of the muse that says, I mean, I think that the two ways that artists are usually given to look at their work as either you are the servant of the muse, right? You’re just a hand puppet or you are dominating that thing.
Liz Gilbert (00:52:54) – Like Nabokov said, my my characters are all galley slaves. Like, know when somebody said to him, Do your characters ever take lives of your own? He’s like, Of course they don’t. They’re galley slaves, you know, which is so him, which is so like, so Nabokov. It’s just like it all comes from me. And I’m in charge, right? And I love him, and that’s great. And that’s how he did stuff. And the other alternative is the super hippie trippy way, which is very passive, which is, you know, has no muscle in it, which just says like, Well, I guess I just have to wait here for this thing to happen to me. And the truth is, I don’t think it’s either one of those options. For me, the reason that that idea is so terribly exciting is because it’s a partnership. It’s a collaboration between a human being, a human being’s labor, and the mysteries of inspiration. You bring the labor and the devotion and the faith and the trust.
Liz Gilbert (00:53:40) – The inspiration will do what it wants, but it can’t work with you if you’re not already working. And you can work even without inspiration. You know, like most of my life is me sitting there just sort of slogging through it like a farmer and not being particularly satisfied with the results, but knowing that I’m showing up for my side of the contract, for my side of the deal. I said I was going to do this, I’m going to do this. And then months into the project, there will come a day when suddenly there’s air underneath me, you know, and I’m not doing it anymore. It’s I’m being given information that’s coming from I don’t know where I look back at what I wrote. There’s pages of the novel, the Signature of all things, the last book that I wrote that I go back and look at. I have no recollection of having written it. I can honestly say I don’t know where that came from, but I spent four years doing research on botany and evolution and Darwinism, and I read like thousands, literally thousands of books.
Liz Gilbert (00:54:34) – I was at my desk every morning at 6:00 working. So when I say I don’t know where it came from, I kind of do know it came from my devotion. But there’s another level of it that came from somewhere else because I know the difference between something that’s coming from me and something that’s coming through me. And what I live for are those moments when something comes through me. But for that to happen, I have to have a lot of hours in the can of stuff just coming out of me now. And then I reached the end of myself and there’s something else there. Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:55:06) – And that is a whole lot of faith.
Liz Gilbert (00:55:08) – It’s the best game in town. It’s the best game in town. There’s no other way. I would rather live my life. It’s the greatest. It’s the greatest privilege. And one of the reasons I get annoyed when when creative people start to get really complaining is that I just think, where’s your gratitude for the fact that you get to even do this, that you get to even try, that you get to even try.
Liz Gilbert (00:55:34) – There are millions of people in the world who have virtually no agency over their lives whatsoever. And you you’re lucky enough that you live in a world where you have even a tiny little bit of agency and you get to use it to interact with inspiration, which is the weirdest, most fascinating force in the universe. And all you want to do is be mad. All you want to do is be mad at it. Where’s your gratitude? This is a really interesting thing that you get to do. Just because it didn’t work doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting or it wasn’t worthy.
Jonathan Fields (00:56:05) – That’s a powerful place to come from.
Liz Gilbert (00:56:07) – That’s just me preaching now.
Jonathan Fields (00:56:12) – So we’ll come full circle, I think, just spinning off of the exploration of gratitude. So the name of This is Good Life Project. So if I offer that term out to you to live a good life, what bubbles up?
Liz Gilbert (00:56:23) – To show up for it, you know, And showing up for it for me means. Really having the discipline to stay awake and alert and responsive.
Liz Gilbert (00:56:38) – And I think that’s the highest form of prayer in a way, is to say, for reasons that none of us will ever know. God trusted me enough to put a life in my hands, and it was my own thought I could do it. God was like, I’m going to give this bozo a life, a life to take care of and to curate, you know, and to curate and to create and to come into being. And I’m going to throw all sorts of obstacles at this life and see how you decide to puzzle them out and sort of setbacks and failures and disappointments. And let’s see if you can get through the whole thing without becoming embittered. I feel like that’s one of the most interesting challenges in the world. Like, Hey, what if you went through the whole life and by the end of it you weren’t bitter despite whatever happened or didn’t happen? That’s pretty cool. That’s a really interesting way to live. Most interesting choice that you could possibly make is I’m not going to let this turn me sour and dark and small, but instead think of it as just another opportunity to learn and grow and be.
Liz Gilbert (00:57:47) – That’s a good life, you know, And it has nothing to do with. What kind of stuff you get out of it, you know? And you and I both know that some of the people who we admire the most on an intimate level have like, taken such severe face plants in their life, like they have a trail of disasters behind them, addictions and alcoholism and shame, terrible things that they did. Police records sometimes like some of the people like just who I Revere and and who I come to when I’m in distress. Like, if you could have seen who they were 20 years ago, you would cross the street and, you know, like, put your wallet in your front pocket and you should because they were dangerous, screwed up, disastrous people. But they had moments of reckoning where they suddenly realized, I don’t just want to be. I don’t just want to be a million unconnected molecules flying through space, bumping into fighting and getting knocked over by everything I see. I want to be an integrated thing.
Liz Gilbert (00:58:55) – I want to be a whole thing. I want to be a real thing. I want to be a good thing. And and they sort that out and in so doing, became heroes. That’s a good life. It’s the only life. The rest of it. You’re just a meat puppet paying bills. And that’s not going to do it for me or for most of us, you know? And it doesn’t have to. It doesn’t have to have magnitude in the outcome. It will have magnitude simply because you laid claim to it and made it your own. That’s magnificent enough and rare enough.
Jonathan Fields (00:59:33) – Thank you.
Liz Gilbert (00:59:33) – You’re welcome.
Jonathan Fields (00:59:38) – Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode, safe bet you’ll also love the conversation that we had with Glennon Doyle about becoming untamed. You’ll find a link to Glen’s episode in the show notes. And, of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable and chances are you did.
Jonathan Fields (01:00:00) – Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven second favor, and share it maybe on social or by text or by email. Even just with one person. Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action. That’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.