Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Eat, Pray, Inspire

by Anna Campbell

Have you ever been to see a writer speak? I must say I love going to things like writers festivals and conventions and conferences where I get to hear people talk about their writing process and what inspires them.

Last week, I was lucky enough to go to hear American writer Elizabeth Gilbert speak about creativity at the Powerhouse arts centre in Brisbane.

Wow, what an inspiring woman.The qualities that I love in her writing - the honesty; the heart-on-the-sleeve emotional openness; the intellectual curiosity - were on display like Christmas lights in December!

Most of us know EG through her mega-bestselling memoir of finding herself after a divorce, EAT, PRAY, LOVE (which inspired my title for this piece!). This was made into a movie with Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem which I saw and I have to say I found a bit underwhelming. EG told a funny story about meeting a pair of old ladies at JFK airport who came up to her to ask if she was the writer who had done the novelization of the movie!

I really enjoyed EAT, PRAY, LOVE, but the book of hers that I really, really liked was the memoir that followed it, COMMITTED:  A LOVE STORY. This is an examination of the history of marriage and current cultural attitudes toward marriage around the world and it continues the story started in EPL. The other piece of work of hers that I strongly recommend is a talk she gave for TED (Technology, Education, Design) back in 2009 about "Your Elusive Creative Genius." Here's a link:

On this trip to Australia, EG was talking about the inspirations behind her latest book THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS, which is a historical novel (I haven't read it but it sounds fascinating).

It was so interesting to hear her discuss her theory about ideas - she believes that ideas are floating around out there, looking for someone to fasten onto to achieve realisation. Which explains the rather odd phenomenon that two completely original ideas will pop up at nearly the same time (happened to me with courtesan books, happened to Darwin with evolution, LOL!). She also talked about the need for a writer to keep herself receptive so that the idea that is meant for her can find her.

It all sounds quite mystical, but I knew what EG was talking about, although I tend to think in terms of conscious and subconscious. I firmly believe that there is a whole ocean of 'stuff' out there that coagulates under its own volition in a writer's mind and will eventually find its way out as a book. One of the things I love about a good reading binge is that it lets my subconscious get on with its work of deciding what I'll do next!

Another thing that EG said that really rang a bell for me was when she said you can't force these ideas. It's pointless standing there and saying to the universe (or your subconscious in my terms), "Hey, give me an idea now, bud, or ELSE!" That just makes the good ideas curl up into a closed ball like a sulky child. The sort of sulky child who goes 'nuh!' a lot!

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Elizabeth Gilbert. I'd love the chance to hear her again. She's a wonderfully warm, witty and insightful speaker. If you get the chance to see her, rush to get a seat!

So did you read EAT, PRAY, LOVE? Read anything else by Elizabeth Gilbert? Have you been to see a writer speak? Did it help or hinder your appreciation of their work? Is there a writer you'd crawl across broken glass to hear?


Teresa K. said...

Hi Anna,
Nice post! I haven't read Eat, Pray, Love. Not by Elizabeth Gilbert. But I have read another book with a similar title. Paranormal. I love going to book festivals and hear speakers. One of my favorite would be Cherry Adair, Cathy Maxwell, and Sherrilyn Kenyon. I like your thoughts and no you didn't hinder my appreciation of their work. I would love to hear Lisa Kleypas speak, but I don't know if I would crawl over broken glass for her yet, lol. Thank you for a wonderful post.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Teresa! I've heard Sherrilyn and Cathy speak. Both amazingly entertaining. Both have visited Australia thanks to our local romance readers association. I've met Lisa Kleypas - she's one of the most gracious people you could imagine and amazingly beautiful. Well worth seeing her if she's in your area - although maybe forget the broken glass, LOL!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Anna, I love going to hear writers speak and do so whenever I can. We often hear about a writer's individual "voice" being so important and when you hear a writer speak you can often hear it. I saw Irish chick lit writer Marian Keyes speak some years ago and was enchanted by the way she sounded just like her books--I don't mean her Irish accent but the way she put words together. I enjoyed her books even more after that!

Anna Campbell said...

Kandy, that's so true. I can hear my friends' voices in the books they write. That's lovely - it's like having a chat with the friend! I've seen Marian Keyes interviewed - she's a real charmer, isn't she?

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks to Teresa and Kandy for commenting! See you all next month.