Author of ‘Eat Pray Love’ gives tips on how to be creative every day

WASHINGTON — If you’ve ever had the desire to pen a poem, pick up a paintbrush or try your hand at piano, you’re not alone.

Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of “Eat Pray Love,” has traveled all over the world to speak at seminars and events. She says she’s met many people along the way who are doing incredibly interesting things in their lives, but most often, she meets those who aren’t, but want to be.

“Often they have inspiration, they’ve got ideas, they have little bits of curiosity that they want to follow,” Gilbert says. “And when you ask them why they aren’t doing it, the answers are usually very articulate reasons, material-world reasons about why it’s impossible for them right now.”

Drawing on her own experience, Gilbert has advice for those who want to be more creative in their everyday lives, but don’t know where or how to start. In her latest book, “Big Magic,” Gilbert explores what it is that keeps people from being creative and discusses how to go about pursuing artistic projects in a realistic way. (Here’s a hint: Don’t quit your job to write that first novel.)

In a recent interview with WTOP, Gilbert offered up her best advice for breaking out of the shell and tapping into the ingenious within:

It’s time to face your fear

If there’s one thing that keeps people from pursuing a passion, it’s fear, Gilbert says.

“There’s always some deep fear underneath, some sense of unworthiness, some sense that they don’t have the right training that they don’t have the right permission, that maybe they won’t be able to make a living out of this so why bother.”

There’s no need to fully defeat fear or become completely fearless, Gilbert says. Simply learning to navigate around your fear is all it takes.

When fear bubbles up — “… which is always will because creativity asks you to enter into realms that have uncertain outcomes, and your fear hates uncertain outcome,” Gilbert says — face it head-on and talk through those hesitations out loud.

Acknowledge that those fears might be trying to save you from failure, embarrassment or wasted time, and rationalize with those explanations.

“Say, ‘I know you’re just trying to protect me, but all I’m trying to do is write a poem; nobody’s going to die,’” Gilbert advises.

Putting curiosity ahead of fear is the first step to unleashing creativity.

“My really great saving grace in life is that I’m about 1 percent more curious about the world than I am afraid of it. All it takes is to just be 1 percent more curious,” Gilbert says.

It doesn’t need to be a full-time job

Another reason that people don’t engage with a hidden talent or interest is because they think it’s not something that will support them. Gilbert says she meets people on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to balancing creative pursuits with life’s everyday obligations.

Some say they don’t have time to create art because they have a demanding job. Others go to dramatic extremes, such as quitting their day jobs to write that novel they’ve always wanted to publish.

“That’s something I often beg people not to do,” says Gilbert, who adds that she didn’t quit any of her waitressing, bartending or au pair jobs until she had already written and published four books.

“For me, I love creativity so much, that I never wanted to burden it with the responsibility of paying for my life … And I know that it’s too weird of a pursuit to count on,” she says.

Plus, there’s no need to set aside eight hours a day for “creative time.” Gilbert says even an hour or 20 minutes “will bring forth amazing things within you.”

“That’s the real world that we live in,” she says. “I believe in magic and mystery and mysticism and muses and inspiration and all that stuff; I also believe that you need a roof over your head.”

So schedule in some time — as much as you can afford — and get to it.

Don’t give up too soon

If you don’t sell your first painting or your new novel doesn’t make the best-sellers list, there’s no need to throw in the towel.

“I think sometimes I watch people murder their creativity because they have this weird insistence that if their creativity is not paying the bills, then it’s not real,” Gilbert says.

But that is not the case. If it challenges you, makes you happy and makes you feel whole, it’s worth holding onto.

Interview yourself every day

If there’s one daily habit worth adopting, Gilbert says it’s to check in with yourself each day and tune in “to the most important guide within you.”

If you want to follow a passion, but are unsure what that passion is, Gilbert says to have patience. You’ll soon find what it is you want to do.

“We’re all looking for the tower of flame and the lightning strike, when really it’s a trail of breadcrumbs,” says Gilbert, adding that those breadcrumbs of curiosity will lead you to something you want to follow.

“Ask yourself, ‘Is there anything in the world — no matter how random — that I am a tiny bit curious about?’ Turn your head a quarter of an inch, look a little closer and start to follow that trail. And that’s going to take you there.”

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