Every day I am grateful for the life skills I’ve learned and the way I have honored myself by making the decision not to engage in work that doesn’t satisfy my natural urges. They say do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s true. Unfortunately, the kind of work I do includes some small level of drudgery, but no deal-breaking conditions. Without the mentors I’ve had over the years, I don’t know that I would have gotten to this point all by myself. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the screenplay, Coyote Ugly, and my favorite book to date, Eat, Pray, Love, is one of those mentors. I love her so much, in fact, that we are now friends on Facebook. And because we share the same profession, we’re both from New Jersey, are the same age and share a lot of similar interests and goals; she is the perfect mentor for me. She doesn’t know it; of course, except for whatever she’s read of my comments to her posts, which are generally about her fabulous-yet-demanding life as an author and speaker.
She just wrote a book called Big Magic, which I have yet to read, but I anticipate loving it according to one of her recent posts. She often begins by addressing her fans as, “Dear Ones.” She described her current trip across Germany, on the last leg of her book tour that started almost two and a half months ago.
Her post commented on the corresponding photo. “This morning, my friend Marion took this picture of me on the train from Karlsruhe to Frankfurt, where I have interviews today and an event tonight,” she wrote. “You know what I'm doing in this photo? Working on my next book. HA! See, here's the thing about having written a manifesto about how anybody can practice creativity, anywhere, at any time, every day: I HAVE TO ACTUALLY LIVE BY IT NOW. Because if I myself am not living my most stubbornly creative life every single day, than my whole BIG MAGIC premise is nothing but what the Italians call ‘aria fritta.’"
Aria fritta actually means fried air, which is a kind way of calling something proverbial horse manure. Gilbert is certainly not a horse manure artist, and for that and more, she inspires me every step of the way.
She assures me and anyone else who wrestles with creative urges that may or may not ever see the light of day, the following things:
- You CAN make time for your creative work — no matter how busy your life might be. By devoting even half an hour a day of attention to your creative endeavors can make all the difference...and can really add up.
- Don’t wait until circumstances are perfect before you begin engaging with your creativity — or you'll be waiting a REALLY LONG TIME.
- You have to have an affair with your creative work — and to always make time for it, as if you are in love with it.
- "Free time" isn't something you find in life, but rather something that you MAKE. It must be carved out of your real life obligations, because you care.
In August, she said, when she looked at her upcoming travel obligations for her tour, she realized she’d have to visit six countries and several cities over the next few months.
“I had a little panic attack,” she wrote. “I realized it would be the middle of December before I had time to focus on writing my new novel. And then it would be Christmas! And there would be so many distractions! And I would be exhausted from book tour, anyhow!”
She felt that life’s not fair, until she caught herself.
"Gilbert, quit your whining, and make a plan. Do what you always tell everyone else to do: Commit to working on the new book for just half an hour a day — no matter what. You know the rules."
She’s worked with some degree of mania in the background, in the airport waiting to board the plane, in cafes with loud gossipy people, in speeding taxis and stuck in traffic, and backstage on TV sets. While she admits they’re not the best, most nurturing working conditions, if it’s all she can do, she does it. No crisis. Just work.
You may not be writing a novel or anything of the sort. But you probably have something you’d like to do that’s been burning on the back-burner so long that it’s officially burnt. If you want to breathe life back into it, the decision is a simple one. Take action. Set the timer on your phone for 30 minutes, and start.
And that is how you act as a co-creator of your own life, she says. This is a way of interacting with your life in a purposeful way. Creating a life worth living takes work as opposed to being a slave to your duties and obligations.
Just 30 minutes.
Ready? Set? Go!