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Monday, February 8, 2010

Meeting Elizabeth Gilbert, Author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed

I’m pretty spontaneous, so much that the counselor calls me reactive (just one of his technical terms he throws around to impress me). The counselor is reflective, organized, follows through and is always on time. I’m not like him. I change plans, run here and there, never seem to have a shopping list and plan my day minute by minute. I just wait and see what comes my way; then I pick whatever looks like the most fun. The counselor wears a watch and keeps a daily planner. I don’t have either one.

There are times I can be reflective, like when I have a doctor’s appointment or a plane to catch. When I heard Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, was coming on book tour for her new book Committed, I called Changing Hands Bookstore and reserved a ticket. I wrote the date and time of her lecture on my kitchen calendar.

Reading Eat, Pray, Love is a journey of insight, like traveling to a new land for the first time.

Image found here.

Never had I read a memoir where the writing impressed me as much as the actual plot. The premise of the book is this:

In her mid-thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert is faced with divorce. In the middle of the night while crying on the bathroom floor, she asks God what she should do with her life. He tells her for the next year she is to focus on three things: Eat, Pray and Love. Elizabeth travels to Italy, India and Indonesia and does just that. The wonderful thing is she let’s us come along with her. I could taste the cheese and pasta in Italy, I was with her scrubbing the floor of the church in India and I could smell the sweet tropical flowers of Indonesia.

Her new book Committed is just as inviting. Elizabeth falls in love again and has to make peace with the idea of marriage.

Image found here.

At the lecture, she read the first chapter of Committed to the audience. For such a personal and somewhat cynical topic, there was a lot of laughter from the crowd. On some level, we can all relate to her ideas. I contemplate my own love and my own journey of commitment. I wish the counselor was with me so I could hold his hand.

Elizabeth also talked about writing and the idea of “taking a sentence and drawing it across the page.”

After Eat, Pray, Love, she felt a lot of pressure to write another best seller. She wrote a 500 page manuscript only to later feel, “The voice didn’t sound like me. The voice sounded like something coming through a megaphone, mistranslated.”

She put the manuscript in a box under her bed and started over.

This was the point in her lecture I did the most soul-searching. How is this even possible? A 500 page manuscript is a huge chunk of life to hide away, but is it really wasted? I realized for writers, writing is somewhat like talking. We write down words and sometimes they really mean something and sometimes we just had to work through our emotions. If a best-selling author has to start over, I shouldn’t feel too discouraged if I have to do the same thing too.

Elizabeth also said creative ideas have expiration dates. When ideas come, run with them or they’ll find someone else who will. Ideas come on strong, but can later lose momentum. “Summon your own genius,” she said. “Angels reward people who work. They will collaborate with you.”

Later, Elizabeth signed my book and gave me a hug. “I love your shirt,” she said as we smiled for a photo. I told her I do a lot of thrift store shopping, my opening to so many conversations. I thanked her for her beautiful books and that was that.

But not really.

I was moved by her message, inspired by the words “I am stronger than I am,” a phrase Elizabeth says over and over again when she struggles with direction in her life.

I am stronger than I am, I am stronger than I am, I am stronger than I am.


  1. Hi Laura!

    Like all of your posts! And how cute are you in this photo? :)

    I'm a researcher so I do a lot of writing but a lot less personal that what you do. If I don't write and publish I will not keep my job for long.

    So I set daily writing goals for myself that are about time, not productivity. It takes the pressure off the final product.

    My own breakthroughs in thinking about concepts, how to frame an article, etc come from writing. Sometimes I don't use much of what I've written in the end and that's just part of the process.

    So I completely agree with Gilbert's point about angels rewarding people who work. You will be rewarded someday for all your writing (in ways other than have already been manifested in your life!)


  2. Again I missed a wonderful author's speech. Dang it!

  3. I too met Liz Gilbert on this tour (different city) and she was a delight! I also went to see her on the Bonnie Hunt Show and loved her interplay with actress Jane Kazmarek, who is recently divorced (from actor Bradley Whitford) - I think Liz's book had a lot to teach Jane about some of the choices she had made, and they all had a long discussion about what it means to be that bride-to-be (your whole childhood) and then have that TA-DAH! wedding, and then end up divorced anyway.

    Also wanted you to know we are doing an Eat Pray Love Bali trip - in honor of the great book - in May! If anyone is interested in joining us, it's

    Thanks for your wonderful blog post, and for sharing your comments about writing.

    aka Julie the Cruise Director
    Spirit Quest Tours

  4. I love inspiring people like this. Thanks for sharing.