Recently I’ve rediscovered Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons, with which she coaches budding creative souls and helps them to take steps toward their artistic goals.
It is lovely. I listened to the first season when it dropped in 2015, but I’ve been lazy about exploring the second season, which came out last year. Now, I am savoring it, and am about halfway through the season. I’ve found many takeaways so far.
Takeaway # 1: None of this was wasted.
In the first episode of Season 2, Liz talks to a woman named Jo who aspires to be a comedy writer, but has spent years doing social work and getting her PhD. Their conversation is really fun and entertaining, and I got a lot out of it.
Jo sounds like she is in her thirties or forties. She’s established in a career, and now is realizing that she wants to be a comedy writer. She is thinking to herself – as I often think to myself – did I do it all wrong? Did I waste all this time?
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her gentle, inspiring way, says no. She says that none of this was wasted. And when I’m feeling clearheaded and optimistic, I agree. Every step I’ve taken has brought me to the place I am now. It was not a waste to become a therapist. It was not a waste to work with the people I’ve worked with for the past six years. It’s all part of who I am now, and what I have to offer.
Takeaway # 2: You have to do the work that makes you come alive.
When people do the work that they are supposed to be doing, they are living in service to the world.
My job is pretty great. I like it, and I’m good at it. But lately – I don’t feel like it makes me come alive. If I want to come alive, I have to do it someplace other than my day job these days.
Liz Gilbert talks about how the people who are most effective at their work are people who are doing what makes them come alive. And I agree. I am the MOST effective when I am in the flow – when I’m in a groove and feeling awesome. There are skill sets, yes, and when I’m not feeling alive, I fall back on my skill set and I’m still a pretty great social worker.
But it takes effort. And it’s never as powerful as when I have purpose, clarity of values, and flow.
Takeaway # 3: Life is a verb and people are always telling us to be nouns.
I loved this. Liz had a conversation with a poet named Mark Nepo, and he talked about the things we say to kids. “You like digging in the dirt. You should be a gardener.” “You’re good at singing. You should be a singer.” Life is about DOING THINGS – it’s all about verbs. And yet, we try to assign nouns to people.
That’s what trips me up currently. I feel really drawn to writing, but I’m not a full-time writer. SO WHAT? Writing is a verb. Just do it.
Takeaway # 4: This awesome poem.
I am not that into poetry. I never have been.
If I tried really hard, I think I could come up with a few poems that I love. Mary Oliver’s Why I Wake Up. Wendell Berry’s The Peace Of Wild Things.
I wish I was more into poetry. Because I know others who find such spirituality and beauty in poetry. But for me? Unless someone specifically references a poem, shows it to me, explains to me what it means on a personal level – it all goes way over my head.
This all came up recently because Liz Gilbert talks about a poem that I discovered I really like. It’s called “A Brief For The Defense,” and it’s by Jack Gilbert.
It’s about (I think?) pursuing gladness in the midst of life’s ugliness and harsh realities. Liz references it when trying to convince someone to pursue their art simply because it brings them joy and might bring others joy, too.
I’ll close with another Liz Gilbert quote, because I love every word she writes in her book Big Magic: