Many of you may know that I had the honor of being included in the anthology Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir, which was published at the end of March. The book was a compilation of stories from readers/writers/humans who were inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and were selected by Liz herself along with editors at her publisher, Riverhead Books.
Some of the other contributors, who’ve gotten together via a Facebook group, were a little perturbed we had not gotten to meet Liz, nor had an event specifically for the book. I admit, I thought there was going to be some big launch party where I could wear a fancy dress and drink champagne and get a few minutes to chat with Liz and take a picture.
That didn’t happen.
We now realize that this year has been one of extreme change for Liz. She ended her marriage (you know, with the Brazilian guy she meets in Bali at the end of Eat Pray Love). Months later, she finally revealed the reason why — she is in love with her best friend (a woman), who is also dying of cancer. Needless to say, she’s had a lot going on.
So when I saw that Liz was having a speaking engagement in NYC — the only one in the area — for the paperback release of her creativity manifesto Big Magic, I knew I had to attend, if only to see her in person. I eagerly bought tickets and asked one of my fellow contributors to join me.
Then I decided to figure out how to meet her. It was actually very easy.
Her publicist’s email is listed right there on Liz’s website. I shot off a quick note and within an hour had a response – yes, Liz would love to meet me!
Then, panic set in. OMG, I was going to meet Elizabeth Gilbert. What do I wear, what do I say? Why did I get myself into this? I can’t handle the pressure! Why did I insist on doing this to myself? You know, the normal stuff that happens when I embark on a challenge.
The night of the event, I anxiously took my seat. I knew the talk would be great but the whole time I would be a ball of nerves. I just wanted to get this all over with! Her speech, though, did put me at ease. She spoke about a creative challenge she pursued while on a book tour for the initial release of Big Magic – with every person she met, no matter if it was her cab driver or her German publisher, she would seek to have real communication with them by asking, “What are you most excited about in your life right now?” So much more interesting than where do you live, what do you do, right? And definitely more so than staring down at your phone the whole time. The responses she received were both hilarious and heartfelt.
I thought she’d ask this question of me, so I prepared my response.
When the talk was over, we made our way to the stage to meet up with the publicist, who was also escorting several other people back. Somehow, I expected it to be only myself and my fellow contributor — but instead the room was teeming with people. I waited nervously for our chance. Finally, we were waved over. I had heard before that Liz gives the best hugs, and they were right! She immediately swooped me up into a bear hug (literally — she’s much taller than I am) and suggested we take a picture. Then since she was in picture mode, she moved right along to a picture with someone else. That other person then proceeded to chat her up.
Wait a minute, I thought. Did I just lose my chance to speak with Liz? We waited around anxiously until it was almost time to leave. My fellow contributor asked if she could take a solo shot with Liz (the first pic was the three of us). Then I asked for the same. Liz was about to turn to talk to someone else when I thought, if I don’t speak up now, I won’t get the chance again. So, nearly interrupting whatever conversation she was about to have, I blurted out, “I just wanted to thank you for letting us be a part of Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. It was such an honor to be included in something so special” (or something like that. It’s all very fuzzy).
She shook her and said, “No, you earned it. Do you know how many people sent in essays? Thousands. Yours got in because it was good. You need to own that!”
We said our goodbyes and I walked out, still in a bit of a daze. She hadn’t asked me what I was most excited about in my life right now, but that was OK. I was so glad I had spoken up, because her words were exactly what I needed to hear. I was in one of my impostor syndrome funks, somehow having to do with the major change in my life as my son went off to preschool. I just wasn’t in a very creative mood and could hardly write. I felt like a failure, like I wasn’t a “real” writer. I wasn’t making a living at this like some other writers I knew. I still haven’t written for lots of major publications (ok well except The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmo…but never mind my accomplishments). Why do I doubt myself? Why do I judge myself? Why do I compare myself and measure myself against others?
I know a lot of people don’t like Elizabeth Gilbert. But one thing I will say for her — she makes no excuses for who she is. She owns it.
I will try to do the same.
Do you feel like you “own” your accomplishments? Have you ever met an idol who’s inspired you to have more confidence in your abilities?