Well, first of all, I hope my laptop survives at least until the end of this post; it's breathing heavily, as though it does not appreciate being left in the sun. It's also almost too hot to touch (only the keypad is comfortable), so fingers crossed (although that will make it harder to type). Anyway, I have had the perfect start to the day: early morning Xtend Barre class, refreshing shower, Greek yogurt and green smoothie post-class, now a green tea and a laptop to continue the glee. I really am so lucky.
What was today's post meant to be about? Oh yes, my wonderful Sunday! I went to Elizabeth Gilbert's talk in honour of International Women's Day! Now, the speaker is exciting enough: Gilbert is the author of Eat Pray Love (a bit of a global phenomenon; you know how it is). The first time I read the book, I loved it; the second time, I didn't. Which made me a bit sad but not to worry, it's only a book.
She's also the author of The Signature of All Things, which is a book and a half. I highly recommend splashing the cash on this exquisite novel. (Mmm, just pausing to think about the incredible experience that was the consumption of The Signature of All Things - yes, I ate the book. It was delicious.)
So, as a writer myself, in awe of this beautiful book, I was excited to hear her speak (about anything: topic completely irrelevant). As it happens, the topic was 'How to be Creative': really quite relevant. A more accurate title would be 'Have an extremely warm and engaging hour listening to anecdotes and soundbites from a delightfully honest speaker and know that you will feel a better and more productive person by the end of it'.
Done is Better Than Good
What is so awesome about Elizabeth Gilbert? Honesty, honesty, honesty. She assured us that 'done is better than good' and that she follows this advice herself (illustrating the point with an astonishing admission regarding The Signature of All Things, of all things!). In other words, don't avoid writing (and finishing) the perfect novel because you think it will never be perfect. It will never be perfect: just write the novel.
According to Gilbert, Marcus Aurelius, in his meditations, used to encourage himself to philosophise by acknowledging that it 'doesn't have to be Plato'. Similarly, Gilbert tells us (and herself), 'It doesn't have to be Hilary Mantel'.
I love that she name-checked my favourite author (Hilary Mantel is perfect: read Wolf Hall and agree), but she's also spot-on. When you read top-quality writing, you can choose to be intimidated or inspired. It's easy to say, 'I'll never be that good, so why bother?' but really, you don't have to be that good. Just write!
Just wash the windows
For non-writers, here's a more relatable example. I have loads of panes of glass in my house and they need washing regularly. I look at them and think, 'Oh, what's the point. Half the time they end up streaked anyway and I can see where I haven't polished them enough. It takes forever to wash them properly and they'll look just as bad in a different way when I finish, anyway; may as well not bother.'
A better attitude would be, 'Just wash the windows. You don't have to have the best windows in the world; they can have streaks on. Who actually cares? No-one is monitoring your window-washing ability and no-one cares about the final product. And you will have cleaner windows.'
As I don't have a problem with worrying that my writing isn't good enough (nobody is Hilary Mantel - even she isn't, really - she has a team of people assisting with the awesomeness and boring fact-checking), I thought about other aspects of my life where I am reluctant to do stuff because it won't be good enough, and the windows were the first thing to come to mind. So my new approach is going to be to wash the windows. Like, this week sometime. Probably.
I took heaps of other useful things away from the event, and several fun things. I'll leave you with one of the fun things (because it's fun): Gilbert was asked how inspired she was when touring with Oprah Winfrey last year.
"Yeah! She smokes what she sells!"
PS It was also my first time at the Opera House, which I planned to go into more, but GilbertLove took over. Ah well.