I‘m not sure whether I should laugh or cry, feel discouraged or enlightened, hang myself from my shower rod or book another solo vacation, tattoo her piece of advice on my body or dispel it completely. I’m really not sure whether I’m burdened or blessed, doomed to failure or destined for success.
Tonight my favourite author made eye contact with me. She accepted my raised hand amongst the crowd, allowing me a moment of glory to feel acknowledged and appreciated by someone who’s words have, at various points in my life, saved me with her inspirational and enlightening words. An author who’s work and accomplishments are my daily inspiration to breathing and continuing in my aspirations to explore the same creative, imaginative craft of writing.
When the focus was shifted to me, including the anticipation on Elizabeth Gilbert’s face herself, the room suddenly felt warmer to me. The lights grew brighter.
Just moments earlier, she had been given the signal. Two more, Liz, her tour associate had said, poking his grey hair and glasses out from behind the corner. Before truly realizing the urgency of the situation, I had sat listening to the varying questions in the crowd, trying to come up with something intelligent of my own. I had known things that I really wanted to ask her. Where did you start? How did you do it? How did you overcome the fear and challenges of being a writer? But none of these seemed suitable. And while the literary pupils in the crowd fired intelligent questions at her, and as she answered each of them with profound inspirational answers, enlightening the room, I allowed myself to become consumed.
The spotlight now on me, I willed my inner Leo to show its face, to brighten up the room just a little bit more. Hi, I said awkwardly, and with an attempt at charm, I added a “nice to meet you,” before continuing.
I’m just wondering… do you have any pieces of advice for young writers?
I held my breath as I waited, feeling the room slipping away from me for a moment, my heart pounding fast. I realized that putting this question into the objective, theoretical form didn’t make it any less personal or revealing, any less sensitive or sacred.
I sat in the limelight as she answered in full detail, giving two pieces of advice. The first covered the financial aspects of writing, which reinforced the rarity in landing a “lucky” strike like Eat, Pray, Love, and the high improbability of a lucrative writing career. I nodded and tried to accept her advice for what it was: simply to suggest remaining out of debt. The second was in reference to the suffering involved in the craft of writing, in which she mentioned the elusive creative genius. the intangible force that comes through in every artist, which at many times in history has had a tendency to drive them to suicide or heavy alcoholism. She finished with a line I will never forget.
“Don’t fight your work. All it wants to do is come through you.” She paused, and repeated it with a significant, gentle force. “All it wants to do is come through you.”
I joined the line that formed, which grew faster than any line I’d ever been apart of. I had anticipated that each eager reader would get their opportunity to speak with the author as she handed them their freshly signed book, but the line was moving much too quickly for that to be the case. I handed my two books, my newly received Signature of all Things, and my tattered, praised, and tear-stained copy of Eat, Pray, Love, in the right direction which eventually ended up in front of Elizabeth Gilbert. As I approached her, she recognized me, and greeted me warmly.
“Hi Sweetheart,” she said. “Thank you for the question.”
“Thank you for the advice,” I said, smiling back at her, heart pounding.
She signed her practiced autograph on the inside covers of both books, and handing them back to me. “Good luck with your work,” she said warmly.
I thanked her, turning quickly to leave. My tears erupted over the bridges of my eyes before I even had time to swing open the doors of the building. I left without the photo I’d intended to get next to Elizabeth Gilbert, the one I’d imagined I would caption with “My favourite author and my little old self,” deciding I’d already gotten more than I’d bargained for.
I’d gotten much more than a photo. I’d gotten a memory, a piece of inspirational advice.
I’d gotten a story.