How many of us are artists, creators, entrepreneurs — but find it hard to call ourselves one? How many of us are afraid to move forward and do what we’re called to do? How many of us feel stuck between wanting to create and the fear of being criticized? In this podcast, Elizabeth Gilbert reaches out to a woman named Hope. New to poetry, she’s finding it tough to own up to her calling and put her work out in the open. Afterwards, Elizabeth speaks with Martha Beck, world-class life coach, for some of her thoughts.
“Every time you go into the fire, you come out with a new life and it’s better than the last one. – Martha Beck”
Creators, this one is for you. This episode was so good that I listened to it three times over. Go ahead, walk into the fire. Let it change you. Let it do its magic.
Below are some of my favourite takeaways. There are so many that I had to hold myself back from rewriting the entire transcript…
1. “Who gets to decide if you’re a poet? Because I can tell you this. If the answer is anything other than [Hope], then you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of suffering. Because your art will forever be dependent upon other people. Even if 100 of them tell you that you’re a great poet, if one of them tells you that you’re not, then you risk losing who you are. What I think many of us are weirdly, subconsciously, darkly looking for, is we’re waiting for the one person whose gonna tell us the thing that the darkest inner voice in ourself says. You’re a failure. You’re a fraud. You don’t belong. You’re not worthy. You’re not one of us.”
How many of us have felt this at least once in their life? Especially when all too often, we’re our own biggest critic. But it’s normal, it’s part of the process. Feeling it is one thing, staying stuck there is another. Friends, I’m calling you out. Time to own up to yourselves and your work. Time to get out of your head. You’ll be glad that you did.
2. “And I’m in there because I put myself in there. Not because I was invited in. Because I stepped in. And said hey, I’m here. And you know what they do? The big crowd of creators in the world when you step in? They sort of shuffle aside and they make a little room for you.”
This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey. Hearing it in so many words was powerfully validating. No one is going to hand over the keys to your place in this world. No one is going to make you who you want to be, but you. And in this world, there’s a community of people just waiting to welcome you with open arms. And that is a beautiful thing.
3. Not the greatest, not the worst. But there. Present. Right? This is what the poet David White calls the arrogance of belonging. You know, the arrogance of belonging is not the arrogance that says ‘I’m the greatest’ or the flip side of arrogance which is the self-abuse narcissism that says ‘I’m the worst’. The arrogance of belonging is just a quiet voice that says I’m neither the greatest or the worst, but I’m present and I’m here. And I’m here because I’m deciding to be here. Because I get to decide if I’m a poet.
Ever hear of the saying from Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” You see, you’ve already got it. You were born with it. One of the worst feelings is knowing all that you have in you, and not putting it out there. Good or bad, not the greatest or the worst, it’s just about showing up. Being there. Never mind the rest, you’ll improve. You’ll find pleasure. And you’ll be relieved that you did. So take your place, honey. You deserve it.
4. “But if you’re not speaking more publicly because you’re afraid, then that’s a different story. And if the thing you’re afraid of is to be rejected or criticized, then you’re not willing to pay the tax that comes with the tremendous privilege of having the opportunity to have a public voice… That’s the tax I’m willing to pay to be a woman who presents her soul’s work into the world in honour of all those who never could and all those today who still can’t.”
Criticism. A tax for the tremendous privilege of having the opportunity to have a public voice. Isn’t this everything?
5. “You have to send a poem out to a journal. And you have to send it out with the assumption to begin your collection of rejection letters… You’ll be joining the cannon of all of us. We all have them. I keep them like sacred objects. Because when I started getting them was when I knew that I was finally on my way.”
A collection of rejection letters… Have you ever heard anything so liberating? My perspective has been forever changed.
6. “Nothing is better material for your art than what happens when you jump into the flames and get burned.” “Find the next step that’s frightening and go into it. And if it scorches you, or it burns you, or it consumes you utterly, then you find a kindness that is so great that it can encompass the burning. And from that kindness, your poetry will start to ring to other people’s suffering and that’s art.”
Be patient. Be kind to yourself. And love, always.
7. “If you show up to love the world, instead of showing up to serve your ego, number 1 whether you’re afraid or not does not matter, you’re showing up to serve the world. Number 2 it becomes beautiful to those suffering along with you and no one else matters.”
Because it wins every time.