Elizabeth Gilbert + Practical Perfection

Elizabeth Gilbert is charming and witty. As I sit in the audience of the sold out talk she gave in Brisbane, I (like most women in the room) found myself thinking our shared dry sense of humour would have us getting along like a house on fire over a wine or two.

Around the same time as the event, I began listening to a podcast co-hosted by Kelly Exeter, and consequently read her book Practical Perfection. While I noted many nuggets of inspiration during both Elizabeth’s talk and Kelly’s book, the few themes that kept rearing their heads were these:

  • that something is better than nothing, and;
  • that the overwhelm we feel is perhaps largely self-created as we get comfortable in our busy traps and lose focus of getting things done

Liz, for example, spoke about her friend Ann Pratchett’s tourmaline butterfly. In the same realm of “I’ll do it when it’s perfect…”, it is something that can never be achieved. Our work will never be the perfect tourmaline butterfly we imagine in our mind. Instead, as creatives and in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, we must grasp the pristine tourmaline butterfly, smash it into a million pieces and reassemble it. And, then if we’re lucky, show it to the world as something we made. 

For those of us who have created something and set it free – a freelance business, a retail store, or maybe a piece of art – you'll know that what Kelly calls FODO (Fear of Disappointing Others) is a very real thing. 

Yet, again, something is better than nothing. Liz absolutely stood behind her belief that in order to write a book, for example, getting up just an hour earlier each day before work was enough. Something is better than nothing.

This also led to something else that resonated the most from Liz’s talk: “What are you willing to sacrifice to get there?” This stung on multiple fronts for me. I’ll find time to watch certain television shows weekly but I’ll make reasons to not get to that pilates class, not put on a load of washing or not get my freelancing website designed in Squarespace. And now every time I find myself mindlessly scrolling Instagram or Facebook I can hear Ms Gilbert’s voice saying, “What else could you be doing?” 

Most of all, the talk Liz gave at QPAC and Kelly’s book teach us that owning your own business, or being a writer/creative is not a one size fits all approach. Not everyone is going to like/agree with what you do and there’s nothing you can do about. And with that, I’m subscribing to a new paradigm: Getting comfortable with disappointing others and at least being out there creating. 

Watch the full talk here...

Claire Deane