WEEK 20 - PERSEVERE
WEEK 20 - PERSEVERE
This particular section of BIG MAGIC by the luminous Elizabeth Gilbert is so good I am just going to type out the whole darn thing...
Many years ago my uncle Nick went to see the eminent American writer Richard Ford give a talk at a bookstore in Washington DC. During the Q & A after the reading, a middle aged man in the audience stood up and said something like this:
“Mr. Ford, you and I have so much in common. Just like you, I have been writing short stories and novels my whole life. You and I are about the same age, from the same background, and we write about the same themes. The only difference is that you have become a celebrated man of letters and I — despite decades of effort — have never been published. This is heartbreaking to me, My spirit has been crushed by all the rejection and disappointment. I wonder if you have any advice for me. But please, sir, whatever you do, don’t just tell me to persevere, because that’s the only thing people ever tell me to do and hearing that only makes me feel worse.”
“Sir, I am sorry for your disappointment. Please believe me I would never insult you by simply telling you to persevere. I can’t even imagine how discouraging that would be to hear, after all these years of rejection. In fact, I will tell you something else — something that may surprise you. I’m going to tell you to quit.
I say this only because writing is bringing you no pleasure. It is only bringing you pain. Our time on earth is short and should be enjoyed. You should leave this dream behind and go find something else to do with your life. Travel, take up new hobbies, spend time with your family, and friends, relax. But don’t write anymore because it is obviously killing you.”
There was a long silence. Ford then added:
“However I will say this. If you happen to discover after a few years away from writing, that you have found nothing that takes its place in your life — nothing that fascinates you, or moves you, or inspires you to the same degree that writing once did...well then, sir, I am afraid you will have no choice but to persevere.”
Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert. Thank you Richard Ford.
I have “quit” acting twice.
Those were some of my best decisions.
The first time I was 26 years old.
I had had a great career early on. I had even booked the lead in a movie.
By 26 I was mostly waitressing and sinking into the “I get no auditions” depression.
One day at my restaurant a glass shattered in my hand as I was pouring water into it. That glass felt like my heart.
All the rejection and disappointments and waiting by the phone and watching my friends careers soar past me finally erupted.
I went straight to the rest room and cried my eyes out.
Within months I left the business, packed my bags and loved to LA.
Most people move to LA to get into the biz.
I moved to get out.
I wanted to sit on a beach with my journal and ride a horse and think about a plan B. I needed to find whoever I had lost along the way.
I needed myself and my identity to be about more than a slate shot or a booking rate.
What happened during those next few years is one of life’s biggest miracles. I grew up.
I did yoga.
I meditated. Badly. Then less badly. Then badly some more.
I found myself and she is the girl you know today.
And she would NEVER be here if I had stayed clinging to being an actress for those few pivotal years.
You know what was magic?
Once the real, authentic Natalie showed up, back on the acting scene, renewed, healthy and completely unattached to being great at it or getting a single job...
I found myself moving to the city of my dreams and a bigger chapter then I could have ever imagined began.
And here we are.
Am I a movei star? NOPE!
Am I whole, and happy and a messy sweet human person with tons of compassion for myself and an ever expanding curiosity about life, art and creativity? YES.
Your process is SACRED. Take your time.
Have a nap.
It’s all divine.
It is the very thing that will take you from having a dream to living it. Be willing to let go, so whatever is FOR you can grab hold.