Last fall, Elizabeth Gilbert visited Baltimore as part of Stevenson University’s Speaker Series that takes place at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore. I was excited to attend as I had read Eat, Pray, Love, and also had recently seen the film. Additionally, I had forced my feature writing students to watch a clip from Ted.com in class where Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creativity—and how and where to find it.
As I was in the midst of completing my first-ever novel for my MFA thesis, I needed all the inspiration I could get. One of the things Gilbert talked about at the Meyerhoff was that she knew she was a writer ever since she was young. That was what she always wanted to be. After the success of Eat, Pray, Love, she said she wrote a follow-up novel and realized that maybe it wasn’t so good. She scrapped it, took some time off, played in her garden, and VOILA!—the first line of her next novel came to her. She ran inside and started typing; soon after, the follow-up novel to Eat, Pray, Love was complete.
I love to go boating. My mom and dad have a boat, and there’s something about feeling the breeze in my hair as I go up and down the river that is utterly heavenly. Creativity has come to me on that boat.
It’s also come to me in the shower. I was stressed and perplexed as to how I would end my novel. I knew I wanted it to have a pleasant ending, as I am one of those like-a-happy-ending people, and can’t say it any better than Jane Austen has already said it with regard to happy stories: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Anyway, I had been thinking about and agonizing over the fate of my two main characters that happened to be two characters I had fallen in love with (and actually started to believe were real). I ate, breathed, and slept with these “people.” Nevertheless, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the ending as I sat in front of my computer, curser blinking.
It took a bottle of Redken shampoo and a hot, steamy shower one cool Saturday morning to allow my creative mind to open. The ending hit me right then and there, a pile of lather on top of my head. I got out of the shower and started jotting down notes. My ending had been born.
Sometimes I wish I could walk into a store, look on a shelf, and say, “I’ll have that big, blue bottle of creativity to go, please.” No such luck. It’s not for sale. It’s deep down there in us, wanting to be stirred and awakened.