we had the nicest call from the lady at the Malibu Public Library
just wanted to let you know that the waiting list opened up and you have two confirmed seats for the Speakers Series with Elizabeth Gilbert.
so we drove over freeways and down canyons and alongside-the-ocean and there it was the Malibu Public Library.
strange though – no cars.
the event was meant to be Sold Out.
and then we saw a group of new friends (new because they had only just met and bonded over A/Elizabeth Gilbert’s “eat pray love” and B/being Lost In Malibu) and they were chattering happily and tripping along in cork wedgie sandals and something floaty and diaphanous on top with slim jeans and blown-out-fluffy-hair (yes, all of them – we were not Correctly dressed for this event it was clear).
it’s not at the library!
they all said as we approached.
where is it?
at the malibu civic theatre!
so we followed the aubergine station wagon and a slim dark navy Mercedes and found our way into a lobby of Cross People (who did not have confirmed seats for the Event and were irritated to find out there was a very long waiting list indeed).
not long after the excited chatter and leaning-over-the-back-of-the-seats to share E. gilbert stories all subsided, the orangey-glow of the Malibu Civic Theatre (just in case you want to visit: Malibu Civic Theatre, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, Malibu 90265 or Malibu is online here) seemed to get a little brighter and then she walked out on stage.
we did feel a little smug as we were in black too.
elizabeth gilbert is a truly inspired speaker – fluid, fluent, funny, elegiac, magical – and also highly irreverent:
for example, on remembering her TED talk:
Bill Gates is in the front row. Al Gore is next to him. I’m in tears in my hotel room that morning because all the talks the day before were on robotics. And then I got up there and I’m talking about fucking faeries.
slightly strange to be in the company of devotees.
which elizabeth (can we call her Liz?) deflected with funny stories.
like one about meeting two little old italian ladies in an airport who kept nudging each other about who-that-woman-was and finally concluded she was:
that girl who wrote that book based on that movie.
proving yet again that Cinema has a greater popular culture stamp than literary fiction or confessional memoir.
then she flowed into a lovely involved anecdote (which you just Knew was getting us to the point of the evening which was to Talk About Her New Book – but it was done Very Well), an interwoven tale within many tales about “why i’m a writer” and “shameless pursuit of magic” and “an inspired life” and “how ideas arrive – and leave” (that was a really beautiful and wickedly funny/slash/gasps-from-the-audience strand) and “don’t write for a demographic – write to a single person” (which is great stylistic advice but Publishers still expect the demographic to be duly noted in the Brief and Pitch and Publication Notes for the Publicity Department because they want to sell more than one book and anyway if you wrote it for one person you undoubtedly gave them a free copy).
when the evening was over and we’d all clapped and then drove out past the ocean which twinkled under the most pendulous and portentous full moon one had ever seen, we looked at her website for the response to the most over-asked-question-of-writers and found this excellent piece.
I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend that essentially ran along these lines: “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.” I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.” Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.
it is an excellent point – and nice deflection by using Herr Herzog to say the tough love stuff rather than having to say it oneself.
it’s amazing how many people suddenly come out of the woodwork with a half-finished manuscript in the bottom drawer when one gets a publishing contract and would like you to read it (which we cannot – we’re not an Editor or a Publisher – we just Write – every day – which is what one has to do if one wants to have a book someday).
but this is the curious bit.
we asked a question last night, in Malibu:
when did you realize you were famous and how did it feel?
because there has to be a Thrill at some point or a delicious warm glow-y-ness.
eat pray love gave permission to several generations of women to have a Big Life.
even if they didn’t go and get one – they felt like Liz was out there doing it for them and by reading her book, they got a contact high.
which is wonderful.
but we got the strangest answer:
well, I’m not that famous. And I don’t have Neil Gaiman’s fans or Twilight fans – mine are usually middle aged ladies who went through a bad divorce and are nice and sort of apologetic when they approach me.
well, we’re Neither.
we admired her (and her lovely voice on the audiobook) because she got off the bathroom floor and went around the world and wrote about it as she climbed out of Chaos and made-something-of-that-experience.
she had an ADVENTURE.
and WROTE ABOUT IT.
isn’t that extraordinary?
we’re sort of sad that she doesn’t have a yummy delicious feeling about doing that.
or maybe she does.
here was her blog post after the Talk last night.
WORD OF THE NIGHT: PERIGEE
Holy shit, you guys, I wish you could see the moon over the Pacific Ocean at this very moment, like I am seeing it right now in Malibu. I just finished my talk (THANK YOU, BEAUTIFUL LOVELY AUDIENCE!) and came outside to the best imaginable view of the SUPER MOON.
Are you looking at this, wherever it is night?
The moon is at is PERIGEE (just learned this word) — its closest point to earth. Feels like you could reach it with a pretty decent stepladder. I’ve never quite seen anything like it.
If you ever wanted to shoot for the moon, everyone, I would suggest doing it RIGHT NOW. Just stand on your tiptoes and go for it.
Gonna go stare at it some more and marvel.
Have a BLESSED night.
Love from your friendly local Cancerian,
That’s the sound of someone truly happy and fulfilled and spirit-brimming-over.
which is the only reason to write.