This past week I attended opening night of the Massachusetts Conference for Women to see keynote speakers Elizabeth Gilbert, Franchesca Ramsey, and Aly Raisman.
I have always wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak as I love what she has to say about creativity and writing in her Ted Talk and her book Big Magic.
I first read her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, in my early twenties during a time when I’d just moved across the country, broken up with my longtime boyfriend, and started my career as a reporter. Which is to say I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. That book taught me a lot about allowing myself to relax into the unknown instead of fighting against it. It taught me to be okay with missing--loved ones, a former sense of self, etc. It taught me to indulge in travel and time by myself.
At the conference Elizabeth Gilbert told a story about a lesson she learned from an older, wiser female artist when she was a young wannabe writer herself living in New York City. The artist asked her, “What are you willing to give up to live the life you are pretending you want?” The woman explained--in response to the complaint that Gilbert had no time to write--that she had to be willing to sacrifice the TV shows, the nights out at bars, the unnecessary filler if she was serious about being a writer.
I had previously heard Liz (can I call her Liz now that I’ve seen her in person??) speak of choosing our sacrifices and it has really stuck with me. Yes, writing can be lonely, hard work, and carry no promise of success, but we choose that flavor of struggle because writing is worth it for us. We choose the loneliness, the uncertainty, the rejection in order to become a [better] writer.
I have been thinking a lot about sacrifice not only in my writing life, but my personal life as well. What is the life I am pretending I want? What am I willing to give up now in order to make that life a reality?
We can fool ourselves into believing that we don’t have enough time (or money or resources) to write (or fill in the blank) and so we will put it off until next month or next year, but if a writing project is calling to you, and writing is a high value of yours, you need to answer the call. Gilbert's story asked us to examine those places where we spend our time numbing--the TV shows, the social media, the bars--instead of writing. Where we spend our time is our true priority.
Gilbert ended her talk by explaining the goal for her own life as simply this: "The only thing I want to be in this world is love."
As you look at your own goals for 2019, writing or otherwise, maybe a way to reframe your future plans is to evaluate what sacrifices you are willing to make in order to live the life you truly want.