Sonia Hadj Said
I thought we first “got introduced” when I discovered “Eat, Pray, Love”. I joined the masses of women who all suddenly felt like their thoughts weren’t silly. That they had a right to say what they felt and even more than that, follow it. They didn’t have to be crazy artists, shallow chicks, outsiders. What a cool woman, I thought. I felt like I could look up to her.
Some time after following Gilbert’s writing and her career path, I found out that she was the inspiration behind one of my favourite films “Coyote Ugly”. What on Earth! I quickly typed it on the internet and found her story. It was raw, it was real, I was excited, jealous and saw her as a completely different woman. Not just younger as she was at the time of the experience, but less comfortable. Experimental. Hardcore, even. I didn’t feel like I could just look up to her anymore. I thought that she was an ultimate badass female writer, and a role model for young women such as me in this confusing generation, where you pray for the old school lifestyle when hiding behind the internet wasn’t an option.
But then Liz published a book “Big Magic”. It had a very colourful cover and I was resisting it. I thought it surely was just an excuse to please all the modern people. Why they weren’t living creative lives. Why everyone could and should. No, Liz, I said to myself. Artists are artists. They struggle, they are poor, they don’t have good jobs and they don’t give up on a passion. Well, of course, a few days later the book arrived, and being me, I went straight to the last page. It went like this:
Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.
We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.
We are terrified, and we are brave.
Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.
By the time I finished reading “Big Magic”, I felt like running into her arms and thanking her again. Everything changed in the space of few short days. I humbly apologised to my inspiration and promised not to ever again put the pressure of making money on my writing and the books I was trying to create.
It was always her message to artists: do not put pressure on it. When once asked by me on her Facebook page if funding your own book was a good idea, she replied (!!!) and warned me not to go into any debts because that would kill the creativity.
Every time, with every problem and every aspect of being a woman, a human, an artist, a writer, Gilbert proved to be worth listening to.
Needless to say, when Elizabeth Gilbert announced on her Facebook Page her romantic feelings towards a female friend, it wasn’t a shock to her followers. It was yet another human thing she made beautiful and acceptable. And as for me, her bravery doesn’t lie in admitting to falling in love with another woman, but leaving her husband after finding out that’s what she wanted. How many women still struggle to make this kind of decision? How many of them feel trapped and are made to believe by their peers that it’s just a phase? And yet, Liz had a simple answer:
If I can’t be my true self … then things will very quickly get messy and weird and stupid in my life.
I think we need to pray for more writers and artists like Elizabeth Gilbert. In times where we can say whatever and do so, hidden behind a screen of pain and insecurity, this woman’s realness is so, well, real. It makes you want nothing else, but to be your true self – no matter how complex, intriguing, confusing and diverse that may be.
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