A Little Perspective - Enchantment

Big magic: creative living beyond fear - Elizabeth Gilbert 2015

A Little Perspective

Now, before we get too excited, I want to pause for a moment and ask you to consider all the negative conclusions that I could have drawn about this incident, had I been in the mood to ruin my life.

The worst and most destructive conclusion I could’ve drawn was that Ann Patchett had stolen my idea. That would have been absurd, of course, because Ann had never even heard of my idea, and besides, she’s the single most ethical human being I’ve ever met close-up. But people do draw hateful conclusions like this all the time. People convince themselves that they have been robbed when they have not, in fact, been robbed. Such thinking comes from a wretched allegiance to the notion of scarcity—from the belief that the world is a place of dearth, and that there will never be enough of anything to go around. The motto of this mentality is: Somebody else got mine. Had I decided to take that attitude, I would surely have lost my dear new friend. I also would have collapsed into a state of resentment, jealousy, and blame.

Alternatively, I could have turned the anger upon myself. I could have said to myself, See, here’s the ultimate proof that you’re a loser, Liz, because you never deliver on anything! This novel wanted to be yours, but you blew it, because you suck and you’re lazy and you’re stupid, and because you always put your attention in the wrong place, and that’s why you’ll never be great.

Lastly, I could have put the hate on destiny. I could have said, Herein lies the evidence that God loves Ann Patchett more than he loves me. For Ann is the chosen novelist and I—as I have always suspected in my darkest moments—am merely a fraud. I am being mocked by fate, while her cup runneth over. I am fortune’s fool and she is fortune’s darling, and such is the eternal injustice and tragedy of my cursed existence.

But I didn’t do any of that garbage.

Instead, I chose to regard this event as having been a terrific little miracle. I allowed myself to feel grateful and astonished to have played any part whatsoever in its strange unfolding. This was the closest I’d ever felt to sorcery, and I wasn’t about to waste that amazing experience by playing small. I saw this incident as a rare and glittering piece of evidence that all my most outlandish beliefs about creativity might actually be true—that ideas are alive, that ideas do seek the most available human collaborator, that ideas do have a conscious will, that ideas do move from soul to soul, that ideas will always try to seek the swiftest and most efficient conduit to the earth (just as lightning does).

Furthermore, I was now inclined to believe that ideas also have wit, because what had transpired between Ann and me was not only phenomenal, but also curiously and charmingly funny.