Taking Vows - Persistence

Big magic: creative living beyond fear - Elizabeth Gilbert 2015

Taking Vows

When I was about sixteen years old, I took vows to become a writer.

I mean, I literally took vows—the way a young woman of an entirely different nature might take vows to become a nun. Of course, I had to invent my own ceremony around these vows, because there is no official holy Sacrament for a teenager who longs to become a writer, but I used my imagination and my passion and I made it happen. I retreated to my bedroom one night and turned off all the lights. I lit a candle, got down on my honest-to-God knees, and swore my fidelity to writing for the rest of my natural life.

My vows were strangely specific and, I would still argue, pretty realistic. I didn’t make a promise that I would be a successful writer, because I sensed that success was not under my control. Nor did I promise that I would be a great writer, because I didn’t know if I could be great. Nor did I give myself any time limits for the work, like, “If I’m not published by the time I’m thirty, I’ll give up on this dream and go find another line of work.” In fact, I didn’t put any conditions or restrictions on my path at all. My deadline was: never.

Instead, I simply vowed to the universe that I would write forever, regardless of the result. I promised that I would try to be brave about it, and grateful, and as uncomplaining as I could possibly be. I also promised that I would never ask writing to take care of me financially, but that I would always take care of it—meaning that I would always support us both, by any means necessary. I did not ask for any external rewards for my devotion; I just wanted to spend my life as near to writing as possible—forever close to that source of all my curiosity and contentment—and so I was willing to make whatever arrangements needed to be made in order to get by.