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How To Respond When Your Best Work Is Behind You


I’m not sure what I think about Elizabeth Gilbert. To be fully up-front before today’s post, I’ve never read anything she’s written, including the immensely popular Eat, Pray, Love. The premise seems narcissistic, but that’s a snap judgment without much basis.

That said, in the comments to my earlier post about Henry Roth’s 40-year writing block, lucinda032 (in a comment on this post) told me about this Ted Talk she did on that subject–the subject of coming to terms with the fact that her “best” work was behind her.

I watched the video and thought it was extremely insightful, particularly the part about how ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the Renaissance affected people’s normal creative process. And how creativity in general shifted after that period in history.

If you have about 20 minutes to spare some time today, and you’re interested in the elusiveness of creativity, you might want to check out this talk.

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on Curiosidades na internet.

    December 17, 2013
  2. I tend to agree with your snap judgment of Gilbert’s book.

    December 17, 2013
  3. I have liked Elizabeth Gilbert since Eat,Pray,Love came out. I have read a couple of other things by her and about her, and look forward to reading her latest book. This talk she gave just confirms for me what I have already thought about her- that she is smart, funny, and creative. Thanks for posting- I might have missed it otherwise!

    December 17, 2013
  4. I loved Gilbert’s TED talk. But she needs a good hairdresser.

    December 17, 2013
  5. I enjoyed the talk more than her famous “best” work. I too had problems with the premise of EPL and reading it didn’t alleviate them.

    December 17, 2013
  6. I read and really liked EPL. I’m confused as to why so many people feel it’s narcisstic… surely not any more than any othe memoir written? I mean, that whole genre is pretty much people writing about themselves…

    December 17, 2013
  7. Her words are so true! Loved this clip.

    December 17, 2013
  8. The thing is that if you think your best work may be behind you, then it very could be. I prefer thinking mine is ahead of me. At least, I hope so.

    December 17, 2013
  9. I enjoyed her speech and would hate to be in her position. Personally, I hope that my best work is my last work. I would never want to be great right off the bat and then spend the rest of my career having customers say, “It’s not as good as your first one…”

    December 17, 2013
  10. EPL really was a tribute to the spoiled, self absorbed American abroad. Gilbert was a lot more likable in this clip than I was expecting. And I do know what she means. The times when I’ve written what I consider to be my best stuff, I’ve always had a sense it was coming effortlessly from somewhere else. I’ve always figured it was my right brain that can sometimes break through my chattering left brain. But the daemon idea is pretty cool.

    December 17, 2013
  11. I wouldn’t say her best work is behind her. I recently read The Signature of all Things, and it was very good.

    December 17, 2013
  12. Agreed! I stumbled upon this talk a few weeks ago and have watched it several times since–I see a lot of hope in the reflection she’s done since producing a bestseller (and based on the subject of said bestseller, it was probably not the growth she originally sought), and a lot of inspiration on her ideas about the function of creativity in our lives. It helped remind me to write for myself.

    December 18, 2013
  13. Reblogged this on kgajithmenon2007.

    December 19, 2013
  14. Glad you posted this. I was surprised by her talk. I read Eat, Pray, Love (& enjoyed it), but I didn’t imagine her to be so insightful.

    January 4, 2014

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