Eat, Pray, Love and Feminism and Veganism
Recently, I had an assignment for my Women and Creativity Class centered around Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. While there are many parts of this book that are problematic, (heteronormativity, all the meat and dairy she feasts on, her obsession with relationships, her exclusive language, her exploitation of other cultures, just to name a few of the issues that popped up in my mind) there are still some great lessons to be gleaned from this book on relationships with food, creativity, and personal development.
One of the assignment options for my class was to create a mock blog post about the book and what it teaches us about creativity, along with a second post on a topic of our choosing relating to Eat, Pray, Love. So here is the first of the two posts I created for this class, no longer mock posts but part of a real live blog post on a real live blog.
Eat, Pray, Love and Lessons on the Creative
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love has certainly created a tremendous splash in contemporary culture. The book has flown off shelves and people flocked to see the film that came out a couple of years back starring glamorous Julia Roberts. When I first read the book, it was the summer of 2010, and I was trying to prepare myself for a trip to my local theater to see the newly released film. (Which I still have not seen to this day!)
It was summer and I was looking for a vacation for my brain and I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. What I discovered was not only the mental escapism I was so desperate for, but also several lessons on creativity and what it means to the creative soul, body, and mind. Gilbert engages the issue of creativity not only in Eat, Pray, Love (EPL) but also has an entire TED talk dedicated to the issue in which she explores the idea that instead of “being” a “creative genius” each of has a genius inside of us. Some call this the muse, others know what it is but can’t explain it, and still others like myself just think of it as lucid energy that nags, pushes and pulls—driving us to create and unleash it.
So what does EPL tell us about creativity? What lessons does it teach us? What is left out?
Gilbert’s memoir is beautifully written and wrought with descriptive language that some times makes you hungry and occasionally leaves your eyes glazed over in a jealous daze as you long to embark on the journey she went on. Though Gilbert travels to three real places, each in a real time and space, she succeeds in creating her own world unlike any other as she shares her story with her reader. While the book has a steadfast grounding in reality, you can’t help but feel caught up and lost in some kind of mythical dreamland that Gilbert could have easily created from her own musings rather than retellings of actual events, people, and these fantastical places. This in and of itself is both inspirational and also sets a successful and approachable template for welcoming the creative.
As you get lost in this realistic dream world Gilbert depicts for you in the pages of EPL, you also become subject to her own patterns and path of creation. Spawning out of struggle and emotional distress among other life hurdles, Gilbert had to learn to reconnect with that same little genius she talks so much about in her TED talk. She not only had to find herself again, but also that little part within her that pushed her to write, create, and learn all of which are only facets of the same prism.
For me, this was perhaps the biggest and greatest lesson the book had to offer. Somewhat voyeuristically, with that same feeling you might get listening to gossip or watching that guilty pleasure reality show, (the identity of which I refuse to share) you are witness to Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey through her own words and her own creative voice. Though there are parts of the book I find problematic (among them issues surrounding marriage, Gilbert’s financial privilege and ability to embark on her year long sabbatical) I feel that not only does EPL offer a unique lens through which to view a person’s individual experiences in addition to the contemporary memoir, but also the idea that to first find that little genius inside of you, you must nurture it.