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  • So, a few years ago I was at JFK Airport

  • about to get on a flight,

  • when I was approached by two women

  • who I do not think would be insulted

  • to hear themselves described

  • as tiny old tough-talking Italian-American broads.

  • The taller one, who is like up here,

  • she comes marching up to me, and she goes,

  • "Honey, I gotta ask you something.

  • You got something to do with that whole

  • 'Eat, Pray, Love' thing that's been going on lately?"

  • And I said, "Yes, I did."

  • And she smacks her friend and she goes,

  • "See, I told you, I said, that's that girl.

  • That's that girl who wrote that book

  • based on that movie."

  • (Laughter)

  • So that's who I am.

  • And believe me, I'm extremely grateful to be that person,

  • because that whole "Eat, Pray, Love" thing

  • was a huge break for me.

  • But it also left me in a really tricky position

  • moving forward as an author

  • trying to figure out how in the world

  • I was ever going to write a book again

  • that would ever please anybody,

  • because I knew well in advance

  • that all of those people who had adored "Eat, Pray, Love"

  • were going to be incredibly disappointed

  • in whatever I wrote next

  • because it wasn't going to be "Eat, Pray, Love,"

  • and all of those people who had hated "Eat, Pray, Love"

  • were going to be incredibly disappointed

  • in whatever I wrote next

  • because it would provide evidence that I still lived.

  • So I knew that I had no way to win,

  • and knowing that I had no way to win

  • made me seriously consider for a while

  • just quitting the game

  • and moving to the country to raise corgis.

  • But if I had done that, if I had given up writing,

  • I would have lost my beloved vocation,

  • so I knew that the task was that I had to find

  • some way to gin up the inspiration

  • to write the next book

  • regardless of its inevitable negative outcome.

  • In other words, I had to find a way to make sure

  • that my creativity survived its own success.

  • And I did, in the end, find that inspiration,

  • but I found it in the most unlikely

  • and unexpected place.

  • I found it in lessons that I had learned earlier in life

  • about how creativity can survive its own failure.

  • So just to back up and explain,

  • the only thing I have ever wanted to be

  • for my whole life was a writer.

  • I wrote all through childhood, all through adolescence,

  • by the time I was a teenager I was sending

  • my very bad stories to The New Yorker,

  • hoping to be discovered.

  • After college, I got a job as a diner waitress,

  • kept working, kept writing,

  • kept trying really hard to get published,

  • and failing at it.

  • I failed at getting published

  • for almost six years.

  • So for almost six years, every single day,

  • I had nothing but rejection letters

  • waiting for me in my mailbox.

  • And it was devastating every single time,

  • and every single time, I had to ask myself

  • if I should just quit while I was behind

  • and give up and spare myself this pain.

  • But then I would find my resolve,

  • and always in the same way,

  • by saying, "I'm not going to quit,

  • I'm going home."

  • And you have to understand that for me,

  • going home did not mean returning to my family's farm.

  • For me, going home

  • meant returning to the work of writing

  • because writing was my home,

  • because I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing,

  • which is to say that I loved writing

  • more than I loved my own ego,

  • which is ultimately to say

  • that I loved writing more than I loved myself.

  • And that's how I pushed through it.

  • But the weird thing is that 20 years later,

  • during the crazy ride of "Eat, Pray, Love,"

  • I found myself identifying all over again

  • with that unpublished young diner waitress

  • who I used to be, thinking about her constantly,

  • and feeling like I was her again,

  • which made no rational sense whatsoever

  • because our lives could not have been more different.

  • She had failed constantly.

  • I had succeeded beyond my wildest expectation.

  • We had nothing in common.

  • Why did I suddenly feel like I was her all over again?

  • And it was only when I was trying to unthread that

  • that I finally began to comprehend

  • the strange and unlikely psychological connection

  • in our lives between the way we experience great failure

  • and the way we experience great success.

  • So think of it like this:

  • For most of your life, you live out your existence

  • here in the middle of the chain of human experience

  • where everything is normal and reassuring and regular,

  • but failure catapults you abruptly way out over here

  • into the blinding darkness of disappointment.

  • Success catapults you just as abruptly but just as far

  • way out over here

  • into the equally blinding glare

  • of fame and recognition and praise.

  • And one of these fates

  • is objectively seen by the world as bad,

  • and the other one is objectively seen by the world as good,

  • but your subconscious is completely incapable

  • of discerning the difference between bad and good.

  • The only thing that it is capable of feeling

  • is the absolute value of this emotional equation,

  • the exact distance that you have been flung

  • from yourself.

  • And there's a real equal danger in both cases

  • of getting lost out there

  • in the hinterlands of the psyche.

  • But in both cases, it turns out that there is

  • also the same remedy for self-restoration,

  • and that is that you have got to find your way back home again

  • as swiftly and smoothly as you can,

  • and if you're wondering what your home is,

  • here's a hint:

  • Your home is whatever in this world you love

  • more than you love yourself.

  • So that might be creativity, it might be family,

  • it might be invention, adventure,

  • faith, service, it might be raising corgis,

  • I don't know, your home is that thing

  • to which you can dedicate your energies

  • with such singular devotion

  • that the ultimate results become inconsequential.

  • For me, that home has always been writing.

  • So after the weird, disorienting success

  • that I went through with "Eat, Pray, Love,"

  • I realized that all I had to do was exactly

  • the same thing that I used to have to do all the time

  • when I was an equally disoriented failure.

  • I had to get my ass back to work,

  • and that's what I did, and that's how, in 2010,

  • I was able to publish the dreaded follow-up

  • to "Eat, Pray, Love."

  • And you know what happened with that book?

  • It bombed, and I was fine.

  • Actually, I kind of felt bulletproof,

  • because I knew that I had broken the spell

  • and I had found my way back home

  • to writing for the sheer devotion of it.

  • And I stayed in my home of writing after that,

  • and I wrote another book that just came out last year

  • and that one was really beautifully received,

  • which is very nice, but not my point.

  • My point is that I'm writing another one now,

  • and I'll write another book after that

  • and another and another and another

  • and many of them will fail,

  • and some of them might succeed,

  • but I will always be safe

  • from the random hurricanes of outcome

  • as long as I never forget where I rightfully live.

  • Look, I don't know where you rightfully live,

  • but I know that there's something in this world

  • that you love more than you love yourself.

  • Something worthy, by the way,

  • so addiction and infatuation don't count,

  • because we all know that those are not safe places to live. Right?

  • The only trick is that you've got to identify

  • the best, worthiest thing that you love most,

  • and then build your house right on top of it

  • and don't budge from it.

  • And if you should someday, somehow

  • get vaulted out of your home

  • by either great failure or great success,

  • then your job is to fight your way back to that home

  • the only way that it has ever been done,

  • by putting your head down and performing

  • with diligence and devotion

  • and respect and reverence

  • whatever the task is that love

  • is calling forth from you next.

  • You just do that, and keep doing that

  • again and again and again,

  • and I can absolutely promise you, from long personal experience

  • in every direction, I can assure you

  • that it's all going to be okay.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

So, a few years ago I was at JFK Airport

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B1 US TED writing pray home love failure

【TED】Elizabeth Gilbert: Success, failure and the drive to keep creating (Success, failure and the drive to keep creating | Elizabeth Gilbert)

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    Halu Hsieh posted on 2014/05/12
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