Can you go on year-long vacations to India, Bali, and Rome to find transcendence, love, and pasta like Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat, Pray, Love? No. But you can make space and time in your life for creativity and recognize it as necessary, valuable, and fun. You can refuse to shove a project you’re excited about in a corner because it’s not going to make you a million dollars, you can write poetry, act in an improv group, or make abstract oil paintings and tell those voices in your head that keep telling you you’re silly, that there’s dirty laundry to do, or that you’re not any good so don’t bother to go ahead and shut up. You can stop waiting for the precious, perfect time to start the seventh revision of your novel.docx file and re-read the first paragraph right now, and you can push past sadness and self-sabotage and find a little tribe of other people to geek out with, wherever you are.
Yes, you can do all this, because Elizabeth Freaking Gilbert told you that you can, that you’re allowed to, and that you should! You can get out of your rut, get your butt in the chair, and get past the excuses and fear that can hold back anyone who’s ever tried to make anything. Before she started this podcast, Gilbert wrote a whole book about creativity and did a popular Ted talk on the subject, but Magic Lessons goes where those things couldn’t, right into the everyday excuse/chore/job/regret-filled lives of real people who need that spark, that outlet, that lens for seeing the the world that only art can give them.
Magic Lessons is part pep talk, part advice show, and part mini-mentorship session. Listeners write in with short essays explaining some barrier keeping them from making whatever kind of art it is they’re into, and Gilbert calls on everyone from Ann Patchett to John Hodgman to give their perspective. She gives both big-picture, channel-your-muse kind of advice and more practical, logistical advice that really considers the particular challenges each person faces, whether they’re in the throes of grief or in a job they hate. She gives permission to make art for art’s sake, she vigorously defends the right to a room (or babysitter, or weekend, or hour) of your own, and she also calls you out if you’re making excuses. She gives homework and then checks back in, and hearing the gratitude and pride in the voices of the people who have completed their Magic Lessons will make you want to make something, too.
This podcast is great even if Eat, Pray, Love wasn’t your thing or you kind of hated that first scene where she’s on the floor of her bathroom. If you’re just diving in, here are three great episodes to start with:
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Thing That You Are Seeking Is Also Seeking You” focuses on a call-center operator, and is such a good one for flipping the script if you think you can’t find inspiration in the everyday.
Season 1, Episode 5: “Access Your Joy” is about how grief can derail creativity and create a weird cycle where you lose access to the one thing that can help you get through a shitty thing.
Season 1, Episode 7: “Sexy, Dirty, Nasty, Wicked” addresses a letter from a teacher, and they tell her to go ahead and “have an affair with her art.” This is one of the best episodes about making time and being honest with yourself about your priorities. If a teacher can find time, anyone can.