As a creative writer, I’m well aware of the stigmas associated with my choice of profession. In the past, if a writer didn’t hang him/herself in a closet or drink their livers raisin dry, they paid their bills through prostitution, or worse, they became waiters in a dingy roadside diner, claiming to save for grad-school, but then, sadly, they never made it that far. When people ask me what degree I will graduate with (in a week), I tell them I’ll have a BA in creative writing. They stare at me, puzzled at first, then make what they think to be an original joke about living in a box or, as the writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, put it in her talk on Ted.com, “drinking Gin at nine in the morning.”
I had to read Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love for an independent study with Debra Marquart, a guest professor and well-known writer from Iowa, last semester. I hated the book. I lied and told Debra I finished it, but the truth is, I couldn’t stand Gibert’s writing style or the story itself. The story was Gilbert’s memoir of the events following her divorce and her journey to “find herself” as she traveled to Italy (Eat), India (Pray), and Indonesia (Love). Gilbert spent most of the book crying on bathroom floors. I’m not a fan of melodrama, so after the first tear-tsunami, I had had my fill. I guess I understand why Debra liked it so much. Like Gilbert, Debra was a divorcee, and an ex-rocker chick that traveled across America with her folk band. It came down to me not relating to stories of 40-something year-old women who made poor choices in men and then needed to “find themselves”. To me, it’s been done before (mainly on the Oxygen and Lifetime movie channels) and nothing new ever happens. They always end up finding some young stud to give them their first world-stopping orgasm and then in turn, find their inner beauty and self-worth, blah, blah, blah.
Just like Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, I didn’t finish her talk on Ted.com (she bares a striking resemblance to Ann Coulter, and frankly, that creeps my s— out). In the first ten minutes though, she mentioned the stigma against people who attempt creative ventures. People never question the motives of marine biologists and mothers of doctors never worry about where their child’s next meal will come from. But, when an artist of any kind explains their work or their life goals, people get quiet. Creative people make non-creative people nervous, like being curious and inquisitive of the world is a trap, and people must be warned of the dangerous path they’re on.
I think people are nervous about creativity because it’s not concrete. There’s no right or wrong, black or white. Creativity is all about the in between and grey places, the gooey centers that stick to fingers and leave marks on walls. When people ask me if I’m scared of my work being rejected or never “making it”, I say yes, because it is scary. No one wants to be told that the thing they spent hours, days, months, years working on is s—. I find there are scarier things in the world though, like giant squids, and those weird bugs that can worm their way into human brains and turn them into pseudo-zombies. For people with creative tendencies though, releasing their creative works onto the world is a necessity.
That outpour of creativity through writing is my relaxation. This semester has been hell for me because I finished my creative writing requirements last semester. I’ve been taking 20 credits of filler. Deductive logic doesn’t interest me, but with that homework load and everything else required of me to graduate, I didn’t have much time for anything else, especially reading for pleasure or writing, which is the only thing I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I can only explain it as this stress ball in the center of my chest, and when it isn’t squeezed, (when I’m not writing) it expands and pushes on my organs until it’s almost too much to take. I often find myself jumping in place in my room, (between six-page Spanish “comentarios” and Symbolic logic truth trees) just to relieve an ounce of pressure. But I keep at it, and go through the awful, mundane things in order to write and relax my soul later.
So even if Elizabeth Gilbert looks like the anti-Christ and her book is lack-luster in my eyes, I respect her for doing what she loves; for trying to derail the drunk-writer stereotype that has been instilled in many of us, thanks to genius, but dirty old men like Bukowski and Hemmingway, may their disease ridden dicks rest in peace.
“Eventually, everything goes away.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love