Here’s How Elizabeth Gilbert (Bestselling Author of Eat, Pray, Love) Writes

Here’s How Elizabeth Gilbert (Bestselling Author of Eat, Pray, Love) Writes

Reader Comments (44)

  1. As a writer, I completely agree with “done is better than good,” especially on the first draft. Nothing stops me faster than perfectionism. Thanks for sharing the insights of an amazing writer. I need to go create some jewelry for the inside of people’s minds.

    • Thanks for flipping through The Writer Files John! I love that Tom Waits quote too. As a recovering perfectionist myself, I often utter the mantra “perfect is the enemy of good.” Cheers.

  2. I guess that’s what I’m missing – a shrine. My muse comes whenever I am reading something – wherever there is a book or a screen, I will get an Aha! moment.

  3. I love these types of articles. Something I’ve found congruent with many other writers is the odd hours and the 2 hours of forced writing.

    Writing when the world is a asleep allows writers to focus undisturbed and without distraction.

    Writing for 2 hours (or for other writers 2,000 words) seems like the perfect amount of time.

  4. I have not been crying for a long, long time, and I was crying reading this. The honesty and gracefulness of this interview moved me. I do not know if that is by chance but I started making index cards just yesterday. They were left-overs from my son’s SAT prep (that he never used). I was amazed about how much more efficient it feels. I do not know why but this interview had an impact on me more than any other article. I had my share of delight (not pleasure). Thank you so very much!

    • Marina, I’m so happy that you found this interview. When I first re-read it, I’ll admit, I too was moved by many of the answers.

      Liz surprised me, but she’s a great writer, and this is more proof;)

    • I couldn’t agree more. I am moved by her candor and thoughtfulness and inspired by her respect for the work. I love the idea of keeping ‘farmer’s hours’, which I will practice more deliberately. Her disciplined approach seems simple, doable and not so self-important. Her Calvinist mother sounds…delightful.

  5. Brilliant piece, Kelton! Some great insights from Elizabeth, especially the Tom Waits quote!

    My shrine looks a bit like a found corner in the dusty cellar of a former artist’s home, which is to say it is actually a dusty corner in my cellar of a 100 year old brownstone in Harlem, which doubles as my recording studio. And since it is in Harlem there’s a distinct possibility that it could have belonged to an artist (down the street there’s a plaque on another brownstone where the famous ragtime pianist, Scott Joplin lived in 1917.

    And this dusty corner is my writing nook, where you would find a worn but comfortable blue rotating lounge chair, above which is a really large poster of B.B. King and an antique end table covered and piled high with all the books that have ever inspired me and some that have changed my life.

    By the way, for anyone reading these comments you REALLY owe it to yourself to click that link on Elizabeth’s TED talk. Truly inspiring.

    Great work, Kelton!

    • Thanks Mark! That Tom Waits story is priceless (I knew you would appreciate it).

      Seconded on the stacks of books that have inspired, in fact, when I was working on the novel, I had two walls of books that enclosed my small desk.

      The other two walls of my shrine were — a wall of quotes and inspiring passages that I copied by hand onto index cards and taped at eye level, and a wall of images that inspired the style of my writing, all pinned in a sprawling collage across a giant black bulletin board I rescued from a construction zone at a local university.

    • There is scientific proof that working in a coffee shop makes us more productive. I think it’s the illusion that we need to look busy because we’re out in public.

      As far as book stores, I could never get any good writing done being surrounded by words written by authors much better than I 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for doing this interview. I recently picked up Eat, Pray, Love to reread it for the upteenth time in hopes of absorbing Gilbert’s voice and style by osmosis for my own work. Thanks again. Lori from

  7. If you’re ever in the Frenchtown,NJ area go visit Elizabeth Gilbert’s warehouse/store “Two Buttons”. It’s one of the coolest import stores you’ll experience. And if you’re lucky you might even see Elizabeth Gilbert bustling around.

  8. I love the sincerity that seems to shine through this interview! I also definitely agree – done is better than good, so it’s now time for me to DO.

  9. My writer’s shrine is in my daughter’s bedroom . . . she is off at college . . . so I have a favorite glider facing out the window with a footstool there. I have a basket of my writing needs and my journal and Bible there. Morning is my time. Thanks for this great interview. Blessings, Amy

  10. Kelton,
    Thanks for the Writer Files. Great interview with an incredibly talented writer. My take aways? Successful people start their days early while most of the world is still fast asleep. Hard work really does pay off. Thanks for sharing this!

  11. Great interview! 🙂 I really like the “Never rush, never rest” bit. That pretty much sums up my life as a blogger. I never rush to get content out there but I am always writing something, so I never really take a break from it either… it all just happens to work out.

  12. Super interview!

    I love the straightforward way Mrs. Gilbert answered those questions. This is gonna become a long-term reference for the future!

    Regards (and thanks!),
    JR John

  13. So enjoyed this interview and the comments to follow. Sort of like a taste of my first writer’s conference in Chicago in the early 90’s. Suddenly I found people who think like me and not only were they surviving it, they were flourishing. So thankful for one with Gilbert’s gifts and experience sharing her writer’s heart. Love the beautiful simplicity of index cards. It forces the heart and mind to slow down and settle into the moment instead of whipping it off, fingers on keys, and ending up with too much clutter to muddle through later.

  14. Thank you for an interesting interview (my writing lair is in my basement where I have my own disorganized corner). I saw Elizabeth Gilbert speak during a tour for her book “Committed.” I admit to not being an “Eat, Pray, Love” fan but she is charming, funny and insightful in person.

    And I love her analogy to writing as mental jewelry. So true. We can’t take ourselves too seriously.

  15. Thank you for this inspiring interview! I enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love tremendously as I was also going through a divorce at the time. What an amazing writing ‘lair’ she has! I carve out a space in my apartment. I need quiet to write so when the TV goes on I have to exit and use my laptop in the bedroom. I keep a scribbler with handwritten chapters and notes taped in from moments of inspiration. It’s kind of messy and I’m thinking the index cards might be better. 🙂

  16. Thanks so much for this – one of the most interesting and inspiring interviews I’ve come across. Just love her mother’s quote about perfectionism – I could have done with that when I was a kid – also what she has to say about overcoming writer’s block.

    Excellent questions and fascinating answers – thank you.

  17. The interview was great but I like the Skybrary most of all. Thanks Kelton for sharing this interview with us aspiring writers.

  18. Such a lovely piece on one of my favorite writers. Love, love, love seeing her skybrary. The space matters so much–at least for this writer. Before I begin to write I sweep my entire apartment. This ritual reminds me that it’s time to get into writer’s mind. My writing shrine sits on the granite desk that I write upon. I love it so much that it was the biggest selling point when I rented my apartment! On this little desk sits trinkets from my travels around the world (a bronze elephant from morocco, a ganesh from london, a piece of street art I made in Berlin and a seashell from the caribbean) which remind me of my experiences. I tend to write memoir and personal essays in addition to my branding work so these objects help stir my memories. On my desk you’ll also find Patti Smith’s Kids, a favorite photo of my dog and a candle for late night writing. Above the desk is a bulletin board with photos, a mask from my niece and quotes including two from fortune cookies:

    “Keep up the good work. You will be rewarded.”

    “Others appreciate your expressive qualities.”

    This is my sacred space and absolute favorite place to be in my apartment. I’m moving to New York City soon and am already plotting what my writing shrine will look like there.

  19. Really interesting interview. And I love “Done is better than good” and shall try and instill that one into my offspring (and perhaps even myself!)

  20. “Two hours every morning, committed to just sitting there, whether the words are coming or not. ”

    I think that’s something a lot of writers are afraid of. What happens if I sit here for 2 hours and nothing comes of it? What if two hours turns into two days? But if you watch Elizabeth’s talk she mentions how she has to be a workhorse about her writing and just keep plodding away. Sometimes that is the only way to make something happen.

  21. Love this piece and Gilbert’s work. Having four kids, the wisdom I have to share is this: muse shmuse, shrine shmrine. There simply isn’t time (for me at least) to waste getting futzed up about atmosphere and ambience. Of course I have favorite spots, but I’ve learned to work with what I’ve got in the moment. I will say, though, that the changing scenery helps keep it fresh for me.

    I was just discussing what to do next on one of my projects and am totally going to try Gilbert’s research strategy. How serendipitous!

    Thank you!!!

  22. I just finished reading the Signature last night and have been following the interviews Liz has given in the course of this book. I love her work.

    And I now like this blog too! Liz’s mind never ceases to surprise me with her wit, but asking the right questions is the trick here. A well done interview. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Post-holiday struggle with what to do next to get my memoir published. Great problem to have with an overwhelming universe of advice to wade through. The insight from this interview with such a genuine, easy-to-love writer, however, provides some steady ground. Especially resonating is:

    -“I guess my area of expertise is getting it done, whatever needs writing.” A lot of advice out there says we must know exactly what our expertise is and what we’re offering. I write all kinds of things. Relieved to know I’m not the only one unsure how to answer — and it’s okay.

    -“Enjoy the making. Let it go.” In the lens of my To-Do Lists I think I’m sucking the fun out of building a platform for my memoir. A good reminder to swap the lens.

    Thank you for this interview. I look forward to more!

  24. Thank you so much. I can now start my second thriller with a whole new mindset. The honesty and courage in this interview is gold dust to creatives.


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