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Facing Fear 

Author Elizabeth Gilbert embraces creative risks

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Author Elizabeth Gilbert is busy. She's toured with Oprah, she hosts a podcast based on her most recent book Big Magic, and she is meticulous when it comes to responding to her tightknit community of followers on social media. She reads fans' blogs and even takes time to reply to tweets. Last year, she posted a photo of a lost dog named Dave she brought into her New Jersey home, and ultimately, the post helped the owner find him.

Gilbert is currently on tour promoting her new book and talking with eager writers and creators about what it takes to be bold and own their creativity.

She says the idea for Big Magic began about 15 years ago, but it began to take shape when she joined social media.

"I avoided social media for a long time [because] I had heard such bad things about it like it was full of trolls, snarky comments, aggression," she says. Much to her surprise, she says it's been filled with "wonderful, creative, and compassionate comments about real things and how deeply people want to talk about creativity—which helped [me] write the book."

For years, she noticed that many people were doing exciting work, but also recognized a commonality preventing people from putting their work out into the world.

"People [are] held back by all different kinds of fear," she says. And Gilbert had a similar experience when contemplating the idea of Big Magic.

"I wasn't quite ready before," she says. "I wasn't quite sure who I would be talking to and after years of [hearing from] women readers and Facebook, I was able to make the book more of a conversation rather than a lecture."

Gilbert has been in the spotlight for the last decade. Her memoir Eat Pray Love sold ten million copies, and was scripted for the big screen starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, so criticism is nothing new for Gilbert.

She says people don't need permission to create. So waiting for the right moment to write the book that's been nagging at you is part of fear.

"All procrastination is fear," she says. The creative process begins with understanding entitlement. It's the word that "all good and decent people hate these days," she says.

"I like to reclaim [entitlement] and allow people to reclaim it because without a certain level of entitlement you can't participate—you're only allowed to be a consumer, a bystander," Gilbert says. "Be part of the conversation—[because] without that sort of standing barefoot entitlement that you are not only enough, you are extra—spill over into the world and share [your creativity]," she says. Gilbert believes women have been left out of the entitlement conversation and says, "We should demand to be part of it."

But Gilbert acknowledges that some writers may face something deeper than fear. When writers or journalists are faced with reporting on tough subjects like mass shootings and conflict, Gilbert says it's important to recognize the difference between fear and trauma.

"When that fear deepens, then I think that you may have to reach out of yourself for yourself," she says. "It's not something you should be going through alone."

Gilbert is making stops outside of major cities like New York and Los Angeles on her Big Magic tour because she doesn't want to miss out on visiting cities like Bend. There are "certain communities of readers that have pockets of creativity in the country off the beaten path," she says. For example, "Wichita Kansas' Watermark Books is this great, vibrant, thriving, independent book store, and I know from years of doing this work that really amazing people are going to be there."

Gilbert spent months in India, Italy, and Indonesia and has ventured to other spots around the globe, and the one place she's dying to go right now is Iceland. She wants to travel the country via its Ring Road to "see one of the most beautiful surreal landscapes in the world," she says. "I'll get bored of hearing myself saying I want to go," which is enough to eventually make her purchase a ticket.

When Gilbert does have spare time, she's reading. Right now, she's reading David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks.

"I'm loving him," she says, "and I love an author who has a whole backlist you can explore—I like falling into a wormhole of a very prolific author."

Author! Author!

featuring Elizabeth Gilbert

7 pm, Friday, Nov. 13

Bend High School Auditorium, 230 NE 6th St.

$25 general admission, $75 preferred seating

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