Inspired Response – Elizabeth Gilbert Interview Sparks Imaginative Solution
“You grab inspiration by the hand, like Thelma and Louise, and you just drive off that cliff with it.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert
I often wonder if we don’t pay enough attention to the immense power of our imagination.
A few weeks ago, I watched Marie Forleo’s interview with author, Elizabeth Gilbert, regarding her new book, Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. It’s an outstanding interview about creativity, fear, authenticity and inspiration. And it found its way to me just in the nick of time.
In the interview, Gilbert refers to inspiration as a friend in the creative process:
So inspiration says to you, “Let’s do this wild, amazing thing together.”
And you say, “Yeah, let’s do it!”
So you grab inspiration by the hand, like Thelma and Louise, and you just drive off that cliff with it.
And inspiration is like “Wheee…”
And you’re like, “Wheee…”
Maybe it will catch you and then you’ll be like, “That was amazing!”
Or maybe you’re gonna hit the ground and bust into a hundred pieces. And then you’ll be like, “What just happened? I thought we were a team?”
At that point, inspiration is sitting next to you at the bottom of the cliff next to your broken body. And it is going to say one thing to you:
“Wanna do it again?”
When I heard Gilbert share this, I laughed and then damn near cried because it was exactly how I was feeling about my screenplay, God’s Country – a script I have been writing and rewriting for twelve years.
I was the broken body at the bottom of the cliff.
Several weeks before, I’d begun working with a script editor on the project and I honestly thought (okay, hoped) he was just going to help me with some cuts and fine-tuning.
Although my precious screenplay apparently had elements of excellence (hooray!), I had some big decisions to make.
The script has dual storylines. There is the story of silent screen star, Nell Shipman, (set in 1919) and then there is a contemporary story of a young woman, Helen, who is making a film about the Alberta oil sands – which is in the same geographical area of Northern Alberta where Nell Shipman’s most famous film, Back to God’s Country was shot in 1919.
So basically I had to decide whether I wanted to tell just the Nell Shipman story and/or just Helen’s story – or if I wanted to continue on the same path and write the dual storyline version. If so, then I still had a heck of a lot of work to do, to make the two stories work together in the same film.
In fact, regardless or which route I chose, there was a significant amount of work still ahead.
So there I lay at the bottom of the cliff in my body cast, with inspiration beside me, no doubt grinning like an idiot (but it was pretty dark out, so I couldn’t see).
“Wanna go again?” inspiration asked, all enthusiastic.
In response to this, I managed to raise my middle finger (the only part of me not in a cast).
“Tsk, tsk,” was the snide response by inspiration (who apparently had night vision). “Such attitude! What’s the problem?”
“The problem,” I said, through a mouth full of broken teeth, “is that at some point, I’d like to actually see a product created from all this damn process!”
“Oh, don’t be such a diva,” snapped inspiration. “It’s not all about you.”
I thought about this a moment then slowly struggled to my feet – which is no easy feat (pardon the pun) when in a body cast.
“Nell?” I called out, tentative.
“Over here!” came the response.
Phew! She’d survived the crash.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Right as rain, darlin’.”
“Bert?” I then called out.
“Of course I’m here,” he snarled. “Ya got any damn booze on ya? My foot is killin’ me.”
Bert’s a drinker. He got frostbitten toes when shooting Back to God’s Country with Nell. But I digress.
“Joe?” I called out.
Thank goodness. He’s the cinematographer.
“Yeah,” he replied but sounded a little shaky.
Then I took a deep breath. “Helen,” I called out. “Are you okay?”
I tried again. “Helen?”
“Yeah,” she finally answered. “I’m here but I don’t feel so good.”
“What about Ron, Sam and the helicopter pilot?” I asked.
“They’re about the same as me.”
“What should I do?” I asked Helen.
There was a pause. “I think,” Helen said, finally, “that it might be best if you took Nell and her gang back up to the top with you – and just focus on her story for now.”
My heart sank at the thought of leaving Helen and her team behind. I’d spent twelve years with them. I’d created them. I couldn’t just let them die.
“But what about you guys?” I asked.
There was another long pause. And then Helen said, rather quietly, “You best let nature take its course, Maryanne. If and when you need to tell our story, then we will be here for you.”
And so, with a heavy heart, I began to mentally prepare to make the long, slow, arduous, climb back up to the top of the cliff – again – but this time with just Nell and her team of characters.
Which is when I heard the annoyingly cheerful voice of inspiration say, “Oh for Heaven’s sakes…lighten up! I’m not going with you unless you treat this as a FUN road trip! And if you don’t take me, you’re – ”
“Uh, uh, uh,” I cut in. “No need for profanity. I got the message.”
“Good,” replied inspiration. “And I’m bringing my BFF, too.”
I groaned inwardly. “Who’s that?” I asked.
“Oh,” I said, managing a smile, “that’s probably a good idea.”
And then the next morning, I turned on my laptop and began to work my way through just Nell’s story. It felt…right as rain 🙂
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Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.