Cheryl Strayed

Podcast Rec No. 7: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert

Magic Lessons Remember several years ago when Eat, Pray, Love was all the rage with your lady friends? In fact, for a brief period, I was that person. “Oh my god, you MUST read Eat, Pray, Love! It was so inspiring, Stephanie, oh mah gaaaahd…”

Of course, author Elizabeth Gilbert had been working as a writer for years before she became an “overnight” success. She spoke at the TED conference and mentioned that people would come up to her and ask, “Eat, Pray, Love was incredible, but how does it feel that you might never write something that popular ever again?” Years later, Gilbert began promoting her book Big Magic, her thoughts on this very fear and the subject of creativity.

One of those promotion tools? Her limited run podcast Magic Lessons. (Brief note: I know you all were expecting a podcast about literal magic lessons, but I think we all know that audio isn’t the best format for learning how to saw people in half without killing them.)

While the book and podcast can go hand in hand, I actually preferred the latter because Gilbert called readers of hers who happened to be creative types--writers, photographers, visual artists, etc.--and discussed what was holding them back. She would then call another professional, like writers Ann Patchett and Cheryl Strayed, and find advice that would help the fearful artist in the previous episode. Besides that, I find the podcast found the advice that was more applicable whereas sometimes the book came off as a little too metaphysical for me. However, Gilbert speaks as a pro-arts yogi and I think she should pull a Tara Brach and release some guided meditation. Her voice is so soothing…like a breeze that gently rustles the leaves on a sunny spring day...birds are in the distance chirping and you begin to feel one with the universe...


Recommended episode: Ep. No. 9 “Dear Creativity and Fear” / Ep. No. 10 “John Hodgman on ‘The Question of What Comes Next’”

Yes. I picked two episodes. I mean, I just said that these episodes go hand in hand. Or I, at least, inferred it.

Ep[isode] No. 9 centers on a photographer named Casey who feels like she has done all she can in the commercial photography realm, and she wants to expand her creative expression to podcasting. However, she’s being held back by fear--fear of not having the right equipment, fear of not knowing anything about podcasting, fear of contacting people who can help her, fear in general. After Gilbert talks to Casey, she then contacts humorist John Hodgman who has been a literary agent, writer, Daily Show contributor, stand-up comedian, actor, and podcaster. Needless to say, he seems to be the expert that Casey needs. It doesn’t hurt that Hodgman is one of my favorite comedians and I find his academia-meets-sarcasm flair endearing.

Both episodes run approximately 25 minutes each, so that’s nearly an hour of creative advice and process ponderances! Go forth and be inspired!

KC Ryan is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. An office worker by day, she spends her nights writing, improvising, recording podcasts, and having existential crises. She’s a co-host of Parsec Award-nominated podcast Anomaly Supplemental about general sci-fi and fantasy topics. Her greatest achievement so far is convincing her husband to watch Project Runway.