Eat Pray Love author on lockdown life - and why she's flying solo

Liz Gilbert's latest book, City of Girls, is a sexy romp that features 1940s showgirls and a 19-year-old named Vivian Morris who is out of her depth. Picture: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Liz Gilbert's latest book, City of Girls, is a sexy romp that features 1940s showgirls and a 19-year-old named Vivian Morris who is out of her depth. Picture: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Her fans love her for her honesty - and in our online event Elizabeth Gilbert didn't disappoint, sharing what she wished she knew before her three marriages and the great lesson that lockdown taught her.

Here are a few of her candid answers to readers' questions.

Do you feel we are in a time of redefining what it means to be a "good girl" in your latest book? What do we tell our daughters - when we, as women, were raised to put being good above all else? - Corinne

Liz: I'm not a parent and I made a very deliberate decision in my life not to be one  . . . I'm still trying to raise myself but what I will say is one thing I've noticed - and I noticed this in my own life and with my parents who have kids - your children will never listen to you. They just won't and they certainly won't do anything you say but they can't but help imitate how you are.

There are certain ingrained things in me that I learnt at the feet of my parents - good and bad - just by being steeped in their character and behaviour, steeped in their habits. And some of those I've had to shed because they didn't suit me or work for me anymore but some of made me into who I am - the ways my parents express themselves creatively, the way that they never ask permission from anyone to do what they wanted to do, their anti-authoritarian kind of libertarian live-off-the-land, I-can-do-this-all-myself thing . . .

I watched my parents do their own thing all the time. So my suggestion is that if you want your daughters to be a certain way show them what it looks like. Show them don't teach them. Everything my mom tried to teach me I didn't learn but everything she demonstrated I did

I am currently exploring my own personal journey towards freedom and living life on my own terms. What advice would you give to someone wanting to step out into their own "new" life with both feet but who still feels bound to the old? - Natalie

Liz: Well, it's a life-long process. I liberate myself every day - and then I imprison myself . . . and then I recover myself. I think it's a constant. I don't think it's something you do just once - you make a commitment to doing it day after day after day. And I hope you have a long life of liberating yourself. And maybe it will make you relax a little bit if you know you don't have to do it all tomorrow.

I've always been the kind of person that if I'm feeling restless I just get on a plane and go to the other side of the world. Can't do that now!

Your spirituality is a strong influence and thread in your writing and your being. How does your spiritual practice hold you as a writer? - Shelley

Liz: My writing was my first spiritual practice but I didn't know it. I grew up with religion but not spirituality. I found spirituality later in life through the desire to come to the end of suffering, through my pain. But long before that I was given this gift - that I was always a good writer even as a little kid and I knew it and I loved it.

I loved writing stories and making people read them. I don't know what gave me this thing and then gave me the sense to protect it and value it. Although I didn't value my life, I didn't value my body, I took terrible risks what I did have was that I'd been given stewardship over something that's very precious. So I had a sense of sacredness even before I knew what those words meant and the devotion I give to my writing, the time I give to my writing, the best hours of my day that I've always given to my writing - that showed I considered it to be holy and sacred.

Then when I found spirituality I was like "Oh, the universe has already given me an example of what it looks like to hold something sacred so I did that naturally with writing but now I'm trying to use that to learn how to hold other things sacred. How to hold myself with that same sense of stewardship, how to hold my values and my integrity with the same stewardship. So for me that's the same thing by a different name. Writing has always been holy to me and now I'm trying to make everything holy.

You have fitted so much into your 51 years - and gladly shared your experiences with your loyal readers - but what do you see the future holding for yourself? Quite literally, what is your next? You seem to have determined your own path in life so what is your next big adventure? - Seikgotlho

Liz: Well right now it's solitude and real autonomy. I have always linked myself to another person, a partnership, and I'm not doing that right now and the timing of it is very interesting. So I've been without a partner for about a year and a half and now of course there's a pandemic and I have this little house out in the country in New Jersey where I am right now and I have spent the entire quarantine alone. And I say that with a shiny face because it's been really cool. What an adventure.

And now winter is coming and I'm not part of the world and in this period of isolation now comes the dark, now comes the cold. And I have this thrill about it, like "How you're going to do that Gilbert, what you're going to do?" Because I've always been the kind of person that if I'm feeling restless I just get on a plane and go to the other side of the world. Can't do that now! And don't have a partner - so interesting. Right now what I'm really interested in the depths of what can be learnt in solitude.

I'm getting married on Saturday - what would you go back and say to yourself before your weddings? - Andrea

Liz (laughing hysterically):The first one I'd be like "Get into the car and drive away. Get out! Just go." The second one I'd say, "This is a beautiful thing you'd doing because this is what you need to be doing right now. Off you go to have a beautiful 12-year marriage."

And I guess what I'd say is that you can love but don't give your spirit to anybody and that's something that I think takes a very long time to learn. I'm not sure I even know how to do it yet. . . But you give your spirit away and you'll be broken. You're the steward of your spirit so love the man or woman you're marrying and love your marriage that you're creating but don't give your spirit to anybody. That's your sacred flame.

Feedback from readers who attended our online book club with Liz
  • Totally wonderful evening, thank you - Anthea Garman

  • That was so profound. I feel strengthened - Seikgotlho

  • Love the energy of this interview - Denise Slabbert

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